The indian state Meghalya rises up as an overwelming mountain scenery to the north of the lowland of Bangladesh. The area is characterized by its lush green fauna, countless waterfalls and heavy rains.
The comfortably moderate temperatures and the stunning landscape make it an attractive location for those seeking relaxation in India.
The hot air of the lower bengalian area meeting the chilled mountain air of the himalaya makes it rain basically everywhere and nearly every single day. Umbrellas, rubber sandals and rolled up trousers became an essential part of the local inhabitants' every day life.
The average annual rainfall is 6 times more than in Berlin. During June's monsoon season it is even 16 times more.
The 'Eva Spring of Knowledge School' is located in the state of Meghalya, about half an hour away from the state capital Shillong. Together with a few small shops it builds the centre of the tiny street village Umlyngka. Mainly caused by the trend to move to cities from the country side, as well as urban sprawl makes the village best characterized as rural-urban. Nevertheless, most of Umlyngkas population is still dependent on farming. However, especially the young people among its cititzens are looking for jobs in the city, which makes an appropriate education a necessity.
Therefore the 'Eva Spring of Knowledge School' is indispensable for young people on their way to a proper workplace and a secure future. Almost the entire indian school system is privately owned, similar to the 'Eva Spring of Knowledge School'. However, there are significant differences to other pricate schools. The Eva Spring of Knowledge School program is specifically tailored to the rural population and their possibilities. School fees are kept low and liquidity proplems are beeing solved together within the community.
The school's site is located on a slope with a slighter incline in the front part merging into a steeper terrain with quite dense vegetation. The three currently existing buildings are forming a small ensemble hosting 10 classrooms. They are arranged around the schoolyard, which is the center of the school – similar to a city center's market place.
In the classical sense, a school is a hybrid of a public building and a privacy-protecting shell. During our school time, we live through the intensive experience of growing up, visible to everyone. Constantly swinging between the need to be seen and heard, and vanishing into thin air and retreat. Designing a space for these complex needs is a particularly challenging task for us as architects.
To organize the spacial requirements for this challenge, we followed the five social formats of education as a guideline. Learning with the entire class in a plenary sitting, non-interactive, frontal teaching, work in small groups, team- and individual work. The options to use any of these formats is not only needed during lectures, but also in the free time inbetween.
Through our design project we are providing a redefinition of the school's space; forming a symbiotic relationship to the existing buildings, without rendering them obsolete. Over the course of the concept's development, both existing and new buildings have improved each other. While the new buildings orient themselves in scale and size along the existing ones, the systematic incorporation of the education formats discussed above finds its way into the already built compounds.
Inspired by the existing complex with similar spacial ideas-moving the modules in vertical and horizontal directions opened up outdoor spaces of various qualities. We explicitly refrained from creating a single, big yard but a network of plenty, spacially diverse habitats, where pupils of different group sizes and demands can spend their breaks. The variying characteristics of the spaces allow doing so more or less privately. Finally, the spaces, partly roofed in order to provide dry breaks during rainfall, are distributed and spread out between the classrooms.
Asides from the classrooms, the santitary facilities are the only closed rooms being newly built. The limited space to implement the education formats requires a very sensible and efficient use of build up structures and open space. Therefore the construction is planned to include more than plain walls, but instead so called 'functional walls'. Doors and windows are as much part of these, as are water filtration systems for collected rain water, shelves and built-in benches for the common areas.
This way, the classrooms are already furnished with all necessities for teaching after the wall construction is complete. The classrooms as a hole are characterized an introverted design. Besides specifically placed opening within the walls, a window row on top of the wall provides sufficient daylight within the classrooms. Thus the wall modules are divided into two horizontal zones which adhere to both, the appropriate room height of a public building, as well as the particular heights of children to be comfortable for them.
The roofed open spaces function as break room, common space and additional classrooms. This is where the unbuilt area comes into focus. These spaces, acting as a direct connection to the environment, encourage creativity of the user. The created layout allows for individual adjustments, findings of the summer school workshops could be directly applied to the environment.
'Rubberboots and Umbrellas'
The constructial design of the classroom is comparable to a festival-goer. Rubberboots on their feet to keep them dry and on top an umbrella to be protected from rainfall. In case of the classroom, the rubberboot is replaced by a concrete platform to lift up the entire construction from the wet area. On top of the subsequent light wood construction a corrugated sheet roof will function as the 'umbrella'.
The support structure of the new building is formed by a timber framework. Since Meghalaya is one
of the biggest area of wood cultivation in India they look onto a long tradition of wood crafting. For some parts of the walls we use daub as filling. While nowadays usually clay as a material is often replaced by cement mortar or concrete, we want to reintroduce an old but forgotten constructive tradition with all its forgotten advantages.
'Growth in unison with needs'
To allow the realisation of the project during the regular school routine, and to avoid to building rooms that cannot be used directly after completion, we developed a model of three independent building periods. In the first phase, three classrooms-including two common areas-will be build and the sanitary facilities will be renewed. The latter will be already constructed in a manner allowing serving the later completed complex.
In the second phase, four more classrooms-including two common areas-will be attached to the complex. In the third and for now final phase, the existing buildings will be renovated and improved. In this manner, the Eva Spring of Knowlegde will grow in unison with its needs. In the later building periods we back out slowly to hand over the project to the community, so they know the project as their own and take care of future maintanance and possible extensions.