Vidyalankar Institute of Technology
Traditional Classroom: There are formal learning areas. These classrooms serve the needs of the structured component of the curriculum. However, the asymmetrical nature of the spaces designed allows for insertion of huddle spaces within the formality of the larger classroom. Most of the classrooms open out to interaction zones or spill-out balconies. And, sometimes they have flexible partitioning to allow larger groups to participate in same activity.
Welcoming Entry: The height of the building has been designed to relate to human scale. The proposed multiwall polycarbonate fins that clad the building evoke the feel of its industrial neighbourhood. It looks like something that belongs to the place. Large punctures connect inside with the outside. Two of the largest punctures are entrances. There are no gates, the learning street is simply a pedestrian extension to the road outside. Now, the security aspect is taken care by the general screening that happens for people entering the larger outside campus. The engineering students who study here are 18 years and older. The need to separate them from outside community is not there.
Student Display Space: On the learning street, alcoves leading to individual faculties have soft pin-up boards installed. These a for students to display their project work. In the activity alocoves at couple of locations, graffiti boards have been provided. Students are encouraged to voice opinions or leave messages or use them in any other way they please.
Science Labs, Art Labs, and Life Skills Areas: This institution is dedicated to the advancement of science and technology. The fact that it recognises the role of arts and humanities in overall development of individuals reflects it enlightened, progressive stance. The entire basement is occupied by laboratories, a shared resource for all the different faculties.The corridor connecting the labs is a scaled down version of the street above, with alcoves for interation, assymmetrical walls, space for display and cutouts in ceiling to bring in natural light. Even the labs are designed to derive natural light and ventilation. The basement actually, only partially underground. Ventilators light up the space. The attention paid to the design of the labs and the connector space is intense. It demonstrates the importance that the college accords this space.
Art, Music, Performance: The introduction of a suspended amphitheatre at end of the learning street is an invitation to the students to participate in plays, play musical instruments or even practice oratory. The stepped seating can accomodate a small intimate group of students. The stage area has been designed to have temporary backdrops that allow flexibility in orientation of the performer. From the street end, the stage becomes an elevated performance dias. This facilitates a larger group of students to enjoy the events. In a sense, the entire street can be occupied by a large audience. The skybridges, spillout areas and passageways lining the street at 20' and above can be additional balconies to view performances.
Physical Fitness: By introducing obvious physically stimulating activities at the street level, the intent is demonstrated. Basket ball court, table tennis and punching bag are inducements to use. There is no compulsory participation. The students use these facilities on their own accord. By setting these activities in an informal & open zone, students can paricipate on a momentary whim. They do not have to structure time and schedules for this. It increases the chance of success.
Casual Eating Areas: One of the individual blocks on the street is the canteen which serves as formal designated eating space. However, we understood the need of the students to eat while doing other activities. The entire street has furniture that allows students to meet, talk, share and eat as well. To demonstrate that it is ok to do so, we inserted a vending machine just outside one of the faculty blocks. More additions are expected to keep up with demand. Also, outside the canteen space, we have an outdoor cafe or an interaction zone that merges with the main street. Students are expected to carry eatbles from the canteen to this space. The facility is to be able eat while accessing WI-FI in the alcove.
Transparency: The entire facility is open plan. It is possible to see the entire learning street almost any location in the building. Sitting in a classroom, one can watch the activities happening in the street and at the same time, be connected with the outside. Large clear glass windows openings maintain transparency and visual connectivity.
Interior and Exterior Vistas: The building has been designed in a manner to maximise the possibility of interior and exterior vistas. Learning spaces, break out spaces, spill out areas, suspended seminar and amphitheatre, principal's cabin etc. all look out on the street. The classrooms also have external views. Stepping out of any one space can provide views of the activities at street level and of outside through alcoves and punctures.
Dispersed Technology: The alcove next to the canteen and the amphitheatre space are presently WI-FI enabled. Students carry laptops and work in these areas. Eventually the entire learning street will have the facility.
Indoor-Outdoor Connection: This building is part of the larger campus outside. Designed to obliterate the conventional clear distinction between inside and outside, it has a porous, open character. By introduction of outdoor plants inside, it would take the concept further. The act of walking down the learning street is one of observing built form of individual units interspersed with 40 feet x 40 feet vistas of outside. A lot of the individual rooms have view of both inside as well as outside.
Flexible Spaces: A conference room at the top floor of the admin block also functions as an exhibition space for display of student work. A collapsible partition between classrooms allows the space to be reconfigured to seminar requirements. The amphitheatre, when not in use by students for cultural & social activities, transforms into a net cafe. Thematically, the concept of multiple uses of spaces runs through the entire design.
Campfire Space: The very nature of the design has created many kinds of spaces that can be used for unstructured learning excercises or events. Outside most clssrooms, we have provided spill out areas that can accomodate small group of students. Within each cluster of classrooms, irregular shaped interaction zones can potentially be used for such sessions. The suspended amphitheatre is another such area. On the learning street itself, nooks and alcoves with casual, comfortable street furniture may tempt the educators and students to interact.
