Form-making is not much discussed in the world of Green design. But it should. The deft handling of surfaces and volumes, the thoughtful arrangement of programme and functionality, can lead to several outcomes that are valued by the punditry.
Then, there is the question of cognition, the building as a facilitator of learning. Buildings engage or mimic the natural world. And if these were made visible, the building becomes a way to illustrate and interact, a cognitive tool for learning.
Lastly, space outside the classroom is a building block of community. And schools are in part about induction, students interacting with and learning from their peers. Planned inefficiency is not an oxymoron; it is seeing the value of spontaneous encounters between students and teachers, in having lines-of-sight that let everyone feel part of a community.
The architects Morphogenesis explained the Institute for Integrated Learning in Management Campus in India as a sort of deconstructed Rubik’s Cube. Form-making is the simultaneous engineering of social space and climatic response. In parallel, there is a resolution of the needs of a modern school with the typology of a traditional chawl, the social template of choice.
The building of Hoang Thuc Hao’s Sentia School in Vietnam snakes around itself, creating two courtyards that will be its social heart. The International School in Kuala Lumpur is a spine-and-ribs configuration with a series of courts between teaching blocks. Both projects empower the roof as a space for greenery and social activity.
The Net-Zero Energy Building at the School of Design and Environment in Singapore encapsulates the power of form as an arbitrator between climate and energy, social space and pedagogy. Contrary to what we have been led to believe by critics and cynics, Green is not a choice of performance over quality. It can be both.