Sri Krishna Institutions, Coimbatore

The undulating terrain of the site as one approaches the foothills of the Western Ghats, offered an excellent opportunity to plan a split level campus with interesting external spaces such as terraces and stepped walkways complementing the buildings. This also helped minimize the impact of building on a natural slope - without disturbing surface water flows across the site and in preserving the other natural features such as mounds, rock formations etc. The campus which is about 110 acres in area houses two colleges, one an engineering college and the other an arts and science college. The site is a south facing slope overlooking small hillocks. A four lane roadway which runs towards the top of the slope connects the college campuses to National Highway 47. It intersects at critical locations with the pedestrian network through which all faculty buildings are accessed. It also connects with a system of discreetly hidden service roads to access the various facilities. The academic areas are located in the lower reaches away from the main road while the community facilities are generally located above this road with easy access to outsiders.

Though located within the same site, the two colleges share only the basic principle of being grouped in clusters around pedestrian spaces. While in the engineering college the walkways form a grid running through the buildings, in the arts section the main axis runs along the diagonal with the secondary pathways branching off from it. The buildings are also very different. The arts college is an attempt to reflect a local connection based on the cluster of tiled roofs that one sees in villages around Coimbatore. The engineering college however is a very rigid grid echoing the precision and logic that its study demands.

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Sri Krishna College of Engineering

The core buildings of Sri Krishna College of Engineering comprising the Library, Administration, Seminar Hall and Cafeteria are the focal point of the campus. These buildings form the public face of this institution and are built on high ground directly accessible from the main road in the campus. The faculty buildings are located in clusters further down away from vehicular movement and are accessible through a pedestrian network.

Symbolically, the library is located at the highest point in the site at the head of the pedestrian mall that links all the facilities in the campus. The building form is made up of two cubes intersecting at 45°. This helped to break up the facades and also created interesting spaces for the reading areas within. The design is guided by the objective of providing glare free natural light for all reading spaces. It has a large outer shell with a reinforced concrete folded plate roof which incorporates north light glazing. Within this shell there are three receding mezzanine floors. The reading rooms are located on the open sections of the mezzanine where they get light directly from the north lights in the roof and the stack areas are located in the sections covered by the floors above. While the library occupies the upper levels, the ground and semi basement levels contain a small coffee shop, book shop and art gallery.

There is a connecting pedestrian bridge starting from the library and ending in the administration building that spans over the main road. This forms a sort of gateway structure indicating the significance of these two structures. The administration building, which was built a decade after the library, has a curved facade with a polished granite finish very different from the library reflecting the change in attitudes and approach to design during the intervening period. It has a split level lobby that connects with the library at the topmost floor and with the faculty buildings at the lowest level. The student circulation is mainly at the lower level and the senior administration at the upper.

Leading from the lower level of the library is a plaza that connects with the cafeteria and seminar hall. These three buildings, though they appear to be conflicting in usage, generate a lot of synergy. It also serves to bring the library closer to the student psychologically by bringing it into thick of his informal space. The food court and convention centre are in turn connected by an overhead link to enable them to be used effectively during major conventions. The food court has separate facilities for staff, students and visitors and can serve up to 350 guests at a time. The interior is painted in bright colours in stark contrast to other buildings on the campus in recognition of its relaxed and casual atmosphere. Both the seminar hall and the cafeteria have curved steel roofs which are more cost effective than reinforced concrete when it comes to long spans. The seminar hall is a full-fledged auditorium with a capacity of 450 people. It has a state of the art acoustically designed interior, sound system, lighting and stage facilities.

The pedestrian network is designed as a promenade with series of steps to negotiate the slopes and is integrated with the landscape. This promenade branches off to the various engineering departments at different levels along the natural slope. The walkway is wide enough to accommodate the large number of students and inviting enough to make students feel comfortable in an institutional environment. It is like a busy street on an average working day creating an exciting streetscape of staff and students walking, sitting and mingling under the shade of a tree or along the edges on benches.

Client : Sri Krishna Institutions

Area : 2,50,000 sq m

Location : Coimbatore

Role : Architectural & Engineering Design and Project Management

Sri Krishna College of Arts & Science

The Arts and Science College is separated from the Engineering College by a large playground and outdoor game facilities. All the departments here are housed in one large cluster which developed through a process of incremental additions with courtyards alternating with built-up spaces and arranged around a central axis along the diagonal. Along this axis there are many entrances at places where it intersects with the building modules - one for each department. These are double storied lobbies that serve as meeting places. Courtyards form the major source of light and ventilation to all spaces. The largest ones separate two departments. Smaller ones with pathways form the central core of the different departments and become the spill-over spaces for students between classes. Mangalore tiled roofs on the first and second floors give the grouping a form similar to a village cluster.

The staircases are located as an 'L' around courtyards. This vertical space visually connects all the floors making an interesting feature of what would otherwise be a 'backyard' element. Although the profile of the structure appears continuous, the space experienced inside the college is far from it. Spaces have been subtracted at the various levels, making the structure more open towards the top floor.

To reduce the massive character of this continuous structure, the Arts and Science College has spaces that have been subtracted or added at various levels. There are balconies between two perpendicular sections of a department which become gathering spaces. Some corridors on the third level serve as breakout spaces connecting two or three classrooms where students gather.

Like the lobbies, other important activity nodes are two storeys high and chamfered to give the effect of a gateway before entering a department. Because of the natural slope of the site, steps were introduced between spaces which create interesting level differences that result in sunk areas which could be used for gatherings.

Client : Sri Krishna Institutions

Area : 75,000 sq m

Location : Coimbatore

Role : Architectural & Engineering Design and Project Management

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