Around 2008, in the first year of our office, we were approached by the infectiously enthusiastic principal of the Taktse International School located at Pangthang in Gangtok. The school was growing rather rapidly and , there was immediate need for infrastructure – comprising of new academic sections, accommodation for boarders and staff along with facilities for sports.
To a design school in Pangthang was a dream project. The thought of being able to create a space where young, fresh minds would live and create memories to carry with them for the rest of their lives – was very exciting. We looked at the context, the amazing views and were convinced that the only approach to design the school would be to follow an architecture that belonged to the place. We looked at creating a village-like environment, within which learning would happen – inside and outside the classroom.
Following the lay of the land, it was decided to extend the academic block and have the play fields act as a natural buffer between that and the residential areas. These play fields would follow the natural contours along the valley and house activities such as volleyball, basketball etc. The larger football field would be located at the flattest portion of the land.
The project remained a proposal since the board members of the school wanted something radically different from the initial project brief. They preferred to have one large field and one large building that would house all the requirements. We were quite confident that this approach, while it could be more efficient, would permanantly seal the fate for a sensitive balance between the context and the building. We found it impossible to continue with this approach and chose to exclude ourselves from it. It was an unfortunate decision that was difficult but inevitable.
An overview of the masterplan showing the existing building of Taktse International School and the proposed extension. The semi circular building is the extension of the academic block and the structures beside that are the smaller cottage style classrooms of the primary school. The smaller structures towards the top of the drawing are the student and staff accommodation – designed as smaller structures keeping in mind the scale of the students and also attempting to adhere to an architecture of the vernacular.
A 3 dimensional sketch view of the proposal showing how the proposal fit into the natural landscape as well as responded to the existing school. The design would mimic the local villages in Sikkim thereby rooting it in the context.
A sketch of the primary wing as one approaches the main school building.
A consolidated view of the village style school design for the primary section of the extension.
A view from inside of the primary school – classrooms with large openings looking into common areas where learning can spill out.
A view of the residential areas – boys and girls hostels – designed as large vernacular houses that use local materials and minimise the impact on the land by use of excessive concrete.
A sketch of a typical primary classroom – with large opening to encourage the spillover to the outdoors.
Auditorium and other public areas designed to follow the natural lay of the land – an idea derived from Renzo Piano’s office in Genoa.
A typical section of the academic block classrooms
A typical section of the primary school classrooms
A typical section of the academic block classrooms with the spillover onto the covered play area with a polycarbonate sheet so that this area would still be usable during the rains.