The Patiala site is a section of fertile Punjab plan surrounded by walls and forests; the choice of its space is a man-made one. The approach to the architecture of a great new campus is to consider the whole University as a landscape and to make a new and more evocative geography out of the constituent buildings - evoking and extending nature to form rocky heights and shaded valleys – then creating a route through them from one end of the campus to the other.
The two core building groups are strategically located to support this concept. The Learning Centre (approx. 60,000sqm) adjacent to a newly opened front entrance, and the Student Accommodation (approx. 30,000sqm) at the other end form two dramatic poles of activity. Other new facilities, and existing University buildings, are linked by a covered and planted walkway, offering students and staff the opportunity to progress through the campus in a radically new way, in contact with nature while screened from extremes of weather. The garden concept is extended through the covered garden spaces of the student accommodation and the Learning Centre - the rose gardens of the women students' accommodation and the roof gardens of each building within the Learning Centre.
Both main building units have a strongly innovative architectural presence within a developed section and deliver a wide variety of sensual and functional experiences. The main student accommodation consists of seven 'L' shaped towers rising from the ground to provide 2000 student rooms and common room spaces. They face different directions of the compass - questing, exploring the horizon like handsome chess pieces on a board - linked by the podium which shields reception, gym and dining spaces below. Internally, spatially diverse common rooms are interlinked with double height spaces to casually link student groups, and many bedrooms have screened balconies. Women students' accommodation for 500 are provided in a separate building in a garden landscape - harnessing the existing three blocks of accommodation and developing a coherent overall plan for the four within a perfumed garden in the Mughal tradition. The new building contains a hidden courtyard garden of regular geometries, onto which open dining, gym and reception facilities in a clear day-lit strip, while bedrooms and common rooms are stacked above behind screened facades.
The Learning Centre is similar to the student accommodation in having elements linked by a podium sheltering facilities at ground level, but is different in intensity – promoting interdisciplinary research and study by merging and blending each facility into the next to create a flow of space and exchange of information and ideas. Three major stone-clad buildings – Library, Computer Building and Lecture Block - form a composite sculptural group of red stone volumes visible from across the campus. This grouping will be the first image on arrival to Patiala and come to 'represent' the University. Redolent at once of an Indian fortress, of the form of the mountains, and a piece of geography.
On a recent trip to India, McCullough Mulvin delivered a lecture entitled Making a New Space for Education: Ireland and India. See further details here.
In association with Design Plus Associates Delhi.
As Featured on Arch Daily.