Good Design for All

Taksila Roots primary school in Akbarpur, the administrative headquarters of the Ambedkar Nagar district in Uttar Pradesh, is a fine example of how effectively the local labour can be used for a contemporary building.

The main source of income in the region is farming and power looms. Like many other rural places in India, literacy is quite low in the region with 74.49% literacy rate.

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Even though the region has a number of schools compared to other regions in the country, the infrastructure is of very low quality and inadequate to cater to the population.

So the client approached architect Shaily Gupta inorder to make a change in this pattern and provide an educational building of good quality for the people.

The architect’s first step towards that vision was to train the local labourers on site for building the structure that she had envisaged. Initially, the labourers themselves didn’t think they were capable of executing such a contemporary project even though the project uses simple technology.

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The school sits on a site of one acre within the urban fabric of Akbarpur town. The two storey building houses the primary school of the Taksila Academy; from the nursery to the Vth standard.

The built space is spread at one end of the site. The spaces are all clustered around a large courtyard on a free flowing plinth topped by a fly roof. The school is accessible from all sides and connects all the external spaces like stage, splash pool etc seamlessly.

The upper floors are accessed by two staircases that flank the courtyard. The activity spaces are all facing the courtyard or a terrace and many of the exterior spaces are equipped to be turned into educational spaces.

In addition, the building has integrated BALA (Building as a Learning Aid) elements, which makes use of the flooring pattern and elements in the walls to form puzzles and games that can be used to help the children to learn interactively.

Well thought out interventions help to keep the building energy efficient and passively cool. The building has employed a fly roof as an additional roof layer with a space in between.

During the hottest months, when the top roof gets heated up from the glare the heat will not pass down to the lower parts of the building. The round cut-outs on the roof give extended eaves that will act as a chajja to protect the walls from direct glare.

Additionally, the orientation, cluster formation (thermal mass), courtyard etc has also been provided for passive cooling of the interiors.

The surfaces are composed of exposed brick and concrete contrasted by certain elements finished in bright red colour giving an earthly aesthetic to the spaces.

The round cut-out of the roof above the courtyard and the extended eaves helps to give interesting views and an impression that the roof is floating.

The structural elements have been laid with care to allow for corner windows in every classroom allowing sweeping views of the exteriors.
The urban vision in India is highly lacking and the cracks are showing.

Many celebrated infrastructure developments by those in power have disappointed due to the fragmented and ill-informed planning. Due to this, public buildings are of the lowest quality.

The deep seated idea that architecture caters to the rich and quality architecture and cost effectiveness do not go hand in hand has added to the vacuum.

Taksila School by architect Shaily Gupta strives to be an example of change to this notion. It represents a possibility that appropriate and quality architecture solutions can be provided to rural landscapes using simple technology.

Fact File

  • Project Title: Taksila roots school
  • Location: Akbarpur, Uttar Pradesh, India
  • Practice: SGA Studio
  • Typology: Educational institution
  • Design Team: Shaily Gupta (Design Lead), Mayank Jain, Sabika Zaidi
  • Consultants: Nirman Engineering, Green Planet (MEP Services), Udayanchal, (Civil contractor).
  • Client: Raghuraji Devi Foundation Trust
  • Area: 4500 sq. m
  • Year: December 2017

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