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Sarabhai University, Ahmedabad: Adapting the Collegiate Model to a Tropical Environment

Part 2 Project 2011
Joseph Luke Wegrzyn
University of Cambridge Cambridge UK
The Indian government is proposing to create one thousand Higher Education Institutions by 2020, to fuel its rapidly growing knowledge economy. Within this programme of university building a small number of research-intensive institutions are intended to be of truly international standing. Should western prototypes for such august institutions simply be transplanted into this contrastive context?

The design of a notional institution in Ahmedabad becomes the vehicle for investigating the environmental opportunities arising from such a transfer to tropical latitudes. A fragment of the emerging campus masterplan is developed to explore potentially rich elision between internal and external space to promote academic endeavour, a largely illusory elision in northwest European and North American Ivy League institutions, little real work is carried out in their cloisters.
A radial arrangement above a free ‘mat’ plan develops, a hybrid configuration of two classic institutional formulae. It allows direct routes between the fundamental elements of the campus and the schools and colleges. Legibility is maintained by providing a clear focal point, whilst at a finer grain each ‘School’ comprises a mat arrangement of buildings clustered around secondary courtyards to promote cross-disciplinary interaction.

Real space allocation data reveals that, despite the wide range of space type and sizes, the space provision could ultimately be divided into two broad families, which could be organised in such a way as to provide a flexible architecture catering for both the public and private life of a research driven institution. A generic layer of private research, study and administration floats above a sunken layer of specific space types (auditoria and seminar space) that can be reallocated quickly between Departments.

Sandwiched between these two layers, the open ground plane provides a fluid transitional layer of flexible outdoor space.

From an environmental perspective the proposition of both sinking and raising the programmatic elements of the campus creates a diverse range of environments activating outdoor space for private and group study. Coupling Passive Downdraught Evaporative Cooling (PDEC) and ground cooling provides a low impact environmental strategy to ‘correct’ ambient conditions to fall within a more realistic adaptive comfort band in high summer.

Joseph Luke Wegrzyn


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