Unifying the elements

‘Squaring the circle’, an alchemical symbol prevalent in the 17th century, has a metaphorical meaning – a quest to harmonize physical and spiritual natures; in another words a quest for knowledge and wisdom. It is also associated with the legend of the Philosopher’s Stone which could turn base metals into gold.

This alchemic glyph was the source of inspiration to the architecture group VYOM who was commissioned by the Ministry of Commerce, Government of India, to design the Footwear Design and Development Institute in Ankleshwar in Gujarat which houses over 1,500 chemical plants.

The fundamental design concept of the institute, spread over 10 acres of land, is to unify all the physical elements while exhibiting openness and varied spaces in order to enrich learning.

This has been manifested in the physical environment through spatial planning that would significantly enhance academic, social, and emotional learning opportunities while relieving stress.

The design includes a sunken central, landscaped courtyard with a bridge passing through it which divides the courtyard into an open-air theatre and a student activity court. These two areas together form the central circle of the alchemical symbol.

The main building that includes the academic and administrative blocks, the boys’ hostel, auditorium and the girls’ hostel are placed along the sides of the symbol forming a central interactive space. The bridge connects the drop off area to the main building.

The auditorium is designed in a way to minimize public circulation within the core spaces of the campus-thereby completing the third side of the symbol. The staff accommodation is located towards the south-east corner of the site, creating a quiet and private zone.

The units are laid out to achieve optimal building orientation to reduce dependence on mechanical means. The residential zone is designed within the landscape, while ensuring easy connectivity to the rest of the campus.
The use of elevation frames, stone cladding and glass ensures optimum day lighting, while unifying the built volumes.

It enhances the quality of internal space; while optimally designed fenestration patterns add to the unique character of the campus. Robust elements such as the feature walls clad with ACP panels for added emphasis, frame the site edges and the entrance, enhancing the character of the facade.

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A larger intent was to imbibe a passive feature in the design, right from the inception stage. Through optimal building orientation and recessed fenestration with deep balconies in residential spaces – hostels and apartments, the ingress into the built mass has been controlled.

Cladding of Gwalior stone and red sandstone and the elevational frames further reduce the heat ingress. Naturally ventilated spaces are crafted within the buildings leaving minimal room for artificial means of heating and cooling.

Fact file

  • Project Name: Footwear Design and Development Institute
  • Location: Ankleshwar, Gujrat
  • Architects: VYOM
  • Design Team: Sachin Sachdev, Baikunth Nath Sinha, Rakesh Milan
  • Site Area: 40,400sqm
  • Built-Up Area: 19,690sqm

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