Led by Ar. Sonali Rastogi and Ar. Manit Rastogi, Morphogenesis was founded in 1996 and is one of the most renowned and leading architecture firms in India. With their design fundamentals of sustainability and economic viability, they are creating spaces of safety and comfort. Their approach to using a strong cultural background makes their design relatable to the local context yet globally sound. The firm works on the principle of “SOUL”, which stands for Sustainable, Optimised, Unique and Liveable. Sustainability acts as a foundation for all of their undertakings rather than just being an added layer. Creating one-of-a-kind projects and putting the user at the centre of their design develop spaces that are functional for all the users. Designed by them, the British school is a physical manifestation of the concept of “an international education with an Indian soul”, which is the school’s tagline.
British school is located in Central Delhi, spread across 5.3 acres of area. The school presents an international educational system bringing in 55 nationalities all together under one roof. The design concept amalgamates the international system without losing its Indian roots. The verandahs, courtyards, jali patterns and other passive cooling techniques make this school a perfect antidote to Delhi’s scorching heat.
Morphogenesis was given the brief to rebuild the school to increase its capacity from 650 to 1300 without hindering the ongoing school activities, due to which it was built in two phases. Phase I included the construction of a block along the periphery of the site enveloping the existing block, which was the only available space and brought up a lot of fire safety and construction challenges. The ongoing activities were relocated to this block which kept the school going. In phase II, the existing block was rebuilt by using the concept of Tetris and adding more classrooms, laboratories, art wing, lecture halls and performing art spaces. Courtyards and open spaces generated out of this block layout were used to promote open learning and give students spaces to interact with nature. The bigger volume blocks such as theatres, auditorium, and sports hall were placed on the southern facade to shade these internal courtyards. The activities are also designed outside the peripheral block like the labyrinth garden, quiet play area, storytelling court, nursery play area and spillover plazas for the library and auditorium.
The challenge of ongoing school activities acted as a platform to interact with the stakeholders of the school- pupils, teachers and parents for whom interactive sessions were conducted by Morphogenesis to discuss the project, asking them to propose changes and ideas. One of the major outcomes of this synergy was the generation of semi-enclosed breakout spaces, which are spilt over the entire design in the transitional areas and are shaping up gradually by the way they are being occupied, making it very user-centric and dynamic. These spaces ensure the multicultural ideology of the school by giving students an environment to connect with each other.
Reducing the dependency on the mechanical cooling systems and using traditional passive techniques instead was one of the visions of Morphogenesis to make this project more sustainable, environmentally friendly and cost-effective. The orientation of the blocks to avoid the harsh sunlight, the use of overhangs, verandahs, and shaded courtyards ensures lower temperatures inside the premises and optimises the energy consumption. Existing trees have been protected and spaces are designed to sit under the shade of mature trees just like the traditional outdoor seating spaces in India (Chaupals). Apart from that, sustainable design has also been achieved and demonstrated by the installation of a visible rainwater harvesting system as well as by the creation of bioswales. Carefully designed space frames not only maintain the ambient temperature but the light and shadow play generated by them enhances the aesthetics and vibrancy of the space. All of these passive cooling strategies contribute toward thermal comfort which directly impacts the productivity of the students and teachers.
The exterior presents itself as a strong white block screening the internal blocks with a perforated jali pattern of punctured squares which act as a cynosure of this design. The punctures vary in size and shield the school from the harsh sun by letting in diffused light as well as creating an aesthetic pattern on the plastered walls. The colourful grills juxtapose with the imposing white plaster, making the space vivacious, which is beneficial for instilling positivity and creativity in students.
“From ideation to user involvement during the building phase, right up to completion, the British School project was an example of open-mindedness to the different communities it caters for, and rootedness in its Indian context.”- Morphogenesis. The design of the British school enhances the student’s education by providing them with a holistic environment and a dynamic atmosphere where they can come together from diverse backgrounds and be inspired to learn and explore.
- Morphogenesis.org. 2017. [online] Available at: <https://www.morphogenesis.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/The-Plan-Sep-2017-The-British-School.pdf> [Accessed 1 May 2022].
- Morphogenesis. 2017. The British School – Morphogenesis. [online] Available at: <https://www.morphogenesis.org/our-works/the-british-school/> [Accessed 1 May 2022].