School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Children, Gandhinagar, by SEALAB

SHARE THIS

Note: The contents below are published as provided by the architect/designer.

School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Children in Gandhinagar is designed for children from remote villages and towns in Gujarat and professors eager to offer them a better education and opportunities in society. Initially, the school occupied an existing building, previously a primary school. The 1st floor was used as classrooms for academic activities and the ground floor as dormitories. Earlier, there was less space for all the students (12 children shared in each dorm room) and no capacity to welcome more.  

School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Children, Gandhinagar, by SEALAB 1
Exterior view of the school. © Dhrupad Shukla

Design 

The new academic building, on the west of the existing one, has ten classrooms with five different types arranged around a central courtyard. This space provides a contained exterior space for the children to play, perform, or celebrate festivals. 

This simple building typology allows the students to create a mental map of the spaces. The corners are identified with strokes of light or articulated volumes, and the corridor surrounding the central plaza has different widths and volumes on each side. This allows the students to identify their location in the building.  

Each classroom around the central plaza has different features for specific uses- music rooms, meeting spaces, workshops, etc. Based on their functions, the “special” classrooms have various forms, volumes, and light qualities. The other classrooms are like verandahs; each opens to a private courtyard with the possibility of outdoor learning. The relation with exterior spaces allows for better ventilation and controlled light quality. The building is designed to be incremental or built-in phases according to the available funding.  

School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Children, Gandhinagar, by SEALAB 8
(Clockwise from the top-left) Entrance © Aakash Dave; Entrance © Dhrupad Shukla; Classroom © Bhagat Odedara; Central Courtyard © Lakshay Bansal.

The classrooms are smaller cells plugged into the main spaces—the plaza and the corridor. The geometry of these classroom units creates a play of light and shadow and an efficient response to the hot climate. 

More than 1000 shrubs, plants, and trees of 37 species are planted on campus to provide shade and fruits, invite butterflies and birds, diversify, and improve the natural environment. Khambhati Kuva (Percolation well)—a traditional rainwater harvesting technique—of 10 ft diameter and 30 ft depth was built to collect the rainwater and recharge ground. The well can absorb 45,000 to 60,000 litres of water in one hour. 

School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Children, Gandhinagar, by SEALAB 18
(from top to bottom) Ground Floor Plan; Section 1; Section 2; Section 3; Section 4.

This school is designed to be navigated with the help of more than one of the five senses: 

Sight  

Many students have low vision; they can distinguish spaces that have the contrast of light and shadow or contrasting colours and surfaces. Specific skylights and openings are designed to create contrasting areas with light and shade. For example, the entrance vestibule of the special classrooms is marked by a high ceiling with a skylight making a flare of light. Also, contrasting colours are used on the doors, furniture, and switchboards so that the students can easily differentiate the elements during navigation. Since the students with low vision are sensitive to direct sunlight, the classroom has indirect, filtered light from the private courtyards and skylights.  

School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Children, Gandhinagar, by SEALAB 26
(Clockwise from the top-left) Classroom © Aakash Dave; Views of the special classroom with indirect light © SEALAB; Classroom © Anand Sonecha.

Hearing  

The sound of the voice or the walking steps changes according to the echo produced in the spaces. The design attributes different heights and widths to areas of corridors and classrooms so that children can recognize them by sound. For example, the entrance corridor has a high ceiling height (3.66m), and it gradually reduces in height (2.26m) and width, giving an identifiable sound quality to each space. 

School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Children, Gandhinagar, by SEALAB 34
(clockwise from the top-left) Entrance corridor © Dhrupad Shukla; Corridor © Bhagat Odedara; Corridor © Dhrupad Shukla; Corridor © Dhrupad Shukla.

Smell  

The landscape has a significant role in the design. Courtyards, located next to the classroom and connected to the corridor, have aromatic plants and trees, which help in the navigation of the building.  

School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Children, Gandhinagar, by SEALAB 42
(clockwise from the top-left) Private courtyard © Aakash Dave; Courtyard besides a classroom © Anand Sonecha; Central courtyard event © Aakash Dave; Central Courtyard © Dhrupad Shukla.

Touch  

The material and textures of the walls and floor, with smooth and rough surfaces, guide the students throughout the spaces.  

Floor

Kota stone is the principal material used for the flooring. Rough Kota stone marks the entrance to each classroom, whereas the other spaces have smooth Kota stone. While navigating, this change in textures guides the students.  

Walls

There are five different wall plaster textures used in the building. The two longer sides of the corridor have horizontal textures, whereas the shorter side has vertical textures. This helps students identify which sides of the corridor they are navigating. The central courtyard has a semi-circular texture, whereas the external surface of the overall building is sand-faced plaster. 

