Efforts to re-establish and re-invent the historic and famed Nalanda University in Rajgir, located 12 km away from the monument zone of Nalanda in Bihar, moved ahead.

Plans to build a new campus took shape a few days ago when the international jury comprising four architects from Singapore, Japan, China and India and three members from the University chose the winning design from an international competition.

Of the eight proposals submitted by pre-qualified architectural firms, including five from abroad, the jury selected the design drawn by Vastushilpa Consultants, a well known architecture firm based in Ahmedabad for its “conceptual planning, clarity of thought and ability to take forward the vision of Nalanda.”

Nalanda University, conceptualised as a standalone international institution, would be constructed on a 455-acre site to accommodate 2,500 students and 500 teachers. The University has proposed seven schools of learning including Historic Studies, Buddhist Studies and Information Technology, but only two of them — Historic Studies and Environment Studies — would be built in the first phase.

Rajeev Kathpalia, one of the two principal architects of Vastushilpa Consultants in a telephone interview said that their design ‘envisions the new campus as an institution of future, a beacon of sustainable practices and a model of integration with local community.’ He also explained that they have planned buildings as a close-knit group and located amid a tranquil agrarian landscape. More than half the site is intentionally kept open to take care of the aquifers and recharge them. The overall aim is to create an integrated ecosystem where flow of air, water and energy are channelled in an almost natural way, he added.

Balakrishna Doshi, a Padma Shri awardee, is the senior partner and founder of Vastushilpa Consultants.

Nalanda flourished as an important centre of learning for about 800 years. It fell into ruins in the 13th century, and the British archaeologists discovered the historic remains in the 19th century.

Following the decision to revive the university at the Second East Asian Summit in 2007, the Indian government established Nalanda University in 2010 after passing an Act in Parliament. Many Asia-Pacific countries have extended support for the project. Last year, the University floated the international competition seeking designs for the proposed campus.