Vanam ( tamil,noun: forest of abundance), a government school in Thoraipakkam, Chennai stands tall against a background of stark contrasts, negotiating the aspirations of a primary school with the disparities of site reality. Located adjacent to the dilapidated old yellow primary school, the new school was sculpted into its present form from a pre-existing site plan for which the plinth had already been created. The main focus was to break through the rigidity of the existing plan, to create vibrant spaces of learning, being, and playing for the children.
PROJECT NAME: VANAM – PRIMARY SCHOOL IN THORAIPAKKAM
STATE: TAMIL NADU
FIRM: TRIPLE O STUDIO
PROJECT DESIGN TEAM: ANUPRIYA SUBBIAN, TAHAER ZOYAB, KEVIN SHELDON, AISHWARYA G
CLIENT: Dr. N. MAHALINGAM – SAKTHI GROUP
SITE AREA: 6154 sqft
BUILT UP AREA: 10991 sqft
YEAR OF COMPLETION: 2019
STRUCTURAL CONSULTANT: KEERTHI FOUNDATION – ENGINEERS AND BUILDERS
PHOTOGRAPHY ACCREDITATION: TRIPLE O PIXEL, Binsan Oomen Baby
The architecture of the building is celebrated in the many opportunities that it creates along the sectional plane. The regimental layout of a linear school is broken into small pockets of activity that feed into each other. Each space functions in independent unity with the next space on one side while at the same time exploring its unique relationship with the site context on the other side. There is conscious effort in ensuring that the building embraces its immediate surroundings. The aim is to induce a sense of porosity between the structure and the context with built surfaces where kids can stand, walk, climb and run.
The first step towards designing energising spaces was getting the basics in place. Terracotta Jalis were planned throughout as a cost effective way of bringing in daylight, shadow patterns and ample cross ventilation inside. In between the Jalis, clear openings were introduced on the ground level and simple grilled openings were assembled on the first floor level to bring a sense of lightness to the structure. Steel windows that had to be used as per fire safety codes were painted in colours to give kids from different sections a sense of attachment and ownership. Throughout the structure, the design attempts to humanise scale, with kids at the centre of all planning. The modular classrooms which house many students together were modelled to have higher ceilings along with terracotta ventilators. The long connecting corridor which is the primary space of indoor play, was brought to a 7’ height to closely respond to the height of the children. At the front of the building, the plinth is pulled out in invitation to make steps that lead up to the school, to create break spaces where children enjoy lunch and to make room for their little games and extracurricular activities.
Schools are built out of more than brick and mortar. They represent stories, amplify voices and create memory. The design for Thoraipakkam School attempts to celebrate building over the building by making spaces that capture energy to show intention. It is an effort to make strides towards levelling the playing field of building government schools- regardless of budget, site constraints, and social perceptions of what a government school is and deserves. It is an opportunity to step out of the planning plane and into a playing plane, to open doors to show possibility.