An intersection between sustainability and vernacularism, St. Andrews Boys hostel designed by ZED Labs is a perfect example of contemporary and contextual architecture. Constructed in Gurugram, India, this built form provides residences for 360 students and includes a cafeteria as well as several recreational areas.
Based in Delhi, ZED Labs is a research-driven architecture studio that specializes in zero net energy buildings and works towards enhancing human well-being by providing solutions that are economically and ecologically viable.
Using only brick and concrete, this building explores and emphasizes materiality to the fullest, even fondly reminding us of Kahn’s IIM Ahmedabad and O’Donnell & Toumey’s Saw Swee Hock Student Centre in London. These material choices were obvious as they can absorb tremendous amounts of heat and provide comfort with extreme changes – both diurnal and seasonal. Moreover, brick and concrete are finished materials that are easy to maintain as well as easily available.
Completed in 2019, this project boasts sustainability as its concept. From orientation to materiality, this hostel derives its form through encyclopedic research of climatic conditions as well as uses newer technologies that support the former to construct a cohesive, responsive narrative.
The architects, Payal and Sachin Rastogi imagined this 6000 sq ft hostel as a built form that maintained horizontality and created indoor and outdoor spaces, maintaining a fluid sequence of socially active functional and sustainable spaces.
Slowly modified from a linear block, this building is twisted to minimize solar heat gain by shading the southern facade. With the ground floor at a certain angle, the first floor maintains the linearity to create shaded interactive colonnades on the ground as well as terraces on the first floor.
The terrace functions as a winter court, that overlooks the playgrounds and other facilities of the campus creating visual interaction while the colonnade acts as a summer court, a transition space that features double-height concrete supports and landscape features. Creating an inside-outside space, providing for student’s sociability.
Their design strategy for this building revolved around using software like Rhino, Grasshopper, and Ladybug to develop a parametric script that could respond to minimizing solar radiation. The brick skin also accommodated for balconies that not just increase interactivity but also provide a thermal buffer indoor and outdoor spaces.
With experiments on the rotation angle of the brick, they effectively reduced about 70% direct and diffuse radiation on the principal facade. The design team of ZED Labs did also make sure that every individual room got adequate daylight and privacy by using custom bricks with steel bars so each one can be individually rotated according to the script created. Fixed on R.C.C Beam using Hilti chemicals, no cement mortar was used to construct the jali that spans 21 feet in height and 250 feet in length.
All in all, the brick jali with its rotation and alignments gives the hostel a dynamic character that roots from traditional Indian vernacular architecture as well as exhibits the computational side of architecture with its compositional and construction elements, amplifying the buildings sociability along with sustainability.
The eastern side of the building features a large cafeteria on the ground floor with a glass facade that brings transparency and lightness to the material palette. Furthermore, the glass cafeteria always has abundant light and extends out to open seating. Strategically placed, all activity areas are positioned on the northern side of the building, so as the students can use them throughout the year.
The interior layout of the building is centered by an atrium that allows light to enter and distribute throughout the built form as well as acts as a chimney, carrying out hot air through the stack effect. This methodology permits passive cooling in summer and is also low maintenance and cost-efficient because of its low energy and construction costs.
Besides that, the interior spaces also celebrate the vibrant and positive student culture with the usage of colour and geometry. Moreover, the atrium and the interior spaces provide for student’s interactivity and communication with one another, celebrating the open extrovert characteristics of the students.
The St Andrew’s Girls Hostel was also recently designed keeping these principles in mind and now sits adjacent to the Boys Hostel, establishing a connection to the outside along with creating a safe, secure environment. These two hostels designs are excellent examples of ZED Labs’ sensitive approach towards the project. Met with an attentive study of the orientation of the building, climatic conditions, sun path analysis, and air movement, the hostels are laboriously tailored.
The designer’s goal to build comfortable, sustainable spaces using traditions and technology is inspirational. They integrate the necessary collaboration between past and present techniques, enhancing the experience and comfort.
Moreover with the designer’s deliberate focus to have a blended approach shows their attentiveness towards designing architecture that adapts to the surroundings, as well as creating its own identity. This hostel breaks the conventional design process and achieves its purpose by being highly responsive along with being logical, lucid, and contemporary.