Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The right lessons for building schools

Institutions of learning have a lot to be looked into for designing the right spaces. School buildings are more challenging, for, the brick and mortar here should facilitate the growth of learning.

SCHOOL RULES: Exposed brickwork could be an effective option as it is maintenance free. Picture shows a renovated school structure for a tsunami affected area in Andaman and Nicobar islands. — Photo: By Special Arrangement

A CHILD spends one third of his time sleeping and an equal time studying at school. The school is a place of thought development with new inputs. The building will be buzzing with activity with people moving around, so the building has to evolve a sense of cheer; a spirited atmosphere has to be created for the activities of the young. Hence the architecture of schools is different from that of private residential buildings.

The site planning in schools give scope for all the drama one can build up.

Since the schools have large open areas in the form of playgrounds, the existing trees and the natural terrain have to be maintained to the maximum extent. We should also look at zoning the various areas according to the usage pattern.

Play areas should be divided into active (for moving activities) and passive where you relax and watch an activity happening.

The canopy of the trees could be used for outdoor play activity and group discussions.

Since the child's mindset is formed in the schooling days, right directions are required at this stage itself. So concepts such as rainwater harvesting, water management systems and distinctive care for nature can be nurtured here by having small pockets of courtyards defining the zones.

More interactive techniques like having a small water body filled by the storm water run-off could help children be more creative.

Even a solar water heating plant could be created to give practical working experience.

Children and environment

Since the school buildings are meant to be rugged and most rooms are naturally ventilated, the building can make use of natural materials, with natural heating and ventilation.
Exposed brickwork could be an effective option as it is maintenance-free.
Stone finish at the window sill level and shelves would be necessary to prevent stains. Care should be taken to round the corners to prevent accidents and the windows sills can be furnished with some economical natural stone material. This not only keeps it clean but also cool throughout the day.

The mind rooms

The classrooms are places where the child spends most of the time in school. There could be more drama to the classroom itself. The furniture size and proportion are maintained according to the age of the children but the anthropometrics (study of human body geometry) of the door and window and roof height also create the right atmosphere.

The classroom activities can be bifurcated by means of carefully planned levels. Large windows with sill level for windows should be maintained at 2'6" to get maximum lighting and ventilation.

Similarly, the colours and themes add joy to the atmosphere. The learning centre that is featured in the photo was designed for children below 10 years of age. These are primarily planned for the tsunami-affected areas in the Andaman and Nicobar islands. These primary schools have play areas, an interactive dining area and a first-aid room meant to cater for village levels.

This multi-activity also helps reduce the fear of going to `school'. The sloped roof architecture also reflects the local character.
The connecting corridors and staircases are by themselves important in maintaining the merry mood.

Corridors have to be a minimum 6'0" wide.
Corridor parapets have to be 3'6" high (against the conventional 3'0") with no middle horizontal members.


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