Excerpt: The architectural project Vidya Devi Jindal Paramedical College by SpaceMatters creates a serene learning space that reflects modern ambitions. The task was to create an advanced, contemporary facility for the institute that would offer affordable healthcare to a large number of rural residents. The designers were inspired by the neighbouring “Mounds of Agroha,” as well as by the campus’s current architecture, which derives from Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh.
[Text as submitted by architect] SpaceMatters was invited to design a paramedical college on the existing campus of the Institute of Medical Science in Agroha, Haryana. This building is a gift from a reputed industrial house whose roots lie in the city. The brief was to design a modern, state-of-the-art facility within the institute to provide affordable healthcare to a predominantly rural population. The designers took their design cues from the existing campus, which uses the vocabulary of Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh, and from the nearby ‘Mounds of Agroha’ that date back to the Harappan civilization (4th century BC).
The Paramedical College was designed to be a mound emerging from the earth, hence the low, horizontal form. Red sandstone and brown-coloured concrete recreate the earthy palettes of the prehistoric landscape. A triple-height white sandstone jaali (lattice) wall greets people in the foyer. The jaali soothes the eyes in this dry and harsh region while creating shade and bringing in cool air. The cuneiform symbols of the Harappan civilization make up the lattice wall, making it a site of tribute to the knowledge and prosperity of ancient India.
At the heart of the rectilinear structure lies a courtyard, scooped out of the ‘mound’ to create a shaded oasis. An amphitheatre placed here functions as a spill-out space that also hosts assembly. Learning happens at any time and place, which is why formal and informal merge at the edge of this void.
The programme varies across the floors, and each floor is divided into wings (North-East, South-East, North-West, and South-West). The 4 wings on the ground and the first floor reduce to 2 wings from the second floor onward. Academic spaces are on the ground, first, and fourth floors, while the second and third floors host staff offices and smaller libraries. The 7000-square-foot L-shaped library takes up half of the ground-floor footprint. Enveloped in glass, it overlooks the garden on one side and the courtyard on the other.
Flared mushroom columns, which meet the ceiling gently with an offset, give the impression of a floating ceiling. Creating this sense of lightness in a heavy, solid structure establishes a dynamic architectural expression, making the building come alive. The region faces harsh summers, and a large overhang is designed above the library in order to reduce heat gain from the west. At night, the library glows like a metaphorical lantern, akin to how education dispels the darkness of ignorance.
The designers use materials judiciously and carefully for longevity and minimal maintenance. Autoclaved aerated concrete blocks generated a lighter structure since pile foundations were avoided (as demanded by a brick structure of this scale). Stone on the facade was fixed with an MS frame and SS clamps using a dry-cladding technique instead of a cumbersome wet-cladding one. Silicone coatings over the sandstone facade prevent water absorption, thereby delaying moisture damage. The design lets in maximum natural light while reducing heat gain through the use of louvres and building orientation.
The site’s grand past inspired the designers to create a serene space of learning that reflects modern ambitions.