Namma Bhoomi

a development alternative

a vocational school in Coondapura

Set amidst the picturesque locale of the South Canara region is the Regional Resource Centre for ‘The Concerned for Working Children’ (CWC) where they have been working with the local communities to identify and solve the problems of child labour. The Centre conducts courses, which train children in various skills like carpentry, weaving, basket making, leather craft, pottery and techniques of agriculture or construction, with a stress on environment and sustainable development. They also encourage the revival of traditional art and craft. On a visit to conduct a workshop on ‘Appropriate construction technology’, a group from ESDC was introduced to the vibrant children from CWC. Says Jeeth Iype, “The children had already experimented with building mediums, hence they had a lot of practical questions for us. In a way we (ESDC) identified with them because we were also learning by building! That was our first trip to Namma Bhoomi and from there began a long relationship with this land and its people.” After detailed discussions with CWC, the requirements for the campus evolved as residential accommodation for the field activists and the children, dining areas, administration areas, a library, laboratory and a clinic.

The brief called for a flexible design, wherein the spaces needed to be multi-purpose and could be easily phased. After numerous interactions with the children and the members of CWC, the concept of designing the Centre like a village evolved. NB-PlanWithin this framework, all requirements would be accommodated with room for further organic development. The children also gave insights into their lifestyle and what they were comfortable with, which further reinforced the ‘village’ theme. Another important aspect was that the Centre was to be a ‘live’ experiment, using, appropriate construction technology’, built by the children, who would learn as they built their village.

The land that made up the site measured six acres and was almost barren with a slope towards the west-southwest.As one enters Namma Bhoomi, the road leads you to the main core of the centre, the ‘Namma Halli’ or ‘our village’ to the left, or one can move further on past the amphitheatre, the workshops, to the study centre and guest cottages at the far end of the campus. Two residences for the staff are also located on corners of the land. Namma Halli is designed around a meandering street, alongside which most of the facilities are planned. “The street runs east to west, with the structures arranged to form courtyards. Their angled manner of arrangement shades the street for most of the day,” says Jeeth. The administration building planned at the entrance of Namma Halli is built with laterite walls and a country tile roof.

A circular building, with a central landscaped courtyard houses the administrative office of the campus, along with an exhibition area and a sales area or ‘Namma Angadi’ which is an outlet for the products made bcwc1y the children and villagers, promoting local craft and tradition. A bank and a post office for the children is also planned. A neem and pipal tree has been planted where the building opens out to the street and a katta around it, is the venue for many a discussion. The dining and kitchen area is also a semi-open circular structure, built in stone and thatch, which opens out on one side, with a central space serving as a stage to the open ‘theatre’ outside during performances or workshops. The kitchen is planned towards the rear of the building and is connected to a service road. The dining area can seat 120 children on the floor, and is oriented towards the street. Built-in seats all around in the dining area, also serve as a low wall, protecting it from the outside.

Stone pillars support the bamboo trusses of the thatched roof. From the administration building, one enters the main street, which slopes downward, past dormitories or ‘Namma Mane’, the clinic, the library, field activists’ houses, their projecting verandahs and interesting nooks ‘and corners. The street pauses in a ‘village square’, which is shaded by trees and overlooked by verandahs. The ‘village tower’ which houses the water tank above abuts this space. This is the only ‘high-rise’ building here! ‘Namma Mane’ or the dormitories have been designed like houses for fifteen children, where each child has a built-in niche to organise his / her belongings, and as a space for expression. These dormitories serve as classrooms in the day and as sleeping spaces in the night. The courtyarUntitled-1ds in front of the dormitories are used as spillover spaces and for the various activities that the children are involved in.

There are six dormitories in all, built in soil cement blocks, and Mangalore tiled roofs. The walls are 9″ thick with 41/2″ butts at intervals to form the niches for individual children. Cuddapah shelves are used for this purpose. Light filters in through skylights and jaali windows, which are settled in niches that also form seats. Ten guest cottages were built as part of the second phase and accommodate resource persons or guests. With a plan to have a low mud wall enclosing the area or privacy, a part of the ground floor is oNH-Plann stilts to serve as gathering space. The rooms are in groups of two with a common toilet. Balconies on the first floor and the verandahs below overlook the landscaped courtyard. The structures are built in soil cement blocks, which the children made on the site, laterite, stone blocks, slabs, brick and mud. The roofs are mostly Mangalore tiles but a few buildings required concrete roofs, and here, filler slabs have been used. Country wood and treated casuarina poles have been used for the tile roof frame. Antique carved wood has been recycled and used as pillars and windows.

                                       Project Fact File:

  • Client: The Concerned for Working Children, Bangalore
  • Location: Basrur, CoondapuraTaluka, Kamataka
  • Architects: ESDC
  • Team: Jeeth, Natasha, Vinod
  • Area: 20000sqft
  • Duration: 3 Years
  • Completed: 1998