On Thursday last week we had our first official client meeting – when we presented our ideas so far to Kiran and her husband Vijay, Mr. Jain (the Nanhi Dunya Treasurer), Kapil (our land-lord and source of all construction wisdom), Chitra (the Chander Nagar Principle) and Rishu (our trusted translator). It was a good incentive to gather together all of our research and observations so far – and draw up a design for the building.
We began by presenting the things we admired about the existing Nanhi Dunya schools: the quality of the playgrounds and gardens, the tendency to teach outdoors when the weather is nice, a round table we had seen at one of the schools which allowed the teacher to engage with all her pupils at once, and a mural in another school which addressed the lack of available text-books by painting the contents of a book on the walls. We wanted to show that the schools were full of valuable things already – and that there was a lot that we could learn from them. We then talked them through some ideas that we had about designing for schools, and in particular kindergartens: shifts in scales such as small doors within large doors, soft-edged playful spaces such as the cavity walls in Anna Heringer’s ‘Hand-made school’, different levels that could double up as steps, stages and seating, and different surfaces as a way to demarcate areas. Finally we showed a number of images from the streets of Dehradun, which showed design features or structural details that we really like and would like to use – or are intrigued by and wanted to know a little more about.
In terms of the design, we presented a plan of the new building in relation to the site as it is now, and a suggestion for how they might develop the site in the future , along with a number of sketch sections and elevations. The feedback about the overall design was really positive – and most of the suggestions were very constructive: that the toilets and the kitchen should be further apart, that the breezeway wasn’t wide enough for car access, that the stairs to the first floor should be more centrally-located, that we needed to check the local Government by-laws to understand how close we could build to the party walls, and so on. The conversation about materials and structural systems was also very helpful – and it proved very useful having precedents in the powerpoint that we could flick back to to really look at and understand properly.
We finished up feeling like a lot of things had been clarified, and that it was time to get back to the drawing board to put all the new ideas and information into practice!