The First Chapter Is Called ‘Exploration’

The Atelier in Bengaluru is a preschool whose environment-friendly building interiors include no tall walls, closed classrooms, or stuffy furniture.   

At The Atelier, nothing seems even, permanent, or rigid. It is a breathing, sunlight-flushed maze of happiness that seems to call out to anyone to enter, run about, and play!

The pre-school stands in stark contrast to its neighbour (a godown), and general neighbourhood full of noise. It subverts the status quo through a GI roof and a bamboo mat plywood false ceiling that help cut out the noise and keep in the cool, and a colour and material scheme that is reassuringly earthy. “The external fabricated façade is a tack-welded mild steel frame with panels of perforated metal sheet, pinewood, reflective glass, operable louvres and sliding windows, planned with regard to light and ventilation,” states the team from Biome Environmental Solutions, based in Bengaluru.

While the insistence in the interior scheme was on accessibility and confluence, the overall make of the building was driven by the need to create something re-usable, low cost, and as unhappy about wastage as possible. The foundation was realised out of chappadi granite stone slab over which a lovely paver block floor swathe was laid out. Soil was scouted out from different parts of the site to create a floor-complementing Compressed Stabilised Earth Blocks (CSEB) pattern.

During monsoon, rainwater can filter down the roof into a sump tank that connects to a groundwater recharge well, and all the solid waste from the building is redirected to twin leach pits.

The interior scheme, including of furniture pieces made of woven rattan, honeycomb boards, and paper tubes, is highly fluid and capable of supporting multiple configurations, reinforcing the idea of sustainable impermanence.

The roof, pockmarked with skylight-like wide openings in the false ceiling to let in sheets of sunlight, is held up by 8 bolted columns whose arms fan out like tree branches in a geometrically-correct jungle. “This tree form, while being a structural element, allows the roof to be perceived from a height that children can relate to. It is also a reinterpretation of learning under a tree, a common sight in rural parts of the country,” the team explains.

Inside are 4 curvilinear classrooms that want to be more open than closed; so the walls rise and fall to differing heights and the partitions have been fashioned out of paper tubes. A piazza fulcrums the varied spaces, which includes a childhood stimulation centre, a studio, and a toilet zone where the cubicle heights ensure ease of use for children, while also allowing for supervision.

The Atelier propounds the famed Reggio-Emilia approach to preschool education. The school’s design aids in the principle by providing enough space and simple form inspirations for the children to explore and learn from, and also to change and experiment with. The building’s careful use of recyclable materials will also help the young students imbibe the first precious lessons in environment-friendly habits, and architecture.

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