Pune city in India, known as the “Oxford of the east” has an undeniable academic vibe and educational culture attracting students from all over India. Also hosting the third oldest engineering college of Asia, the College of Engineering Pune, which is now an autonomous institute.
Settled aside the river Mula, the campus integrates heritage structures with the modern built forms. Within the rich educational context of Pune city, the campus dwells as an iconic landmark.
The Victorian-Gothic vogue main building with its sixty-foot-high tower and stylized garden is one amongst the landmarks of the fine art within the town and also the centerpiece of the field today. The building is listed as a Grade I heritage structure, whereas the complete field is listed as a heritage precinct. The Building complex attracts a lot of sketchers and architecture students from the city.
The Master Architect
CCBA with the proposal of COEP analyzed the existing built and focused on the circulation and movement across the campus. Although the valuable structure has been retained, some research has been conducted on the existing structure. Some structures were demolished to pave the way for denser buildings/uses and infrastructure.
The hostel site was to be redeveloped with high-rise hostels. 4-5 new towers at 11 floors and housing 600-800 students each were planned. These towers would be self-sufficient with dining and recreational facilities.
The project is located near the core of the city settlement. Over a long time, the campus land had been encroached upon for increasing highways, railway lines, arterial roads, and currently flyovers, ensuing in 5 fragmented land parcels. With margins of over 100m, Architect Christopher Charles Benninger proposed the hostel distant from the academic complex.
Also, a railway line passes adjoined to the campus making the location of the institute near transportation services. The proposal by the firm Focuses on retaining the heritage with the green foliage around and plans on housing a vehicle-free campus.
The design style
“As architects, we bring to the context more than just these utilitarian goals…we seek the poetry in the place, the lyricism in the built-forms and vibrancy in the inhabitants’ lives.”
As quoted, The design process thrives for simplicity of form. An architectural style with the intersection of lines, Mixing of volumes, The practice takes into consideration exploration of visual, spatial, formal, social, and technological ideas and concepts related to architecture. At the COEP campus, the gothic-style architecture is complemented with minimalistic architecture. Building façade with exposed concrete and rigid geometry define the academic building.
Facing the riverside, the academic building opens inside with a double-height entry with the coffered slab. Murals are cast in concrete on every floor creating an emphasis on the monochrome interior. The academic buildings comprise auditoriums, laboratories, lecture halls on the 3rd floor with the top floor accommodating the offices for professors.
The poet’s philosophy
“My passion for life has not come from architecture. It has come from adventure and exploration, and I see architecture as just one vehicle through which I can explore the human condition. It is a way to study culture, history, society and our place in civilization”
Benninger’s style is driven by the principles of Intelligent Urbanism based on balances between urban living and nature, tradition, technology, work, householding, play, meditation, movement, and governance. Christopher Benninger believes in having a vision, to look beyond a timeline to understand how a function-defined space would work. The driving force for design in architecture is curiosity. The curiosity to foresee merging of volumes to create a balanced environment.
Benninger believes that travesty of architecture is the youth with the internet pulling them away from the curiosity of understanding dimensions. Benninger’s focus has been on the Middle Path in Buddhism, the balance between humans a3d nature and between the built fabric and its natural terrain.
Order, Geometry and Structure
The purpose behind a design is the search for cultural identity without compromising the modernist ethics, social commitments, and positive values of Modernism. One of the main contributions to this work is the rigorous sense of detail, from the clarity of the material to the pattern on the floor and then on the wall. From sprinklers and gargoyles to parallel bays and wall segments.
Some of Benninger’s works have unique spatial order and structural discipline, which are in great demand in many contemporary works we find today. It is also important to study how buildings respond to the context we have discovered Wonderful relationships between buildings.
The principles of design followed in the campus design have inspired Educational architecture in India. Pune with this heritage precinct integrated with the modern architecture by CCBA has attracted students all over the world. Hence exhibiting social influence on the field.