The Footwear Design and Development Institute, spread over ten acres of land in Ankleshwar, Gujarat, is an institutional campus commissioned by the Ministry of Commerce, Government of India. Derived from the tradition of ‘alchemy’, conceptually the design owes its significance to Ankleshwar being the ‘chemical town’, amidst the large industrial estate within its borders. The fundamental design intent for the campus is to unify all the physical elements while exhibiting openness and varied spaces in order to enrich learning.
The ‘squared circle’ or ‘squaring the circle’ is a 17th century alchemical glyph for the creation of the Philosophers Stone. While alchemy involves a quest for knowledge and wisdom, the 17th century alchemical symbol justly defines the site planning of the institution. Representing the spiritual progress of humanity, the architectural intent is to create a significant academic environment of constant learning, experimentation and wisdom. This is manifested in the physical environment through spatial planning that would significantly enhance academic, social, and emotional learning opportunities while relieving stress.
A sunken, central, landscaped courtyard is used to craft unique, interactive spaces to activate the campus, binding all the building spaces as they open into it, while maintaining a sense of definite building functions and programmatic viability. A bridge, passing through landscaped courtyard and overlooking the open-air theatre, connects the drop off area to the Main Block. These two areas together form the central circle of the alchemical symbol. The three primary blocks, i.e. The Main Block, The Boys’ Hostel and the combined Auditorium and Girls’ Hostel are placed along the sides of the symbol resulting in a central, interactive space that stays activated from early morning till late night. This becomes the “heart” of the campus, creating innumerable opportunities for interaction, both formal and casual.
The Main Block, placed axially along the primary approach, houses academic and administrative functions. The classrooms and lecture halls are planned according to seating configuration and capacity, along with computer labs, a library on the second floor and three workshops on the third. The planning is focussed on creating an efficient structure and circulation, while ensuring that daylight is available in all spaces of the building. The Boys’ Hostel is planned around a central courtyard, while the rooms are placed along the periphery to maximise ventilation and daylighting, while creating private spaces for the residents. Large, recessed windows and balconies ensure adequate light and ventilation. The Auditorium is sited to minimise public circulation within the core spaces of the campus- thereby completing the third side of the symbol. The staff accommodation is located towards the South East corner of the site, creating a quiet and private zone. The units are laid out to achieve optimal building orientation to reduce dependence on mechanical means. The residential zone is designed “within the landscape”, while ensuring easy connectivity to the rest of the campus.
The use of elevation frames, stone cladding and glass ensures optimum day lighting, while unifying the built volumes. It enhances the quality of internal space, while optimally designed fenestration patterns add to the unique character of the campus. A common façade language unifies all the site components, while exuding a unique character in the elevation. Striking bold elements have been used to define the building elevation in both, an aesthetic and functional essence. Robust elements such as the feature walls, cladded with ACP panels for added emphasis, frame the site edges and the entrance, enhancing the character of the facade.
A larger intent was to imbibe passive design features in the design, right from the inception stage. Through optimal building orientation and recessed fenestration with deep balconies in residential spaces – hostels and apartments, the ingress into the built mass has been controlled. Cladding of Gwalior stone and red sandstone, and the elevational frames further reduce the heat ingress. Integrated landscape design with the use of local trees and efficient site planning with minimum road area and sunken courtyard spaces help to create a favourable micro climate. Naturally ventilated circulation spaces are crafted within the buildings, leaving minimal room for artificial means of heating and cooling and enabling a judicious use of air-cooled systems in the workshops. A high performance DGU and an STP have been installed for recycling of water for irrigation and flushing. Wherever possible, it has been ensured that there has been minimal disturbance to the existing site topography. The design of the FDDI is under process to achieve an IGBC Silver Green Building Rating.
The focus of the alchemical symbol is its centre and that is “us”- the human race. Just as symbolically, us humans strive to capture the balance between all the energies in our lives, the built form of the Footwear Design and Development Institute tries to maintain a balance of academics, recreation and hostel life through the interconnectedness of various elements both physically and visually.