School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Children, Gandhinagar, by SEALAB 50
(clockwise from the top-left) Wall Texture 1 © Anand Sonecha; Wall Texture 2 © Anand Sonecha; Wall Texture 3 © Anand Sonecha; Wall Textures © Bhagat Odedara.

User engagement approach 

For the School’s design, there was a need to reinvent communication and participation tools. We had multiple meetings at different stages of the process to engage the students and teachers on the design. 

Initially, we relied on cardboard models to start a conversation with students and teachers. They could visualize the built form through touch, but soon, we realized it wasn’t easy to comprehend the interior spaces and details. 

To counter the issue, we developed communication techniques using a 3d printer. This allowed for the construction of tactile drawings and robust models that the students could touch, and visualize spaces. 

School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Children, Gandhinagar, by SEALAB 56
(clockwise from the top-left) Tactile pattern © Anand Sonecha; Tactile pattern © Anand Sonecha; Tactile sample © Aneesh Devi.

We developed a code of textures to communicate the design to students and teachers. These textures overlapped the plan and helped to visualize the architectural spaces. The interior spaces had a different texture than the exterior, just like circulation spaces or classrooms. Moreover, each area (classroom, corridor, courtyard) was marked and written in Braille. 

3D-printed, detailed models were also part of the communication strategy. It enabled students to touch them without breaking them. They had details like furniture and people to help understand the spaces’ organization and scale. 

School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Children, Gandhinagar, by SEALAB 62
Photos taken during the meeting © Dhrupad Shukla.

Before the construction, we did a full-scale line-up on the site. All the trustees, professors, and some students circulated throughout the space and gave their feedback. Lastly, during the construction, the contractor built mock-ups of some techniques that could help the students navigate the building. For example, some of the students tried different wall plaster textures to clarify their effectiveness. 

School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Children, Gandhinagar, by SEALAB 64
Full-scale line-out of the school. © Aakash Dave

Project Details:

Name: School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Children
Client: Service Association for the Blind and Manav Sadhna, Gandhi Ashram, Ahmedabad
Location: Gandhinagar, Gujarat
Status: Completed (2021)
Typology: Educational Architecture
Design Firm: SEALAB
Architect: Anand Sonecha
Team: Ayush Gajjar, Karan Verma, Aakash Dave, Aneesh Devi, Mariana Paisana, Anand Sonecha
Photographs: Bhagat Odedara, Dhrupad Shukla, Ayush Gajjar, Aakash Dave, Aneesh Devi, Anand Sonecha
Project core support: Viren Joshi, Bhaarat Joshi, Jayantibhai Patel and Pannalal Patel
Special thanks: Perkins School for the Blind, USA (Prof. Susan Decaluwe, Mike Catarzolo, Prof. Leah Kaplan, Linda Oleson, and Marianne Riggio)
Construction Team: Rajubhai, Mani, Bhavna, Ramesh, Kailash, Pravin, Geeta, Mohanbhai, Vipul, Prakash, Kamlesh, Dhirsingh, Gulabbhai, Vijay, Alpesh, Arvind, Jayanti, Jagruti, Kalsingh, and Praful.
Plaster Team: Kavita, Kalidas, Anil, Komal, Mittal, Jaswan, Mitesh, Pashchu, Reva, Setudiya, and Jaswant.
On-Site Management: Mitul Prajapati
Structural Consultants: Bhailalbhai Gajjar
Project Management: Kshitij Gajjar
Electrical and Plumbing consultant: Rakesh Modi, Kamleshbhai
Contractor: Vasant Prajapati
Landscape Architect: Lokendra Balasaria

Share your comments

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

More Featured Works

The Stoic Wall Residence, Kerala, by LIJO.RENY.architects

Immersed within the captivating embrace of a hot and humid tropical climate, ‘The Stoic Wall Residence’ harmoniously combines indoor and outdoor living. Situated in Kadirur, Kerala, amidst its scorching heat, incessant monsoon rains, and lush vegetation, this home exemplifies the art of harmonizing with nature.

Read More

ALive! Reads

An Architect Eats Samosa

ArchitectureLive! continues with Alimentative Architecture – The fifth in a series of articles by Architect-Poet-Calligrapher H Masud Taj interfacing architecture with food via geometry.

Read More

The Stoic Wall Residence, Kerala, by LIJO.RENY.architects

Immersed within the captivating embrace of a hot and humid tropical climate, ‘The Stoic Wall Residence’ harmoniously combines indoor and outdoor living. Situated in Kadirur, Kerala, amidst its scorching heat, incessant monsoon rains, and lush vegetation, this home exemplifies the art of harmonizing with nature.

Read More

WE ARE HIRING /

ArchitectureLive! is hiring for various roles, starting from senior editors, content writers, research associates, graphic designer and more..

 

PARTICIPATE /