28.08.12 | defining the project
Having had a short trip out of town, to reflect and ruminate on what we’d seen so far, we had our first meeting with Kiran and Alok… and after a long and intense discussion we now have a clear direction for the project. We expressed our concern that the challenges at Chandar Nagar – both physically and socially – seemed almost too much to take on and that we weren’t convinced that we could achieve enough in 3 months to really transform the school. We felt that if we were to invest in it, it was important that Nanhi Dunya also offered it extra support through additional teaching staff (in the short term) and a proper funding strategy (in the long-term). We had become very attached to the idea of working with the existing infrastructure, and adapting the buildings rather than starting from scratch, but were no longer sure (having experienced the buildings at the height of the monsoon) whether we could achieve a satisfactory renovation within the time-frame. We also explained that there didn’t seem to be a clear focus for the project, or any sense of priority in terms of the areas that need addressing.
Kiran and Alok both agreed that the existing buildings would be a challenge to adapt before December, and for the first time expressed clearly that the priority was for a kindergarten / nursery space. The conclusion was that a new building should be sited at the top left corner of the plot (currently occupied by a small exterior stage) at the highest point of the playground- automatically addressing some of the existing issues with flooding and damp. This new building will be the first phase of a larger master-plan for the entire site, and will set a precedent for the subsequent buildings in terms of design, materials and process. We’re still keen to explore whether the buildings could be renovated as part of this master-plan, and this is something we will be looking into in parallel with our design for the new structure. Whether we continue with the master-plan after December, or if this is passed on to the working team we set up to complete independently from us remains to be seen. They understood the need for greater support within all areas of the school, and promised to relocate some of the teachers from other Nanhi Dunya centers. Additionally, Alok is also going to be working with John from Project Dehradun to start developing ‘sponsor a child’ campaign at the school, to help raise money specifically for children at Chandar Nagar. If the architectural development of the school could advance at the same rate as the children’s progress through it, the experience of those in the youngest class now could be completely transformed.
In terms of our thoughts on Vikasnagar, they explained that the roof-top structure there would be going ahead at some point in the future, with or without our help. Although the need for additional space is urgent, it isn’t stopping the school from functioning properly and successfully. We felt that doing an analysis of both schools had been incredibly valuable for both ourselves and the organization, in terms of understanding what was working, why, and how we could learn from that. So, with the project now defined, it’s time for us to set up our studio space at Chandar Nagar and get to work!