On the outskirts of Coimbatore, a school has come up on a beautiful 8.2 acre site, adjacent to coconut farms and overlooking the surrounding Maradumalai hills.
The school, meant to accommodate 3,000 students, is being built by Chennai's KSM Consultants over three phases. The uses of the classrooms will change over time and to maintain flexibility, one module has been used for all rooms. Costs were kept to a minimum with a focus on lowering maintenance expenses. The design strategy was to have fair-faced brick work on surfaces accessible to children and unplastered concrete surfaces with mininal painting. Mminimum use of electricity was also a prime factor.
To extend the open feel, the building was designed in the ‘fingers’ module, each connected by a walkway spine. The gaps between the ‘fingers’ follow the room dimensions and are used as landscaped courtyards. Each ‘finger’ houses classrooms and is designed on single-loaded corridors. This allows cross-ventilation for the classrooms, and provides ample light and air . The adjacent green courtyards are extended classrooms.
Climate played an important role in the design. Coimbatore’s temperate climate for most part of the year, with nominal rainfall in summer and winter, meant a design that would give maximum opening to the outside. The classrooms are designed without windows on the outer side — instead there are large openings with a safety grill and with a skin wall 1500 mm away from the classroom wall to give protection from sun and rain. The critical vertical solar angle considered is 50 degrees and the fair-faced brick skin wall has been designed with precast concrete louvers to cut the direct glare. The roof of the three-level high ‘skin’ is covered by polycarbonate sheets to allow in light but keep out rain.
The 2500 mm wide corridor shades the classrooms on the other side. The classroom wall adjacent to the corridor stops at lintel height, allowing for excellent cross-ventilation. A sliding glass window prevents disturbances.
Staggering the walkways has allowed multiple height spaces along the spine of the building, which also provide views of the hills beyond, between the classroom blocks. A single flight staircase climbs up through the spine and connects the three levels.