Inspired by his roots, with a master hand and a breathtaking sensibility, Sanjay Puri has managed to transform education into a whole new experience where the learning process extends beyond textbooks in his recently inaugurated School in Rajasthan.
Located on the northwestern side of the country, Rajasthan is one of the driest regions in India. It is in the town of Ras, where temperatures rise above 35 degrees celsius, firmly stands the new Rajasthan School by Sanjay Puri Architects. Speaking the language of ancient Indian cities, a progression of angled, red, solid walls rise proudly over the carefully designed landscape, shaping the armor that orientates this learning environment as it protects it from the arid climate.
The building creates its tissue, treating each part differently and carefully to grant different experiences to the students. The design looks forward to solving the climatic conditions of the Indian desert but also invites the student to wander through the open halls, to look out and glimpse into the constructed nature of these red massive structures, fragmenting light ever so poetically.
The school responds to the programmatic needs by paying particular attention to orientation. Over the southern side of the terrain, the auditorium, primary school, and administration space were placed, whereas the secondary school building, library & cafeteria opened up towards the north. Every classroom, guided by the angled red parallelograms, face north, deflecting the direct sunlight and regulating the interior temperatures.
Besides the design of vegetation that brings life into the arid territory, a brand new landscape is displayed beyond the secondary school: sun breakers dressed to match the intense red of the school walls, cast ever-changing shadow patterns, accompanying students through the zig-zagging paths that resemble those of the ancient Indian cities, linking both sides of the school, while creating a semi-sheltered playground that looks forward to fostering the “sense of engagement” (Puri, 2020).
Surrounding this living sculptural space that is the inner court, the circulation of the school displays in open corridors that dissolve the physical boundaries between inside and outside. The fragmented disposition of the walls allows merging the landscaping design with the learning spaces, treating the building as a whole with its surroundings.
Following a relaxed, decontracted display, the physical space is dissolved into a book of images and visuals, granting each place a different atmosphere, allowing the students to find themselves in the background and star in their own spatial experience
The Materialized Idea
The ancient Indian cities were the architect’s main inspiration. The heritage of Indian cities is vast: they have seen thousands of generations for they understood that by building for their territory, according to their climatic conditions and culture, they could have a healthier, more fulfilling, and quiet life. This is reflected in its organization: tall blind walls encapsulate boundless open spaces as people are led through fragmented un-perspective yet clear streets, protecting dwellers from the rising temperatures in this resilient environment.
It’s not hard to spot the influence in the architect’s language: they play with planes, colors, and scale in such a way it feels as if we were staring at the ancient monument in a blinded, yet expressive town. The fractured paths bring about a feeling of excitement and uncertainty, and yet display a clear program, and comprehensible circulation.
In these cities, the imponent scale makes the human being feel small in presence of something much bigger, wiser than them, still maintaining harmony in all its dimensions. Being a three-story building, the height is not what imposes over the passers-by, but its blind, massive walls that grow as rooted in the territory, so organically, heavily and authoritarian, there to guide you through its narrow streets and reinforce the idea of urbanity.
The color red stands out by its vibrant characteristic: it’s energizing, and allows great depth when shadows are cast on it. Moreover, red is part of India’s vernacular architecture, for it represents the earth, terracotta, copper, bricks, as part of cultural heritage.
The Material Language
“In Indian tradition, beauty is considered as Chanda (moon); the structural aspect of building and its rhythmical disposition is like that of poetry.” (Patra, 2014) The sun breakers create a calm, exploratory, introspective atmosphere that fosters the comprehension of space, whether it is as a quiet and relaxing spot, or an exalting and vibrant playground, depending on how the shadows are cast. But also they make you feel contained and protected as they guide you from one side of the campus to the other.
The game with light continues in the interior, where sunlight is filtered through oval-shaped openings and squared patterns to create an interesting atmosphere for the passers-by and make the hallways more inviting, as they control the internal temperatures and provide natural ventilation. The use of light works in synergy with color inciting the arise of emotions: yellow and blue coat the interior walls, bringing joy and brightness as well as a soothing relaxing feeling. Colors speak per se, they are very powerful tools.
The school has been conceived as a whole and looks like the horizon of a city: the towering walls break the traditional image of a school to respond to climatic conditions and so foster the well-being of students, reduce the energetic waste, the fragmentation, and angling opening the classrooms towards the desired directions, casting shadows over each other giving depth and a mysterious aura. When looked at from afar in its totality, it looks like a work of art.
Sanjay Puri managed to design a caring building, one that guides you through these angled fins, that entertains you with its vibrant colors while they help you feel at ease in an educational environment. It makes you feel accompanied and contained, designed for the students to be happy and comfortable.
The whole school seems to seek the foundation of space for introspection and cognition, expressing the spirit of this learning space through light, shadow, color, texture, and material. All in all, the language of the architect trumpets the pleasure of learning.
- Architonic (2020). The Rajasthan School.[online]. Available at: https://www.architonic.com/en/project/sanjay-puri-architects-the-rajasthan-school/20125438 [Accessed 23 March 2021].
- Patra, R. (2014). Town Planning in Ancient India: In Moral Perspective. The International Journal Of Humanities & Social Studies, Volume 2 (6), pp. 46.
- S. Novakovic (2020). Sanjay Puri’s Rajasthan School Embodies the Intimacy of a Village.[online]. Available at: https://www.azuremagazine.com/article/sanjay-puri-rajasthan-school-embodies-the-intimacy-of-a-village/ [Accessed 23 March 2021].