Saturday, November 26, 2011


The Vidyagyan school in Dulhera in Uttar Pradesh is unique in its concept. Set up as a philanthrophic venture of the Shiv Nadar Trust (Shiv Nadar is the founder & chairman of computer giants HCL Technologies), the school identifies top performing school children who are financially weak, from all districts of Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state, and provides them free education. This residential campus is totally isolated from any urban centre and is set in a totally rural environment, surrounded by agricultural fields all around, where the only sound is the sound of silence...
The campus is well designed, a fusion of built and open spaces, creating a wholesome environment for the children to grow. Open spaces dominate the design, right from the huge grassy football field in front to the various landscaped spaces in between buildings, complementing the unspoilt unpolluted environment. There is an emphasis on nature which runs throughout the design.

The classes are organised as a group of roughly semicircular blocks, opening out onto the central open space with the amphitheatre as the focus. The buildings are contemporary in design, without being overbearing. Sloping concrete roofs, propped upon inclined cobalt blue steel columns, with exposed brick curved walls behind, creates a simple elegant language which goes well with the rural context. There are large glass windows which let in plenty of light into the class rooms. The structures are only double storeyed and ensures that the scale is comfortable for the children, with elements like the windows, the glazed broken tile bands at the slab levels etc – all further breaking down the scale to add to the anthropometric comfort. The sloping roofs and the inclined double columns create a sense of monumentality.
Apart from the major concrete access roads, there are intimate walkways connecting the spaces, pergola covered paths with lots of trees & shrubs. There is an amphitheatre in the centre which forms a vibrant activity space, especially in the evenings where children organise plays, musical performances etc, a space to get together...

The hostel buildings are massive four storeyed structures and are somewhat out of sync with the rest of the campus. Although the same language of exposed bricks is followed, the refinement of the design is somehow lacking.
Accommodation for the teachers & their families are also provided inside the campus as double storeyed bungalows, in a linear pattern. There are intimate balconies with pergolas on top which creates an interesting composition.
The school places a lot of emphasis on physical activity and development. In the evenings, the playgrounds and the roads are filled with kids playing football, basketball, volleyballs, skating etc, in addition to jogging around the entire campus. The campus during this time is buzzing with activities, a space of heightened energy in the middle of a sleepy rural ambience.

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