Towards holistic campus planning

Text by: Ar. Gurpreet Singh Shah

Institutions, since time immemorial, have been places where one nurtures the growth of a human being. Traditionally known as Gurukul, our Indian institution was the first step towards developing not just professional personalities, but also humane values. However, as we have all observed and experienced, the post-industrial architectural concept of designing institution buildings with a linear corridor layout, is no longer concerned with the welfare of the students in particular. At Creative Group, where on one hand we are taking up large scale infrastructure projects, on the other hand, we are designing holistic campuses and kindergarten schools to enhance the learning environments for our future generations.

The basic thought behind our institutional projects is an indigenous evolution of topography with respect to site context, and which is designed in a sustainable manner. As Daksh Sharma, an architect at Creative Group says, “Education is a continuous process of learning, imbibed through daily informal activities of the students. Thus, the placement of different academic blocks, along with recreational masses connected to each other with a non-vehicular, pedestrianised zone, create the freedom to play and learn.”

Primarily, our design approach involves the integration of masses with the key constituents of south-west shading or other traditional elements like step-wells (IIT Jodhpur), to enhance the occurrence of holistic planning with passive design strategies. Institution planning is a holistic process of creating different spaces and connecting these spaces, the various academic/administrative blocks together to form a unified zone planned in and out with integrated passive design strategies.

In these modern times, when climatic change is at its peak, water scarcity is rampant, global warming is creating havoc across the world, and urban stress levels are soaring higher by the day, we at Creative Group have realised the necessity to design sustainable campuses—to induce and influence our upcoming generations, such that when they enter into the professional field, they have an inherent understanding of sustainability and a deep-seeded concern towards nature.

As it is commonly experienced, the best moments of a students’ life in an institution are not spent inside the four dead walls of a classroom, but rather out in the sports field or the canteen. This is because people relate to those social spaces more than the bleak enclosures of classrooms. We are no longer designing buildings and then accommodating people. Now, we are understanding and analysing the aspirations of students, and then designing their environments. At our studio, we embrace the techniques and concepts of traditional Indian architecture, wherein we are increasingly perceiving the significance of Vastu Shastra—which, contrary to popular belief, is not a myth, but a reasonable comprehension of the four natural cardinal directions, the solar movement and the various natural elements in our surroundings. We are also sensitive towards comprehending architecture not as a profit-making industry, but as the sole bridge between clients and users.

Standing true to the motto of the Indian Government in elevating the status of education in India, our studio has undertaken many institutional initiatives, such as IIT Jodhpur, IIT Sirmaur, IIT Tirupati, IIT Bhilai, IIM Indore, GEMS School Kochi, Kongu Convention Centre, Anna University, Dayanand Sagar University Bangalore, and many more. These, along with ADEC School, stand-alone Kindergarten School in Abu Dhabi and other international projects by us, employ holistic campus planning, passive design strategies, and integrated landscape, as some of the sustainable concepts in institutional architecture.

IIT Jodhpur

The design of the IIT Jodhpur campus sets out to build a totally self-sufficient, green “oasis” and fountain of knowledge, in the middle of Rajasthan’s Thar Desert. It aims to provide high efficiency, reduced energy footprint and improved occupant comfort to achieve a net positive energy campus. Importance has been given to reduce the energy demands of the campus, and then meet them with very high-performance equipment, in order to inspire the IIT Jodhpur students, faculty, staff and visitors to do better every day and imbibe the idea of sustainability.

The overarching planning concept is a radiating geometry, which emanates from the central step-well amphitheatre at the very heart of the campus. This aspires to link the entire campus in a unifying gesture. It minimises walking distances, allows for better shading, promotes a better understanding of the sun’s path and allocates more usable unbuilt area for agriculture, solar farms and natural landscapes.

Central University, Punjab

Like the Jodhpur campus, the Central University campus in Punjab was developed as three unique villages, with narrow streets, shaded areas and open spaces. The academic “town” is a pedestrianised zone along a network of open urban spaces, surrounded by a green buffer space. Employing strategies like Bio-filtration system and evaporative cooling, the campus planning highlights the ways in which the future planning of townships can be undertaken—a responsible design that not only caters to solving the issue of developing new infrastructure, but in a way that respects nature and promotes self-reliance. Creating open, green breathing spaces within the human interfaces of living, rapidly helps in energy conservation and therefore, reduces the carbon footprint while developing net-zero environments.

IIT Bhilai

This project is aimed at designing the faculty and staff residential facilities, along with the development of other associated amenities for IIT Bhilai, Chhattisgarh. Designed by Creative Group in consortium with Cosmic Design Pvt Ltd, the design proposal aims at developing IIT’s permanent campus in Bhilai as a state-of-the-art, smart campus, promoting a learning environment that is functionally suitable, safe, convenient and pleasant to live and work in. The proposal has been designed in a manner to emphasise sustainability and environmental sensibility at all levels, keeping in mind the natural resources, and also encouraging renewable energy generation.

Housing blocks mainly comprise of buildings with varying heights, created with an intent to have a shaded courtyard. The buildings in the southwest are higher than those in the northeast, with the intent to acquire north light and to have mutually shaded courtyards. Various passive design strategies have been used to reach a sustainable solution. Sun- shading devices such as courtyards, pergolas and screening (jaali) have been used to enhance the quality of the space for the inhabitants. They not only act as a source of shade, but also provide a play of light and shadow, thereby changing the spatial quality of the space as per the sun’s movement.

An ecological corridor has been created adjacent to the Clubhouse, so that the inhabitants are further sensitised towards nature. In all, the design proposal considers the modern realities for the need of a safe and secure design for pedestrians, bicycles and vehicles, and more importantly, for the residents, employees and community visitors of all ages and background.