Excerpt: Reconstructing Childhood – Through Learn, Play and Connecting Memories, an architectural bachelors design thesis by Ullas M from R.V. College of Architecture, Bengaluru, India, ties the neighbourhood (particularly children) with the context of Sivakasi, Tamil Nadu, India using Multiplicity, Excitement, Curiosity and Participatory design parameters. The ‘Nila Pali’ (Night School) program with the learnscapes also becomes a part of the centralised organisation that allows for growth and expansion for children and living communities.
Once upon a time, in a land far away down south of India, there was a small town called Sivakasi, well known for its match and firecracker industry. This town burnt itself to light up our Diwali. The stark tragedy of Sivakasi children without childhood gave this town its identity. While the mornings were still dark, buses would pick up sleepy children from the villages around. Their daily grind usually began once the buses delivered their human cargo at the factory gates. It was late in the evening when exhausted beyond description, these children returned home.
These dark and hellish days didn’t last for long until the fairies of heaven, appearing as an organisation, came down to their rescue. Soon in no time, smiles adorned every child. With smiles twinkling they bonded strong, breaking barriers that existed in between. They waited for full moon nights with curiosity and anticipation to learn something new and this brought not just people from the town, but from neighbouring villages together as well. These gatherings gradually converted into a night school called ‘Nila Pali’, which translates to ‘a school under the moonlit sky.’ Gradually this school sustained throughout the month and eventually throughout the year, every evening filled with a fun frolic experience.
But all they needed was a place for themselves, where they could learn, play, and construct exciting journeys that could get etched as memories forever. So the community, along with the organisation, came together and decided to construct a space for the children, a space where learning and playing happens throughout. This space became an extension of the community, where the community after finishing their daily chores came and participated, learned new things, and taught children as well. For a very long time these children suffered, but with the efforts of the community they brought a change; and this change made them live happily ever after.
Every child is born with innocence, and it is this innocence that helps him look at the limitless opportunities in space exploration. But often reality burdens the innocence present within us and strips off the inquisitiveness and curiosity present within. It is important to recapture the innocence present in us that would construct exciting journeys that can get etched as memories forever. This liberty and freedom would also help stimulate the mind to create exciting adventures, where we would be enthralled in taking actions that could take us to engage places. This design shows how ideas of learning and playing can be reinterpreted and reinvented that would aid in cognitive, social, and emotional development.
The word ‘Sivakasi’ has been synonymous with child labour for a very long time, until certain activists set up NGOs as an initiative to abolish child labour in the town. Thanks to the efforts of these activists, today this town has come up with initiatives to abolish child labour and positive stories of children are now being shared. The government’s proposal to shift to green crackers has also shut down several factories in the town, as a result many children have been removed from the trap, and with the initiatives of the NGOs preliminary education is also being offered. The following design is an explorative attempt to reinvent learning and playing spaces in Sivakasi, Tamil Nadu, India, which allows for curiosity and experimentation.
The organisational pattern of the built spaces is developed from the paths of circulation people use throughout the site. They form a series of alcoves that allow for communal engagement. The ‘Nila pali’ program with the learnscapes also became a part of the centralised organisation that allows for growth and expansion. The built spaces also establish visual and physical connections with the natural layer on site.
Variation of scale of open spaces allow for dynamic uses of spaces depending on the number of children attending the event. The spatial definition and edges created by the built spaces with the natural context establish views of the water bodies and the series of alcoves created along the street edge and water bodies create exciting adventures of interactions. The scale of open spaces on the street edge and the plinth allows for various scales of gatherings ranging from intimate open spaces that happen at the threshold of learning spaces to large open spaces that accommodate larger gatherings when children from neighbouring villages congregate.
The Play of colour, as a part of ramp and learnscapes interiors adds vibrancy to the built spaces and also help in spatial identification. The approach to the site happens through the entrance alcove with a series of thresholds that create a series of revelations as one traverses through the site. The porous corridors and the natural context also provide a sense of direction as one moves throughout.
The built spaces have also been an extension of the paths people used to take on the site, as a result the organic pathways also help in defining the edges of the built spaces. The built spaces extend from the communal spaces which include the living, dining and uravinmurai (administrative offices) to the library and learnscapes beyond that could expand and grow in the future.
Overall, the design ties the neighbourhood (particularly children) with the context in 4 major parameters.
1. Multiplicity – The idea of how the modules can multiply and expand in the future in the vast landscape of the context allowing for growth and being able to accommodate the needs of the future.
2. Excitement – A series of thresholds are incorporated throughout the design, that allow for a series of revelations as one traverses throughout the site constructing exciting journeys that get etched as memories.
3.Curiosity – The game of Hide and seek is translated through the scale of openings and void spaces incorporated through gateways, seaters, etc. that become design activators.
4. Participatory – Framing views with the natural context and the alcoves as a part of the design allows for communal engagement and allows for interaction with the children on site making the design an extension of the community.
[This Academic Project has been published with text submitted by the student]
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