Aura for Immersive Learning

Project: Ekya Early Years: Kanakapura Road, Bengaluru

Architects: Collective Project, Bengaluru

The project re-conceived an abandoned watch factory and overgrown two acre site into a lush, colourful and immersive environment for learning. Designed as an exclusive preschool for both Montessori and Kindergarten environments, the new design capitalises on the beauty of an old industrial building, re-purposing the existing shell as a framework for spacious, naturally ventilated and sunlight filled classrooms.

The primary goal of this project was to provide a constant interaction between students and nature; a design requirement of the Montessori brief and a rare experience within the rapidly growing city. To achieve this, the boundaries are blurred between the inside and outside with the 13 learning environments (classrooms) accessed from a covered walkway circumnavigating a densely planted central ‘jungle’ courtyard. Conceived in a ‘pinwheel’ formation from the courtyard are four controlled access points to the exterior recreational and learning landscape. Features including an outdoor art room, amphitheatre, playground, sandpit and individual classroom gardens radiate around the existing building footprint allowing for easy access, supervision and maintenance.

The strategic and consistent use of colour establishes a stimulating and playful identity for the campus, acting as a visual connective tissue throughout the children’s daily experience. A soft gradient of coloured louvers highlight the covered office and student entrances. This gradient then changes frequency around the central courtyard walkway providing a single colour-code for each room. The same identifying colours continue inside each classroom to highlight special library reading niches and primary teaching surfaces.

This project is the first stand-alone Montessori school for the brand and the prototype for future locations. The program includes a full office/reception suite, 13 learning environments, art room, AV room, flexible common areas and outdoor recreation/learning spaces. One of the major challenges of this project was stabilising the existing building, which was in major disrepair, so that it was suitable for a school.

Due to cost and major structural constraints, the existing building frame and shell were left intact, though exceptions were made to create additional links between interior and exterior spaces and to highlight the main entrances. Within this predefined framework, playful architectural interventions occur at the children’s scale, creating reading nooks between classrooms, formal/impromptu seating areas and sculpted terrain.

Fact File

Design team: Cyrus Patell, Eliza Higgins (Partners), Ajantha S, Grégoire Rossignol

Design scope: Architectural Renovation, Interiors and Landscape

Built-up area: 25,000sq ft

Year of completion: 2014

Photo credit: Tina Nandi Stephens