The new educational community, the Choice School, reimagines school architecture in India, creating a prototype that will help revitalize rural communities and empower future generations of children. In a country with the highest population of illiterate adults in the world, the Choice School creates an environment that inspires and encourages children, families, and the community to take an active role in their education. The school provides an academic hub that reflects the community’s culture, heritage, and geography, while allowing for cutting-edge pedagogical approaches such as flexible classrooms and visual transparency.
From its humble beginnings in Cochin, Kerala, where the focus has been on educating students one by one, the Choice School design supports a strategic new educational approach at a new site in Thiruvalla, Kerala. The development of the new campus extends the reach of the client foundation’s philanthropic philosophy by enriching a community with a prototype that fuses local culture with innovative educational spaces.
Building on the already close-knit society of rural India, the prototype houses grades 1-12 in one building, fostering relationships among students of various ages, and allowing for a continuum of learning. Within the individual building, the school is broken-down into three sections– a Primary School Block, Middle School Block and High School Block -- each containing its own entry, school administration offices, classrooms, library, and student commons. These blocks suggest a conceptual progression of independence as students move from a more dependently organized Primary School to a more independently organized High School. As students grow intellectually, emotionally and socially, spatial progression adapts to their changing needs - especially the divergent needs of younger and older students. This fluidity in turn fosters leadership skills among older students, preparing them to become successful citizens.
Fusing cultural and geographic elements such as vernacular architecture with modern sustainable technologies and practices, the new Choice School is entirely situated in its contemporary context. The most distinctive visual form of Kerala architecture, the long, steeply-pitched roof, is incorporated into the design. Supported by a timber roof frame and laid with tiles or thatched palm leaves, the vernacular roof system is designed to protect house walls and to withstand the heavy monsoon.
A fundamental principle of the school is to provide a learning environment that leads by example; the school aims to create a place which reinforces an awareness of how actions impact the environment. The campus incorporates concrete structures for thermal mass; natural ventilation and shading for reduced air-conditioning costs; local materials; green roofs and roof overhangs to reduce heat gain; highly insulated walls and roofs; and the use of daylight rather than electrical lighting in many of the spaces.
The accessibility of the school’s personalized educational philosophy is embodied in the prototype’s design, which relies on local construction, building techniques, and materials to keep costs low as well as the facilities durable and resilient. Its modular design will allow the Choice School to build additional campuses that will easily adapt to varying sites and local programmatic differences while maintaining the core principles and functions of the Choice School.
CetraRuddy is an international award-winning architecture, planning and interior design firm based in New York City. For over 29 years, the firm has been led with a guiding principle that architecture and design must engage its context while enriching the human spirit. The firm’s portfolio of distinguished work, defined by analytic problem solving, contextual sensitivity, crafted details and innovative use of materials, reflect an underlying commitment to the human experience at all scales and across typologies including multifamily housing, hospitality, education, cultural and commercial. Founded by Principals John Cetra and Nancy J. Ruddy, the firm emphasizes a collaborative process, working together with clients and staff to apply a sophisticated understanding of programming, planning, technology and construction to each project, developing technically excellent and innovative designs and providing an unparalleled level of service.
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