St Martha Bethany Vidyalaya
The weather & topography of Punjab was unlike anything we had experienced before.
Weather-wise, it’s a land of extremes. Summers soar almost upto 50 degrees and winters drop to zero degrees.
The topography of the countryside is quite interesting. The settlements here are akin to a galaxy of dense clusters, created in order to stay clear of the cultivable land which is fertile and highly irrigated. This is one of the highest grain-yielding regions in the country.
Miles and miles of uninterrupted flat land, with the absence of obstruction by any mountains, produce high-speed hostile winds that also bring in considerable dust.
The school was situated on the outskirts of one of these clusters in between the fields which gave us scenic views and cool winds in the summer months due to the standing rice crop. But at the end of each harvest cycle, there would be frequent dust storms. There was also the problem of stubble burning which brought in considerable ash with the winds.
This led to the evolution of the arc-shaped form of the school building. The fortress-like blank walls aim to deflect the gusty winds and channel them through the open pockets of the built mass in a gentler avatar.
The taupe colour of the blank walls is to match that of the surrounding soil so that the weathering they endure gets camouflaged.
Breaks in the wall are articulated by brightly coloured bridge elements. Most openings are oriented towards small courts that are created by the finger-like massing of the built form. Very few openings are in the direction of the incident winds. The courts are mutually shaded throughout the day. The size and scale of the courts have been kept intimate as they also play spaces for the younger children – these may perhaps double up as winter classrooms as well!