This school, located in Coimbatore’s hot and humid climate, caters to every small need of its users. The brief was to build a school that follows the Waldorf principles of education while adhering to the guidelines laid down by the Tamil Nadu Board of Education. Waldorf education aims to inspire life-long learning in all students and to enable them to fully develop their unique capacities. The principles of Waldorf education evolve from an understanding of human development that addresses the needs of the growing child. Children are provided with the environment necessary for the growth of their personalities as good human beings, and not just intellect. The curriculum is designed to be child-centric and focuses on mental, spiritual, physical and psychological growth along with academics.
The entire structure exudes a vibe of simplicity and openness. This is achieved through the use of materials, scale and simple yet effective design decisions. The earthy colour palette established by the CSEB blocks gives a subtle message about the importance of children staying connected to the earth. This colour palette itself also helps the colourful features in the interior to stand out and attract children. The tones are soothing, and the structure speaks a lot about the values that the school inculcates in its students.
The spaces are airy, naturally lit and provide ample scope for self-exploration to the kids. While being so, these spaces are also designed in a manner that the teachers find it convenient to supervise the kids’ activities. This is one of the lesser examples where the teachers’ comfort has been paid special attention to, as they are equally important users of the structure as the children. A garden with water features and pergolas, which acts as a break-out space for teachers, helps achieve this goal.
Currently, in the first phase, spaces for children from Kindergarten to 5th grade are designed to feel as cosy and comfortable as home, with toilets in close vicinity and a large activity space adjacent to it. An open-air theatre is nestled in the premises as an internal courtyard.
The Tamil Nadu Board of Education guidelines require the floor height of the classrooms to be at least 3 metres, which felt too big for the children. Thus, structural arches were introduced to reduce the scale and bring in interesting curves into the design.
A fun campus
Circulation between floors is designed with ramps and makes the journey memorable. The exterior wall of the ramp has interesting jaali patterns that bring in sunlight and ventilation in a playful manner. One of the central sky-lit spaces has a net which allows the kids a free-fall feeling. A slide connects the first and second floors for the children to come down in an alternate, more fun way. A myriad of colourful tiles and floor-embedded games bring the activity area to life as children can be seen frolicking around the space, playing freely. Arches frame the classrooms, which are designed in a proportion that children can run along its entire breadth, whereas adults can only move through the centre.
Individual classrooms consist of different kinds of gathering spaces inside them: lecture spaces, discussion spaces and individual learning spaces. This enables various kinds of learning possible inside the same class; the teacher addresses the students, students learn from each other, and students learn by themselves from their work pinned up in the cave areas. The school also has spaces accessible only to the children. These spaces are important for the kids as exploration imbibes confidence in these developing personalities. This, along with the beautiful patterns created by the jaalis, creates a feeling of fantasy and wonder.
The open-air theatre brings the outdoors inside. Despite it being an introverted structure due to the climate, the connection with the sky is not lost. The children can enjoy a nice play session without the risk of over-exposure to the sun, thanks to this snug open space placed strategically. The sills and lintels of some windows extend to create boxes on which the children can sit.
On the first floor, along with the computer lab, lies a safely designed terrace envisaged for growing vegetables and flowers. Children on the first floor can access the playground through the dining area.
Structure and Environment
The primary building material in the walls is CSEB, which is an appropriate choice for the Coimbatore climate. Arches make an essential design element, which is also structural. For this purpose, compressed earth block precast arch panels have been used. The CSEB walls have in-built jaali patterns and steel windows which make the internal spaces energetic and playful. The jaalis help in bringing in air cooler than the outdoors, which is a much-required feature in the hot climate.
The earth required for construction was obtained from the site itself, as the play spaces and classrooms are 1.5m below road level. The structure is well lit using daylight and passively ventilated. The roof collects rainwater which is then harvested and recharged.
- Waldorf Education: An Introduction