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The Northstar School in Rajkot, India by Shanmugam Associates

Project name:
The Northstar School
Architecture firm:
Shanmugam Associates
Rajkot, Gujarat, India
Ishita Sitwala / The Fishy Project www.thefishyproject.com
Principal architect:
Raja Krishnan, Santhosh Shanmugam, Shanmugam A
Design team:
Raja Krishnan, Santhosh Shanmugam, Balasubramanian, Manish Bokdia, Vimala
Gudgudee- Playground Design
Built area:
33,000 ft²
Site area:
17.8 acre
Design year:
Completion year:
Sandip Patil, Tapan Modi, Earthscapes Consultancy Private Ltd
Structural engineer:
Jayant Laklani, Laklani Associates
Tools used:
Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom
Mohit Patel
Educational › School


Shanmugam Associates: “School is an enjoyable and enriching part of life where students can safely explore their True North” - reads the vision of The Northstar School, a progressive institution established to transform the educational ecosystem. The client’s initial brief was that, a very important part of every child's experience in Northstar be shaped by architecture. The project sits on the south eastern corner of a 17.8-acre barren site located adjoining the RK University campus on Rajkot- Bhavnagar highway.

10.	Classrooms have their own garden pockets which are used also for learningimage © Ishita Sitwala

The semi-arid climate of north-west India, dusty yet windy site conditions, 20- 30 days of monsoons in Rajkot and supply of STP water from RK University were influential contextual pointers. Overall master planning was conceived integrating three phases of development of which only Phase -1 is built. Open- ended corridors, building orientation and future development were factored into the overall planning. Key functions are accommodated in ground and first floors to keep the built space child friendly.

11.	Treated water from the STP has been used effectively to offer nourishment to the green landscape, as seen here by the lush climbers that have taken over the corridor areasimage © Ishita Sitwala

The primary intent was to find ways to learn with nature. The fundamental unit of schools are classrooms. So, the design process started in programming a single classroom module with cross ventilation, its own private garden and an open to sky jallied courtyard. This module was iterated to arrive from a part to a whole. Between two classrooms is a larger garden that is easily monitored, has a performance space and provisions for conducting classes.

12.	An ongoing virtual class session is in progress here in this courtyard that acts as a relief especially during these tough times image © Ishita Sitwala

Drawing inspiration from stepped wells of Gujarat, a central courtyard ties all the spaces within each module and is replicated in all phases. This central stepped and vegetated courtyard serves for larger gatherings as a multi-purpose space and for circulation. Integrated within the courtyard amidst the green pockets, creepers and vines is a stage, that is used by children or staff to perform.

With due credits to the structural engineer, the massing on the second floor sits lightly on the floor below and houses a 250-persons capacity multipurpose hall. The structure visually creates a presence as one walks along the heavily canopied main entry walkway.

1.	View of the Northstar school from the playgroundimage © Ishita Sitwala

A secondary skin – Jalli in ground floor and an ambitious creeper screen in first floor, has been planned in all floors to allow natural light, shield dust and provide security. When exploring material for the façade, the criteria was for it to be locally available, have an earthy tone, reflect an institutional character and be economical. Bella, a natural hard lime stone in terracotta color, has been used to blend the built form with existing surroundings.

2.	View of the main entry from the pedestrian walkway 3.	Juxtaposition of the Bella stone on the ground floor with the green creepers on the first floorimage © Ishita Sitwala

Architecture at The Northstar School has been planned such that as the building ages, landscape adds in more life into the space therefore taking ownership. Presently, an Indian owl resides in an unused truncated duct, the gulmohar trees lay a red carpet for the main pedestrian entry and Northstar’s horticulture program engages the learners on importance of flora & fauna. The design foundations at Northstar lie on ideologies of exploring contemporary design with local material, using regional references to define built form and finding simplistic solutions for complex design problems.

2.	View of the main entry from the pedestrian walkway 3.	Juxtaposition of the Bella stone on the ground floor with the green creepers on the first floor

school green landscape

5.	The cantilevered first floor classrooms are planned to create shaded play area for the floor below

brick wall detail

6.	Private gardens have been provided for all spaces as seen here in the library area

7.	Basic shapes and forms are introduced as a part of the architecture

8.	The main courtyard that serves for circulation, a gathering space and a green relief is provided in all the phases

9.	In between the creepers and vines in the courtyard is a performance stage for the staff and children to use

thorny bushes used as fence

Site plan

ground floor plan

first floor plan

second floor plan

design development and climate analysis

materials and architecture diagram details

front elevation


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By Naser Nader Ibrahim

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