SCHOOL OF PLANNING AND ARCHITECTURE, VASANT KUNJ
School of Planning and Architecture
Vasant Kunj, Delhi
Meenal Singh, Pooja Mahendra, Reena Mahajan
BUILT UP AREA:
How to start thinking about the design of a school of architecture? You begin with the site and from your own most cherished memories of being in architecture school…where was the best time? Was it inside or outside? Was it alone or together? When it’s your own alma mater you are designing, you extract the qualities of the site that help you reconstruct these and try to transpose this vivid yet abstract sense of place into the new site.
The 25 acre School of Planning and Architecture campus site in Vasant Kunj sits at the edge of the South Central Ridge of the Aravalli ranges – one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world. The landscape is undulating with gentle slopes and dotted with numerous morrum and clay mined pits of different sizes, depths and shapes and now battles from survival from rampant deforestation, mining and now encroachment. Most indigenous plant species have disappeared from the area and the pesky Keekar variety occupies the site.
The site has a beautiful scar from its industrial past and our masterplan places it in the center of the planned development, designing density and action around it such that it activates this void into a bustling space to hang out. A 3 storied quarry resting amidst an overgrown keekar forest at site, creates a minor underground city, cut off from the sight and sounds of the outside, a shaded burrow to get into during the summer…the architecture for a perfect place to hang out, to linger beyond class was available. It could be the river to escape into or an embankment of activities like the ghats of a river with weirs to move across when Delhi monsoons will it with water.
SPA would relocate their campus from Indraprastha Estate or ITO - the heart of Delhi, to this gated complex. The design should assume the burden of compensating for loss of the intense urban experience of SPA's current home in this somewhat insular site. A two-part program of Academic and Residential was required and we used this opportunity to integrate habitat (residential) with learning (academic). We sought to recreate the atmospherics and compulsive energy of a young bustling city within, through increased interaction and interdependence of built-form, functions and people. This meant a dense, interconnected built form where we actively sought to create diversity without chaos, through mixed land use and order while avoiding the pitfall of a monotonous street network. Also, we chose to actively avoid the segregation of usually disparate zones such as academic and residential, students and faculty, undergraduate and graduate students and male and female residential spaces.