The Community Education Centre is located in the Hindu-Pak Refugee Colony at Majnu ka Tila - a settlement along the Yamuna river in North Delhi.
The concept design of the project was done during my time as an architect and researcher at SEEDS in 2019 and was to be implemented by HAI who have been working with the refugee communities and upgrading the infrastructure of the settlement for a better quality of life.
The brief for the project was to design a semi-permanent learning space for around 25 students which may also be used for adult education programs, having lockable storage space for laptop, projector and other teaching material. The learning centre was to be built in two weeks time, with a tight low cost budget and using disaster-resilient construction techniques to keep children safe and protect the users from earthquakes and floods. As per the client, re-use of existing material such as paving blocks and bamboo screens was to be integrated in the design as well.
Community Learning Centre, Majnu ka Tila
The community living in the refugee camp are skilled in timber construction and hence the material for the main structure was chosen to be roundwood betelnut timber, the walling uses pellet wood, windows and doors were to be reclaimed ones from the market. For making the structure earthquake resilient, cross bracings were added, inspired from vernacular architecture of their erstwhile homes such as dhajji dewari. The foundation for timber columns is isolated concrete footings and the IPS coated plinth provides flood protection. The roofing is done using corrugated galvalum sheet which is fixed onto timber purlins which rest on the timber rafters. An insulating layer of woven bamboo mats is fixed under the metal sheet to keep the interiors cool along with sufficient cross ventilation faciliatied by the gaps in the walls and the roof truss. The gaps between the pellet wood and the staggered windows retain an indoor-outdoor connection. A technique called laafa has been used to join structural elements throughout the design as the locals use it widely to build their own homes.
The design optimally uses the tight site to provide a semi open gathering and entry space along with a handwash area where rainwater can percolate into the ground from the sloping roof as well. The pergola uses techniques known to the local residents and artisans and accomodates an existing tree on site at one corner with creepers, creating a thermally comfortable microclimate. The main indoor learning space is at one level and without furniture to enable flexible use and has movable storage shelves and cupboards. The playful doors and windows are child-sized elements, making the space comfortable for them.