Watering Hole Space: The whole design really is about encouraging casual, social interactions between students, faculty and the community. The students are encouraged to display maturity and accept the open culture as an advantage of learning here. The entire learning street, the full 450 feet length with alcoves, nooks and corners is an inducement for social interaction. The break-out spaces between classrooms, spill out balconies and odd shaped learning spaces, all carry the essential theme.
Cave Space: The nooks, alcoves and quiet corners on the street provide have the potential to be adopted by students for multiple activities. At some times of the day, these can function as cave spaces. With ready availibility of net connection and facility to carry library reading material to the street, these spaces can be hospitable for quiet contemplation. On the upper levels, the spill out balconies outside classrooms and interaction zones within classroom clusters as learning suites function as such spaces. On an average day, one can find students studying in the unlikeliest if places......below amphitheatre, sitting on staircases and on skybridges connecting individual units.
Designing for Multiple Intelligences: The design has potential to develop many intelligences. While this may not happen in overtly obvious ways, there are embedded cues and opportunities. A man sized chessboard- Logical, mathematical ability. An amphitheatre- Musical ability. Basketball Nook, Table Tennis Court- Sports ability. Spaces that break from orthogonal rigidity-Spatial ability. Green vegetation inside- Naturalist ability. Interaction zones- Social ability. Nooks and alcoves-Self discovery.
Daylight and Solar Energy: One of the key design criteria was to maximise natural light and ventilation. Each classroom has been designed to have windows on two sides. One of these sides is usually the outside of the building. In all months of the year, natural light has been found to be sufficient to conduct learning programs. Additional electric lighting supports late evening and night needs.
Natural Ventilation: This building is almost entirely naturally ventilated. The large openings between individual units ensure that the street benifits from prevalent south-west wind direction in Mumbai. The cross ventilation of the street happens through the assymmetrically staggered openings on the opposite end. By raising the roof 14 feet above the terrace level, any hot air building inside the street cavity is allowed to escape through stack effect. Electric ceiling fans inside classrooms help maintain comfort in summer months. Due to the sensitive nature of the equipment inside, the computer center and a few individual rooms have been air-conditioned.
Full Spectrum Lighting: Each learning space has at least two sides light from large clear glass windows. This takes care of lighting requirements for most of the day. In places, we have been able to provide windows on three sides! Additionally, fluorescents or CFLs have been provided with the recommendation that these be of daylight colour.
Sustainable Elements and Building as 3-D Text: The building maximizes the advantages of natural light and ventilation. It does not require electrical lighting or air conditioning to function in normal conditions. The materials used in construction locally available and extremely cost effective. The finishes and claddings are resilient, low maintenance. Quite a few of them are of recycled origin. The logical, intuitive clarity of the construct and the interdependent relationships between requirements are clearly articulated. This has been achieved by a certain economy of means. High performance is embedded in the design.
For an institution dedicated to furthering technology, the architecture and construction had to evoke and demonstrate the potential of building technology to improve the quality of environment. Suspended seminar hall and amphitheatre, projecting principal's cabin, classrooms that cantilever 25 feet, walls that bend and curve defying gravity, escape from orthogonal rigidity, all design interventions carry that thought.
The entire structure dispels pre-conceived notions of design and construction. For students, this built environment challenges them to look beyond the obvious. Sometimes the most effective lessons are the ones learnt indirectly.
Local Signature: The fact that it is an institute of technology committed to progressive learning is embedded in the architecture and design. The building technologies adopted and used, the choice of materials and finishes etc. state that at a subliminal level.
Connected to the Community: It is a building that has been designed to be porous. No gates or barriers to keep out the surrounding community. The WI-FI zones are free for use. In the second phase, an auditorium will service the needs of the institution and the community alike. The entrance to the auditorium has been deliberately provided from the roadside and not from inside the college. It is for the community to accept it as their own. Infact the institution believes that the auditorium would be more frequently used by the people and organisations from outside the institution. It has the potential of becoming a local community anchor.
Bringing It All Together: This building addresses the needs of the institution at a micro as well as macro level. From the part to the whole, the design idealogy remains consistent. At the individual self sustained block level the requirements are fulfilled and progressive design ideas are cleverly incorporated. Each unit is as eloquent an expression of the fundamental concepts as the whole. The interaction between blocks at the street follows the same sense. The manner in which an inner street communicates with the road and community through unbarricaded openings carries the idea forward. The design is consistent and true.
Small Learning Community: Within the larger building envelope, self sustained faculty units function almost as independent learning communities with necessary requirements fulfilled within the block itself. This conceptual departure allows for intimacy and interaction to develop at micro and macro levels. Effectively, it humanizes the environment by making it easier to relate to the scale. Bio-medical 'family' as a faculty block, for instance, is a part of the 'village'. Students have the opportunity to adopt the college at multiple levels. First their family community, knowing the resident educators, other students and owning the alcoves, interaction zones etc. and then being part of the cluster with shared amenities.