A school building is beyond just brick and concrete. It is a remnant of a long-term relationship with a space filled with memories of our early days that are cherished for a lifetime. As an enriching part of one's childhood, the spaces we design for such an experience are instrumental in nurturing curiosity, creativity and fostering development, making them a significant challenge to design. Addressing this challenge, the vision for the Saraswati Global School centres on creating a vibrant building that encourages learning outside the classroom as much as inside.
The school campus is located in Faridabad - an upcoming urban centre in the vicinity of Delhi, as a response to the increasing need for quality educational facilities in the neighbourhood. Situated amidst low-height residential settlements, the Saraswati School building stands out with its stoitness and structure, setting new design standards while maintaining its legacy of over three decades.
As architects, we have the ability to shape experiences by framing spaces that promote a learning environment. The Saraswati School campus aims to fulfill this intent, with each of its functional spaces - the administrative block, the teaching wing, recreation areas, multiple open spaces, and sports facilities enabling socialization. Safety was an important consideration while designing; thus, the building is wrapped around the site, adopting an introverted form to keep away the prying eyes of the neighbourhood, especially when the children are performing or playing. The front of the building is narrow that widens to its side, adding more volume and creating a large impact as one passes by it from the road. Ample layering on the facade generates mystery and interest, while the tapered form gives it a unique architectural identity. The design of the school strives to establish continuity, with a warm colour palette of rusty monotones and neutral grey, seamlessly blending it within its surroundings.
With a total built-up of over 1.5 lakh square feet, the school is divided into two distinct blocks - the admin block and the teaching wing, which does not make the building look bulky. The demarcation between the two blocks breaks the length of the facade and endows a visual connection to the space behind the school, establishing its extent. It also provides variance to the building character and generates interest in its form, fostering greater student engagement. The administrative block is relatively lower in height, with the entry leading up to a double-height reception and waiting area that includes all the offices. The building structure with the glass facade makes way for staggered terraces and recessed common spaces on the rear side of the block.
There are various factors that influence the development of learning spaces - the foremost one being the incorporation of engagement spaces in and around the building. Integrating the landscape with the built environment helps ensure the students' mental and physical well-being while also connecting them to nature, something often amiss in our city lives. Thus, a significant portion of the campus is dedicated to open spaces such as the amphitheatre, the playground, and the sunken court to bolster interaction and collaborative learning.
The layout of the main building is planned on the movement pattern for the kids, with the ground floor dedicated to the pre-primary and classes 1-3. A series of interconnected personal engagement zones such as the indoor play area and library encourage free movement of the younger kids, giving them ample opportunity to pick out their favourite corners in the building. The First-floor houses classes KG and 3-5th, along with the Computer lab, AV room, Social lab, and the Arts and Crafts room. The Second and Third floors are dedicated to the middle and the senior wing, respectively, with all the classrooms and allied activity areas such as the Library, Maths Lab, and the Science Labs. Each floor also has separate staff rooms for the teachers.
Another critical factor taken into account while designing the school is the integration of natural light and ventilation, as they directly link to the well-being of the students being nurtured in its folds. The design avoids the use of doubly loaded corridors and instead opens all circulation areas towards the central open court, providing a visual connection throughout the building. This also enables peer-to-peer learning in the corridors and informal settings, moving beyond the realm of the traditional classrooms and instead using the entire building as a learning aid.
As the basement can only house additional rooms, it is opened up to accommodate common activity areas such as the Dance/Yoga room, Art, Craft Room, Music room, a Multipurpose Hall, and the Library, all positioned around the court. A ramp also leads to this floor where parking for staff and buses is provided, felicitating easy access to the Multipurpose Hall during any event. With the canteen located in the vicinity, the steps along the periphery of the sunken court double up as lunchtime seating and a space for get-togethers, making it the liveliest zone in the building. From the amphitheatre to the central court and the playground, the space created inside the building is fun, enjoyable, and a facilitator of interaction, with flexible teaching options in the open, further enhancing the student experience.
Buildings are a testimony to time; thus, any building design must take into account the possible alterations and changes it can undergo in its lifetime. As the education system keeps on changing every few years, the design of schools should also have the possibility of being adaptable in its layout and structurally able for expansion. Keeping this in mind, the design of the Saraswati School prioritizes flexibility, with the classrooms arranged in modules that can be combined or segregated depending on the space requirements. Tasteful interiors with wooden textures and cool colours make the spaces inviting, while the use of laminate wall finishes and vitrified tile flooring makes them easy to maintain. For ease of construction, the school building is divided into two phases: the first one housing the primary and middle school, while the second phase is dedicated to the senior wing. With the first phase already up and running, it makes it easier to construct the second phase without hampering the working of the existing one.
Sensitivity towards the natural environment is of primary import o traditional bricks. The building is also oriented to open out towards the field in the north, enabling optimum natural light, while the south wall has been fitted with vertical sunshades and double-glazed windows to cut off direct glare. A rainwater harvesting system allows the collection of excess runoff into the two sunken pits below the basketball court, which is used for flushing and landscaping. The earth dug during the construction has also been used for levelling the site.
With an emphasis on a child-friendly ambience and value-based learning, Saraswati Global School is designed to create a space that promotes holistic development amongst students, while creating a favourable built environment for interaction and growth.