60-second interview: Meena Murthy Kakkar, design head and partner, Envisage

The new hostel at Mann School was designed as a muted building, yet one that would create a dynamic and communal environment for its residents

Explain the concept adopted for the Mann School hostel project?
The vision behind the design for the new hostel centres on the importance of holistic facilities that would encourage learning at a home-away-from-home. The school follows a design approach that is empathetic towards the users, offering a safe environment with the freedom to interact, engage and get empowered.

What are the various characteristics of the building?
The elevation of the building was designed with the intent of not being noticed from outside, but from the inside. The façade was thus created in a grey palette to merge with the sky and to mute the red of the bricks. The central band has a metal frame with mesh on it for climbers to be grown on them, thus extending the greens outside over to the building.
From the inside, the courtyard – another green space – extends all the way to the front, creating a visual connection to the garden, thus negating the presence of the façade. The separation is created using the green jaali, which blends into the landscape beyond. This ensures a seamless blending of the space with its surroundings and prevents it from turning into a visual fortress by keeping you connected to the huge expanse of space all around.
The different levels of the building are staggered to enable the occupants of each floor to instantly form a connection with everyone, regardless of where they are positioned. Whether it is the study hall, salon, common room, parent lounge, table tennis area, or the garden – every individual within the space has a visual connection with the rest of the spaces.
The typical creation of linear-shaped and straightforward corridors has also been avoided to enable the children to engage with one another and facilitate interaction. For this, all rooms open out to the corridors, purposefully dotted with additional seating, making them the very first place for communication.
The school building is driven by sustainability, with solar panels connected together. Dead trees on-site have been used to manufacture the doors of the hostel, while two pits cater to rainwater harvesting from the 7,000 sq-ft terrace. To reduce the quantity of construction material used, the debris was utilised to make the roads and footpaths of the school. In order to reduce the heat load on the building, the south and west walls have been made using rat trap bonds. The air pockets in this brick bond act as insulation, thus considerably reducing the heat transfer from the walls as well as reducing the number of bricks by 30%.

Elaborate on the design intent and how it was met.
A boarding school is not just a school, it is a community. The design intent attempts to create a lively and interactive environment where the girls do not feel isolated and are kept away from mainstream activities while being under the framework of school regulations.
Conceptualised as a smaller institution within itself, the hostel is devised as a self-sufficient entity for the residents to enjoy themselves. The building thus intends to emphasise a sense of community living; which acts as the primary motive behind creating the staggered terraces overlooking the central courtyard. All the common spaces like the corridor seating, the common room, the semi-covered TT area, and the amphitheatre are connected through the open space. To ensure safety but also not hamper visual access, wire mesh and metal jaalis have been installed on the façade of the building.

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