Located in the Thar Desert in the north of India, the Rajkumari Ratnavati Girls' School was built to educate and teach over 400 girls between the ages of five and sixteen. One design critic called it 'the best architecture I've seen in a long time'.
New York based studio Diana Kellogg Architects explained that the studio looked to symbols of femininity and the nearby sand-dunes to create a fort-like structure that would blend into and grow out of the landscape. "I ultimately landed on this oval shape that is representative of femininity and resonated with me as the formulation of infinity," Diana Kellogg told Dezeen.
Built using locally sourced hand-carved sandstone, the 836 sq.m. fort-like structure comprises three circular elements: a large exterior wall that wraps around the perimeter of the school, an interior wall that encloses and surrounds the classrooms, as well as an oval courtyard. Sections of the stone walls have been perforated to cool the space down and shade it from the sun.
"I wanted the design of the school to provide shading for the girls in the courtyard," said Kellogg. "I lessened the width so we could have a canopy cover the open space in the hot months. The ellipse shape seemed the most natural way to do this. Round shapes were familiar to the craftsmen as the fort structure was a series of circular forms."
The perforated parapet that surrounds the exterior of the walkway tapers in height. Its design is a reinterpretation of latticed Jali screens, which are traditionally used to provide privacy. A blue tiled-mosaic floor stretches across the walkway, adding a bright and cool contrast against the yellow stone.
Diana Kellogg Architects oriented the building to maximise the breeze from the wind and make it work with the school's elliptical form to passively cool the building. The studio also incorporated water harvesting systems that collect and recycle rainwater throughout the school. Solar panels that supply energy to lights and fans were fitted to a steel structure on the roof, which doubles as a shaded canopy area and playscape for the children.
One thing is for sure, the kids absolutely love their new school.
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