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Rethinking campus design

In 2018, we conducted a workshop course at IIM Bangalore on ‘Rethinking campus design through mapping social interaction’. This was a 10-day CEPT summer school for architecture students that focused on the open spaces on campus or the unbuilt spaces and how these worked as spaces for social interaction.

In India, in the last 50 years, there have been institutional campuses designed and built by architects from within the country and abroad. In addition to being places of learning for the student communities that they were planned for, a few of these have been learning grounds for design as well.

In particular, the campuses of the Indian Institute of Management at Ahmedabad and Bangalore have been experiments that have continued to teach us, with lessons in both architecture and urban design. These are protected, controlled environments that have been shaped over the years by different administrative heads, faculty and students. The built and unbuilt spaces have often transformed themselves to the changing needs of the user groups.

The objective of this course was to look at one of these campuses – the IIM at Bangalore and to understand how its unbuilt spaces work. The more specific objectives were to understand: What makes some spaces more amenable for interaction than others? Can the less interactive areas be strengthened through designing alternative routes for users to generate a crossing of paths? What are the physical or spatial elements that could catalyse social interaction in a campus setting?

The course introduced participants to techniques of structured observing, recording and representing social interaction through field notes, sketches, interviews, photographs, films & maps.

The key learning outcomes we worked towards were, one, to understand how buildings learn and how campuses grow; two, to see how buildings and landscape co-operate to define and shape the space of the public realm and three, to understand how Olmsted’s concept of ‘desire lines’ might work within an Indian campus. The final output included personal geographies, transect maps and design interventions.

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