Rane Vidyalaya


Architect Firm: Shanmugam Associates Principal architect: Shanmugam A, Raja Krishnan D, Santhosh Shanmugam
Design Team: Srinivasan, Satish Kumar, Balasubramaniam, Mohammed Ismail, Rukmani Thangam, Praveen Kumar
Location: Trichy, India
Area: 50,000 square feet
Completion Date: 2018
Photography: LINK Studio, Bangalore



Rane Vidyalaya CBSE school, a CSR initiative by Rane Foundation India Pvt. Ltd., a leading industrial conglomerate, is a K-12 campus that takes in students from the kindergarten level to the 12th grade.

Theerampalayam, the rural region where the school is located, has no proper educational institutions that offer quality learning. The closest city, Tiruchirapalli, which is a Tier-II city in the state of Tamil Nadu, India is 20 kilometers away. The neighborhood districts are a mix of small, rural villages, where the main occupation is agriculture and unskilled labor.

The project was executed in two phases. Presently Phase 1 has been constructed, with an area of 50,000 square feet (4,645 square meters). The intent was to create an infrastructure that would have a positive social impact on the local community and also showcase the core values of Rane.

Regional construction techniques, a structured pedagogy of the Indian educational system, and a construction cost of US$20 per square foot formed the basis of the design development. Inspiration was drawn from the sixth-century-built Thiruvellarai temple’s walls and the layered cross sections of fifty-year-old houses in the region. Following the consistent construction methodology revealed in these structures, a layering starting from huge random rubble and stone at the bottom, to finer solid brick work, mud, and slate on top was adopted in the walls. Alternating layers of red wire cut bricks—from the local kiln—and gray fly ash brick—recycled from industrial cement waste—were used.

Kindergarten classrooms are designed to have individual gardens that encourage a seamless integration of the outdoor and indoor space. With every level-up in the school’s class grade, the lessons become more functional, so as to introduce structured learning. To facilitate this, the overall design approach avoids sharp edges in the walls, columns, slab edges, and in every detail possible, to ensure the safety of students.

As the site is located on the tropical belt of interior Tamil Nadu, the design makes use of natural ventilation in the space, along with natural lighting. All walls are stopped at lintel height and have openable windows above to allow hot air to dissipate and to increase cross ventilation. Terra cotta jaalis (screens) are also used as secondary shading devices. Incorporating significant openings along the predominant southeast–northwest wind direction and minor wind tunnels in the east–west direction between classrooms creates a comfortable microclimate in the building.

Taking inspiration from temple mandapams, where huge gatherings take place, an enclosed central courtyard with perforated lightwells in the roof is planned. This courtyard, placed so that it is visually connected at all levels, serves as a multifunctional place of congregation for lunch breaks, school assembly, exhibitions, co-curricular training, and small gatherings.

The architectural features incorporated in the building—such as the red solid bricks, baked earth tiles, terra cotta jaali, and gray fly ash bricks—help address the micro-climate in the space, facilitate ventilation, create interesting light and shade experiences through roof perforations, and provide safe, green courtyards where the children can enjoy the outdoors. At the same time, they also articulate the design language of the local region, while creating a fun, educational environment. Through sourcing materials from surrounding locations, a wholesome cost-effective architectural solution is deployed.