Text description provided by the architects. Designed by Morphogenesis, the campus of YWCA establishes a socio-educational anchor in the rapidly burgeoning sub-city of Dwarka, Delhi, India. It houses two distinct, but interrelated functional programs: residential facilities for working women and academic facilities for their vocational training. The design process was driven by a critical investigation of the building’s immediate urban and social context. It addresses Morphogenesis’ core design philosophy of sustainability that is viewed through the lens of community, culture, environment, and economics. Together, they craft a secure and vibrant learning-living habitat, that is focused on enhancing collaboration and optimizing the management and use of shared spaces and resources.
The design emerges from a fusion of a rich traditional building knowledge-bank with contemporary architectural intent. The area is surrounded by multiple construction sites hence, the design approach adopted, as a result, is introverted in nature, providing a sense of privacy. The North-East-facing site is flanked with group housing societies on either side and a narrow green belt on the far South-Eastern edge. The morphology of the building has been moderated to create a barcoded rib that serves a dual function of providing shade and acting as storage devices on the inside. The built mass is arranged around a courtyard and houses offices, classrooms, learning spaces, a library, and dormitories. Larger volumes are placed on the South side to cut off the sun and to provide shade to internal courtyards. Multiple verandahs, courtyards, and terraces, allow visual permeability, providing porosity to the built volume, whilst serving as outdoor learning and social spaces.
The hot-dry climate of the region made it a challenge to make outdoor facilities usable throughout the year. A microclimate has therefore been set up, by incorporating traditional, vernacular, passive climate-control tools. The design reduces dependency on mechanical methods of cooling. Openings have been provided to allow for natural air flow through the building. The central void allows the hot air to rise, reducing the pressure at the base of the building; this facilitates the stack effect, helping create a microclimate. A series of green spaces and terraces at multiple levels act as thermal buffers, serving different social and academic activities and promoting outdoor learning. The conventional basement (lower level) has been conceived as an ‘underbelly,’ inspired by the traditional Indian baoli (a step-well). Being sub-terranean, this area is naturally cooler; it employs earth sheltering, thermal banking, and evaporative cooling, to modulate the high temperatures. This creates a conducive microclimate without the use of air-conditioning, fostering a multitude of student activities and enhancing its public character. The campus is largely intended to be used by women. The underbelly, as a response, is designed to be a secure and intimate place, that can be transformed to accommodate diverse social and recreational activities.
The YWCA is a charitable institute and in keeping the ethos, the architectural response has been cost-effective and impactful, sufficient for the design to support the functionality and fostering a sense of being within the campus. While the construction methodology adopted was simple, the building physics was exploited to reduce operational and maintenance costs. The architectural manifestation of ornamentation is born out of traditional craft and the use of a simple colour palette of orange, yellow and white which further enhances the identity of the institution.
Morphogenesis’ design approach aims at nurturing a sustainable thought process in the students and generating a sense of pride for the building by creating a distinct identity. On the day of its inauguration, the institution was declared a ‘glowing beacon of light in the path to empower underprivileged women’ by Mr. Alan Masih, General Secretary, Church of North India. He referred to the new YWCA campus as an institutional anchor within the local community, strengthening the collaboration between education and social engagement.