Can architecture create a new vocabulary for preschool education?
Celebrated around the world for its unique approach to enriching young minds through connecting with nature, India’s traditional education system holds a significant place in the identity of the country’s rich cultural history. However, the colonial influence and the advent of globalization not only changed the cultural perspective of the country, but also modernized the educational system. From the traditional gurukul system, the education scene jumped onto western teaching ideologies. Although the transformation from pious scholarship to a more globalized perspective opened up new opportunities for the country’s communities, it brought with it the very close connection that the system shared with the surrounding area. From informal spaces in the shade of lush trees and the tranquility of blue skies, study spaces have been reduced to the formality of four walls. As revolutionary attempts to reconnect with traditional practices and limit the influence of Western philosophies gain momentum around the world, India too has sought to bring back the familiarity of the past and absorb it in generations to come. The architectural niche of this approach seems to be reflected in the more radical designs that prioritize vernacular architecture and environmentally conscious designs. For this reason, Pune-based Studio Infinity has attempted to explore a new design vocabulary for preschoolers in their project The Out School.
Nestled in the residential area of Pune, Maharashtra, the 232 sqm pre-school took shape from an old, dilapidated house on the site. Responding to clients’ need to expand their efforts, the architects designed a space that responds to the constraints of the context. The design includes 464 m² of outdoor space in the built structure, ebb and flow between indoor and outdoor areas. While expressing their thought process on designing for a young user group, the architects share: “Considering that the end users were in the 2 to 5 age group, the general perspective for design thinking was shifted from child anthropometrics, the Playfulness, determined and easy movement. This is how the furniture was designed, the levels managed and the connection between inside and outside made. A great deal of detail went into creating and customizing elements to serve as teaching and learning tools.
To maximize the site’s potential, the recessed areas have been landscaped and divided into tiers that serve as gathering spots and play areas. While the larger forecourts are intended for school assemblies, the narrow open spaces open up the possibility of learning outside the four walls. In a grid of columns, the central corridor separates the classrooms and the common activity room. Reflecting children’s unique connection to circles, curves and color, the design adapts arches, curved seating and bright colors. Responding to the spatial constraints associated with the structural challenges of the existing structure, the architects planned the interiors as multifunctional spaces. Within the back setback of the property, they envisioned an outdoor classroom with seating on curved steps, mosaic floors, and green bags.
Through the flexible design of the spaces, The Out School explores the unconventional ways of teaching and nurturing young minds. In an interesting attempt by the architects to retrofit the existing structure and use upcycled materials, they turned a dead wall into a music wall by attaching a few vintage paraphernalia to its surface. In addition, the exterior floor decorates the old through the design intervention to enhance the visual aesthetics tipri-pani Game with a little twist. While taking a whole new perspective on educational architecture, The Out School demonstrates a unique marriage of the traditional educational system that fostered relationships with nature and Western perceptions of indoor learning.
While providing an indigenous perspective on preschool design vocabulary, the material palette follows an earthy tone that includes cement floors, ceramic mosaics, wooden furniture and bamboo pergolas. In a range of bold colors and natural textures, the playful art interventions and subtle overlaying of graphics add to the child-friendly environment. “All of these elements together define ‘The Out School,’ which attempts to design spaces that trigger teaching, learning and growth outside the confines of typical classrooms,” the architects add.
Surname: The Out School
Location: Pune, India
Area: Inside: 232 sqm; Outside area: 464 sqm
Client: Vaishali Banthia & Sapna Shah, Little Monarchs.
Architect: Studio infinity
Lead Architects: are Tushar Kothawade and Chiranjivi Lunkad
Design Team: Yashashree Patil & Komal Mourya>
Project Manager: Sagar Kulkarni
Contractor: Manav Group Execution Team