CRITIC COLEMAN COKER
Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, India
This group travel studio was taught by Coleman Coker. We spent 2 weeks traveling to and around out site in Tiruvannamalai India, immersing ourselves with the culture and getting to know some of the children which the school would serve. In the design portion of the studio, I was one of the design leads and coordinated in the completion of the construction documentation.
Today, one in six people call India home. Of those, one in six are Dalits—about 220 million people (two-thirds of USA’s population). Centuries old barriers separate Dalits (formerly “Untouchables”) from their neighbors. And while the caste system was officially outlawed in 1995, most Dalits are still discriminated against, particularly in rural areas where half of India’s population lives.
This studio was asked to design a K-12 school for a Dalit community. The project aimed to study and question the extent to which buildings can impact people’s lives. The school was designed with local culture and environment in mind. The school’s curriculum will teach a place-based approach meant to raise bioregional awareness and entrepreneurship. Largely off the grid, the school will need to use solar energy, water catchment, and gray water reuse. An edible permaculture landscape, composting, and passive bio-climactic design strategies further help promote independence and resilience. As the design’s poetic foundation, a regenerative design philosophy is embedded throughout, not just in the campus design, but in the school’s learning programs where Dalit students grow their own food and are also taught sustainable practices for their daily lives.