Sharana is a social and development organization established to address the critical educational needs of socio-economically disadvantaged children and communities in urban Pondicherry and its surrounding villages. Sharana’s foundational belief is that all human beings are equal in rights and dignity, and everyone is entitled to food, clothing, and shelter. Sharana’s approach to addressing the educational needs of children and communities is thus integrative, comprehensive, and holistic, addressing educational needs involves addressing health, nutrition, hygiene, housing, security, and other family and community needs in parallel while enabling individuals to become autonomous, active, contributing members of society.
Set in the residential area of rapidly urbanising Pondicherry, the new building for Sharana non-profit is mainly designed to be a welcoming place to nurture socio-economically disadvantaged children to fully claim their rights to education by developing social programs, building physical infrastructure, and identifying sources of financial support.
The architecture revolves around a central strip of an inner garden court with the large multipurpose activity spaces on rear side of the site, and reception/administration services on the front side along the street. To achieve a high standard of architecture appropriate to the status of the institutional building affordably, the building is constructed as reinforced cement concrete slabs on columns of the same material. To enclose the various spaces economically, walls are made of porous terracotta screen modules that are speedy to erect and eliminate the need for windows and frames while allowing ventilation throughout the wall surface achieving the required conditions of climatic comfort in the tropical context economically. These screen wall elements allow transparency from floor upwards allowing small children to remain in contact with the garden outdoors visually. The porous elements convey transparency, and inclusiveness as per the aims of the institute, and practically require no additional finishes like plasters and paints as in regular masonry, while also minimizing maintenance.
In order to give the activity rooms their own identity and sense of enclosure, and to break the monotony of long corridors, the geometry of angular walls as composition elements is the ordering principle. This feature gives the corridor and entrance areas a sense of enclosure, identity and a sense of intimacy appropriate to the scale of little children, and help them orient within the complex, and completely deconstruct the sense of long monotonous corridors. The angular walls are perceived as embracing and welcoming elements.
Photos by : Javier Callejas