Learning in and from nature

architectum edition #30


Krishnamurti The School

An environmentally friendly school in India


Used products


Learning in and from nature

After 35 years on the same site, this renowned school in Chennai, India, had to move. It was a unique opportunity to design an environmentally friendly campus, which would inspire the 400 people using it to lead a sustainable life. 

Interplay between campus and nature

The Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986) famously said that, ‘If you lose touch with nature you lose touch with humanity’, and his teachings are at the heart of everything the day school, ‘The School’, of the Krishnamurti Foundation does. The school’s holistic approach aims to ensure that sustainability is actively practised and, above all, is visible. So, the Chennai-based architectural firm Green Evolution took care to preserve the site’s 76 trees when they constructed the campus. The result is an organic sense of reciprocity between the campus and its natural surroundings, which is both visibly and physically apparent in the inner courtyard.

Sustainable use of resources

The architects incorporated comprehensive sustainability measures into their design from the outset. Rain and waste water on the campus is thoroughly treated and reused, and the organic waste from this process is composted on-site, in line with the zero waste principle, and energy consumption is 50% lower than at the old campus. In 2018, the Indian Green Building Council awarded the new campus the highest (platinum) level of certification under its Green Schools certification scheme. The materials used to build the campus have also been awarded eco labels. The clay bricks used – Porotherm Smart Bricks – have been recognised by the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) for their resource-saving sustainability. The IGBC likes the bricks for their low U-value, and because they use local, recyclable raw materials such as fly ash and granite silt. Depending on the version, the hollow clay brick can achieve a U-value of 1 W/m2K, which, in the hot Indian summers, saves on energy for air conditioning systems. 

„If you lose touch with nature you lose touch with humanity.“ - Jiddu Krishnamurti

Light play in favourite spaces

The architects visited the site on several occasions, at different times of the day, in order to get a feel for the place. The result is an open arrangement of six buildings, which allow the breeze to pass between them, creating an airy feeling. The trees in the courtyard, which were already there, provide natural shade. Light and shade mingle and play from the treetops to the façade. Indian Jalis are sections of wall constructed from half-bricks, to create organic, ornate, filigree lattice screens. Although the campus is smaller than the site of the old school building, more efficient distribution of the buildings and use of space means that there is more space overall. ‘My favourite place is the “thinnai” in the open hall, a place where I can lean back, feel the cool stone beneath me, and listen to the gentle rustling of the leaves, while I talk to colleagues or students’, says teacher Arvind Ranganathan, describing day-to-day life on the natural campus. 

Data & facts

Project name: The School, Thazhambur, Chennai, India

Architecture   Green Evolution

Client   Krishnamurti Foundation India

Year of completion  2018

Products used  Porotherm Smart Bricks

Building type  Public

Published in  architectum #30

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