shanmugam associates (SA) has drawn inspiration from the local context to design a low-budget school in theerampalayam, india. built in stacked layers and surrounding a light-filled courtyard, ‘rane vidyalaya CBSE school’ offers quality learning spaces within the rural area.
all images courtesy of shanmug amassociates (SA)
the region of theerampalayam contains many small rural villages, whose occupants work mainly in agriculture and unskilled labor. the area has no proper educational institutions and the nearest city, tiruchirapalli, is 20 km away. this project by SA therefore focuses on using economical construction techniques while still providing spaces that stimulate learning and creativity.
the project was envisioned as a whole but executed in two phases. phase 1 has been constructed in an area of 50,000 ft2 (4645 m2). the intent was to create an infrastructure with a positive social impact on the local community while also showcasing the core values of the school. construction techniques from the regional context, a structured pedagogy of the indian educational system, and a cost of $20 / ft2 formed the underlying basis for the design.
the inspiration for the building came from the walls of the 6th century thiruvellarai temple and the layered cross-sections of 50-year-old houses in the region. the construction methodology, which was followed consistently in these walls, was to layer. starting from huge random rubble and stone at the bottom to finer solid brickwork, mud, and slate on top. alternating wall layers of red wire cut bricks from a local kiln and grey fly ash brick recycled from industrial cement waste were used.
the kindergarten classrooms are designed to have individual gardens that encourage seamless outdoor and indoor integration of space. with each increase in grade, classes become more functional to induce structured learning. the overall design approach was to avoid sharp edges in walls, columns, slab edges, and in every detail possible to ensure safety.
located in the tropical belt of interior tamil nadu, the intent was to have the space ventilated naturally with sufficient lighting. all the walls are stopped at lintel height and have openable windows above, to allow hot air to dissipate and increase cross ventilation. terracotta jalli has been used as a secondary shading device. major openings along the predominant SE & NW wind direction and minor wind tunnels in an east-west direction between classrooms are created to have a comfortable micro-climate.
taking inspiration from temple mandapams, where huge gatherings took place, there is an enclosed central courtyard planned with perforated light wells in the roof. this courtyard serves as a multi-functional place of congregation for lunch breaks, school assembly, exhibition space, co-curricular training, and small gatherings. the courtyard is placed in such a way that it is visually connected at all levels.
all these architectural features – incorporating the use of red solid bricks, baked earth tiles, terracotta jalli, and grey fly ash bricks – help address the microclimate, create interesting light and shade experiences through roof perforations, provide safe green courtyards, and sufficient ventilation. at the same time, they also speak the design language of the local region and use material from the surrounding area. the outcome is a fun educational environment that provides a wholesome and cost-effective solution.
ground floor plan
project name: rane vidyalaya school
location: theerampalayam, trichy, india
design firm: shanmug amassociates (SA)
design team: shanmugam appulingam, raja krishnan, santhosh shanmugam
designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.
edited by: lynne myers | designboom