The Pearl Academy of Fashion at Jaipur, India by Morphogenesis

Architecture & Interiors

One of the crucial issues in contemporary India is that rapid
development has inadvertently embraced generic modernism and eccentric
novelty. The real task that challenges architects today, is to infuse
new forms with the legacy of the past and the spirit of place. Jaipur
is a melting pot of Rajput, Mughal and several other cultures and is
also the seat of a generous amount of vernacular tradition. The
challenge to build a progressive design institute requires addressing
the new generation, contemporary social condition and needs to be
inspired by tradition, in order to be inspirational to the contemporary
sensibility of the modern-day design student.
The Pearl
Academy of Fashion, designed byNew Delhi's Morphogenesis practice, is located in a typical hot, dry, desert type
climate on the outskirts of Jaipur in the soulless Kukas industrial
area, about 20 kilometres from the famous walled city. The architecture
of the academy needed to be a confluence of modern adaptations of
traditional Indo-Islamic architectural elements and passive cooling
strategies prevalent in the hot-dry desert climate of Rajasthan such as
open courtyards, water body, a step-well or baoli and jaalis
(perforated stone or latticed screen). All these elements have been
derived from their historic usages, but will manifest themselves
through the built form and become an intrinsic part of the daily life
of the design student.
Within this historic context and the
vocabulary of the region, the intent was to create a low-cost,
environmentally sensitive campus that would set a precedent for other
institutions. The architects’ restraint is the result of a strict
design brief: that the building must be constructed within a tight
budget of about 29$ per square foot inclusive of the building,
landscape, interiors, furniture etc. The only way by which this
seemingly impossible figure could be achieved was to virtually
eliminate HVAC by deploying passive and low energy strategies amongst
other cost saving strategies such as the use of local materials,
techniques etc.
The design response was an introverted building,
given the setting which was largely industrial. A long low-lying
two-floored perimeter block pushes the building envelope to the
mandatory setbacks, optimizing the exposed surface area to volume ratio
of the form and almost seems to float above the land. As one moves into
the building, this formality breaks out into fluid strips that are
almost Mobius in nature, bringing forth a sense of dynamism and drama
within a static form. The site was excavated to a depth of four meters
and two stories of classrooms, studios and offices on pilotis are
raised above this void. Orthogonal perimeter offices frame a biomorph
configuration of classrooms and studios, drawing in natural light from
all sides. Open and glass-walled walkways surround these undulating
blocks, which define openings to the lower level. The second storey
juts out above the first and both are clad in fretted panels attached
to a metal frame. The traditional courtyards take on amorphous shapes
within the regulated form of the cloister-like periphery. This
curvilinear geometry is generated through a computerized shadow
analysis that tracks the precise movement of the sun through the day
and across the seasons. The self-shading sliver courtyards help to
control the temperature of internal spaces and open step-wells, while
allowing sufficient day lighting inside studios and classrooms.
resultant scooped-out shaded underbelly forms a natural thermal sink by
way of a water body. This step well is reminiscent of the traditional
baolis that are scattered all through the hot and dry region. Thermally
banked on all sides, the underbelly is a grotto-like space, a space for
sacred congregation within an academic institution: for students, for
activity and chance activity, for recreation, exhibition, and
interaction amidst the organic setting of green and water. The water
body is fed by the recycled water from the sewage treatment plant and
helps in the creation of a micro-climate through evaporative cooling.
Jaali or the fretted screen is traditionally been exploited in
Indo-Islamic architecture as an alternate between a wind/air filter, as
a light filter to cut out light/glare and as a privacy filter. For the
fashion institute in such an extreme industrial environ, all the
filters were deemed necessary. Thus, a reference is made to the playful
expression of the variations of the jaali whose density is derived
using computational analysis based on orientation of the façades. This
double skin that sits 4 feet away from the building thus acts as a
thermal buffer between the building and the surroundings and reduces
the direct heat gain through fenestrations. The space between jaali and
the wall acts as a thermal barrier and a ventilated service corridor
through which the horizontal pipes, cables and ducts are supplied
through the building. Earthen pots (mutkas) are laid on flat roof; This
is a traditional Indian technique to reduce the heat absorption through
the insulation.
Passive environmental design helps achieve
temperatures of about 29 degree Celsius inside the building even when
the outside temperatures are at about 47 degree Celsius. During the
night, when the desert temperature drops, the floor slowly dissipates
the heat to the surroundings, keeping the area thermally comfortable. A
gentle breeze flows continually in all directions, generated by the
temperature differential between inside and outside and the cross
ventilating Venturi effect. The materials used for
construction are a mix of local stone, steel, glass and concrete chosen
keeping in mind the climatic needs of the region while retaining the
progressive design intent. The exterior is painted orange to set off
the white jaali, but the interior surfaces are white, to reduce heat
absorption and create a cool backdrop for the bustle of activity.
Energy efficiency is a prime concern and the institute is 100% self
sufficient in terms of captive power and water supply and promotes rain
water harvesting and waste water re-cycling through the use of a sewage
treatment plant. The Pearl Academy of Fashion is an exemplar of an
inclusive architecture which intends to accommodate all the heritage
values while positioning it within the contemporary cultural and
architectural paradigm.

The project got the first prize in the Learning category of the World Architecture Festival 2009.

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