With its varied courtyards, terraces, columned halls, entries and playful movements, the School of Sciences is a journey of discovery. While the solemn front of the structure conveys the image of serious academic pursuit that the university stands for, the building itself is centered around its users–faculty and students.
Architect: DCOOP (Design Cooperative)
Location: Cuddapah, Andhra Pradesh, India
Project Team: Shilpa Ranade and Quaid Doongerwala with Abhijit Doshi, Shweta Ketkar
Structure: Sanjay Chikermane
Plumbing & Electrical: Synergy Consultants
Contractors: SVEC Hyderabad
Project Management: University Engineering Dept.
Site Engineer: Mohammed Nawaz
Project Area: 18000 sqm
Project Year: 2008
Photography: Rajesh vora
The School of Sciences has been designed to house multiple post-graduate departments of science with their mix of teaching and research facilities. Given the dynamic nature of education today where disciplines are fluid and responsive to the demands of the market, the building had to be inherently flexible to adapt to future changes. The building is part of a larger 420 acre campus plan designed by the architects for a post-graduate university near the town of Cudappah. The design is based on a rigorous analysis of the program where functions are categorized into flexible/specific functions. Along with functional analysis, a key stimulus for the design has been the re-interpretation of thematic elements of traditional Indian architecture such as the jali, the courtyard and vast columnar halls (of temples and mosques for example). These elements stand as examples of a sensitive and tested response to context and climate. Moreover, they are also successful illustrations of how public buildings can be scaled to a personal intimate scale without losing their symbolic gravity.
The resulting organization rests on four organizational strategies- the FINGER, the PLUG, the STACK and the SPINE. The FINGER is made up of modular bays which house the labs and classrooms with service ducts in every alternate bay. The orientation of the FINGER is climate-responsive with minimum exposure to east-west radiation, natural north-lighting for all workspaces, and a south façade buffered by movement corridors with screens.
Fingers are held together by PLUGS housing more specific functions such as faculty rooms, libraries, and admin offices; that are intimately scaled with multiple small courtyards. The STACKS house the main services of the building – staircases, toilets and lift blocks and also connect the vertical and horizontal movements. Tying the entire group together is a movement SPINE with its vast halls of massive diamond ‘columns’ and an eccentric waffle slab.
Three large public courtyards formed between the fingers house trapezoidal seminar rooms that create interesting points of focus. Screens in metal and concrete add the necessary texture and protection to the common spaces along the courtyards. The staggering of the mass in section creates terraces at all three levels.
Given the remote location of the site and government patronage, a limited repertoire of construction skills and materials (with a keen preference for brick and concrete) was available for building. The design works towards pushing the boundaries of this existing paradigm of building to create a contemporary and dynamic structure. The success of the School of Sciences lies in its layered control of scale and the complexity of spaces achieved while beginning from a pragmatic and logical analysis of program. These rich experiential encounters – realized without compromising on function or formal identity – create an architecture that goes beyond the visual and is experienced viscerally through the movement of the body in space.