Inspired by an effectual educational approach, The Atelier by Bengaluru-based Biome Environmental Solutions embodies a conscious architecture which stems from the understanding that, “The permanence of a building may no longer be a prerequisite in its design.……it is necessary to allow material recovery and recycling, or reconstruct the same building elsewhere – anything but create debris that will occupy landfills.”
It is well known that children in their formative years are responsive to their everyday surroundings, experiences, and routines. Borrowing from this, The Reggio Emilia Approach focuses on the centrality of the hundred languages of children wherein they require utmost freedom in order to value the infinite resources of their hands, eyes, and ears and of forms, materials, sounds, and colours. Designed by Bengaluru’s Biome Environmental Solutions, this pre-school is an example of a sustainable building whose design submits to the enhancement of a sensorial, exploratory learning experience.
Situated on a leased land in close proximity to a warehouse and a construction activity site, the building aspires to create an architectural experience that mutes all external noise, focalising attention internally. Owing to the visible conditions and the invisible experiential constraints around the site, the architects lead the design in this direction. The essence of this project lies in its transposability.
Completed in 2016, it sits compactly on a 1955 square meter site that is accessible from the northeast. The building is conceived as one large volume of 985 square meters with its plinth extending into outdoor play areas on the northern, southern and north-eastern sides. A light galvanized metal roof sloping from the south to north shelters the entire school. On entering the building, the individual spaces eloquently dissociate from the whole. With an unassuming permeable external and an understated interior, the architects have tactfully managed to unite the inside to the outside.
A subdued earthen interior palette permits the gaze of the eye to penetrate its surface convincing one of the veracity of its materials.
The layout is composed of classrooms, a studio/atelier and a childhood stimulation center around a central piazza that allows for transition between these spaces. Each classroom additionally comprises of a mini-atelier for smaller group activities. The varied internal spaces of learning are awash with daylight that filters through a generously sky-lit roof.
Drawing analogy from the traditional gurukul setting, eight structural columns similar to a branching tree support the sloping roof.
As a result, the roof is at a perceivable scale giving those under it the opportunity to interact not only with each other but also with the architecture. The offices are tucked away on a southwest mezzanine. The four corners enclose secondary spaces including a café to the southeast and basic utilitarian services to the northwest.
No building is an end in itself- it frames, relates, separates and unites, facilitates and prohibits. When viewed from the outside, the school resembles an art workshop/studio space. The external envelope is a composition of fixed panels of perforated metal sheet, reflective glass and pinewood. A continuous band of perforations wraps the building below the standard sill height facilitating a visual connect with the outside world, while ensuring safety of the children. In addition, operable louvers and sliding windows are suitably positioned to enable adequate daylight and airflow.
Often, a uniform intensity of light across a homogeneous space does not engage an occupant as much as a variable, either in its palette or its luminescence engages through tactility. This project explores innate construction techniques including a local chappadi granite stone slab foundation, tactile flooring with paver blocks and CSEB’s made of soil from different sites, a false ceiling from bamboo mats and a bolted steel support structure. Together, they sustain a continuum in space perception from the outside to inside. The motility in the perceived space is heightened by the curvilinear shape of the classrooms enclosed with paper-tube ‘walls’ of appropriately varying heights.
Despite a consistent intensity of illuminance, it is in the reflective quality of these materials that the interiors exude a familiar warmth and comfort.
Rooted in a cognitive learning approach, the school engages children under a diverse mentorship – a place realised for parents, teachers and volunteers to contribute to the process of education; a place where the resulting nourishing environment encourages a child’s mind to explore endlessly.
Throughout the scheme, the architects have retained the fundamentals of sustainable building practice ensuring that rainwater is harvested from the entire roof area and solid waste from the school is disposed off in twin leach pits which are effective in returning nutrients to the soil.
When one speaks of sustainability as a phenomenon (a state or process that is made known through the senses rather than by intuition or reasoning ) that is part of an architectural language, often we forget that architecture is itself composed as much of the intangible as it is of the tangible.
In the Atelier, it is in the use of natural materials that the building possesses an innate ability to eventually become expressive of its purpose.
The architects have approached educational design with a balanced understanding of the physical and metaphysical elements of the site and the end-user respectively. To quote Juhani Pallasmaa, we feel pleasure and protection only when the body discovers its resonance in space. The architecture of The Atelier partakes in one of such sublime delights of ergonomic proportions that engage the senses. It embraces the fluidity of the internal spaces and yet, is mindful of the simple geometry that it is enclosed within. ♦
Project: The Atelier
Location: Bengaluru, Karnataka
Architectural Firm: Biome Environmental Solutions
Architects: Chitra Vishwanath, Anurag Tamhankar, Sharath Nayak, Soujanya Krishnaprasad, Mahendar R, Shibani Choudhury, Prasenjit Shukla, Lekha Samant
Client: Ashutosh Aggarwal, Rythm Aggarwal, Suresh Kewalramani
Consultants & Contractors: Muralidhar Reddy (Contractor), Prasanna Kumar (Contractor), Mahendar R (Quantity Estimator), Mesha Structural Consultants
Year of Commencement & Completion: 2016
Architects’ Text Credits: Soujanya Krishnaprasad
Photographs: Vivek Muthuramalingam
Text: Hrushita Davey