The malaise of institutional design in India is dominated by the continual propagation of archaic planning concepts and modular aesthetic classroom formats. Modern tradition is now starting to dictate a slight detour from these architectural legacies wherein form, interaction and energy instigate the change. The inspirations that define space reflect the open education forums and transparency that has been imbued in the learning systems.
While the format essentially remains unchanged, the ideological persuasions in space transformation vary from place to place. All the while, a simplistic thread does connect the thoughts across the architecture in India—a quest to imbibe nature into the very inception of the project. A direct engagement of this scenario is established in the upcoming architectural ethos of India. Studio Archohm’s principles also stilt on such diverse, multiple and radical schools of thought, provoking a spatial discovery of another kind. The multidimensional portfolio of the firm continues to pave a fresh attitude with the design of the Yogananda Library for the biotechnology campus of Shoolini University in Himachal Pradesh.
The scenic context of the site, overlooking the dense green blanket of the valley, gives rise to an outward-looking structure. The design acknowledges the possibility of a structural integrity that breaks away from linear planning and yet vacillates between conventional design and its own aesthetic.
An architectural departure from the understated, the building facade erupts in a monumental form. The exposed concrete wall, supported by seemingly intersecting columns, is an interpretation of the most fundamental element of biotechnology and reflection of the university’s logo. The elevation of the building with clean facade of concrete and recessed glass facilitates light to stream in. The inner face of concrete bears the load of the entire shelving system of the library and its books.
The main concept of the project is directly linked to the purpose of the building as a centre for reference, research and discussion. The four-storeyed structure is home to a vast repertoire of spaces that span the institute’s requirements.
The campus embraces a homogenous sustenance created almost like a hub with different things going on. The lower two floors with glazed walls are stationed as the research cells and discussion areas of senior students and faculty. While the upper two are made deeper as the contours recede and the front remains aligned. This allows room for a large central courtyard.
In the courtyard, uniform indirect light pours into all parts of the built floors. The courtyards connect playfully in voids and volumes as they broaden up to the terrace to become a natural container of light. This unrestricted light but controlled temperature and views bring the required climatic control within the built structure. Functionally, the library books stack up on the periphery, with a row of reading bays forming an inner ring—at the centre of which is a bright green space. “This physical introversion and philosophical introspection in a study environment brings in a sense of silence, creating a sacred space for knowledge and learning in an educational campus,” the architects feel. The attempt has been to create a calm environment within the structure that is ideal for long hours of work.
The terrace is an extension of the central courtyard. One could bring books away from the confines of a traditional library stack and read on the refreshing grass, sunbathing on the foothills.
The greens keep the latent temperatures of the structure in check to add to the level of comfort within. The green roofs bring in a level of drama, as one ascends the large steps. The steps can be used to either surf for books or as seating, owing to good illumination.
The space’s strong directional volume aids in pulling and uplifting users. Thus, the circulation space is reinterpreted as a bright yellow, clean white and raw grey contrast. They work well against each other to give this reinvented route, a refreshing look and feel. The result: multiple programme requirements are built individually but unify the entire campus.