Presented at the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale, "A school in the making" is a film that unfolds the process behind the construction of the Avasara Academy by Case Design Architecture Studio.
Being this an ongoing project, Case Design decided to update the film "A school in the making" as well: The Architecture Player will closely follow the evolution of the Avasara Academy featuring the most updated version of the film, to better reflect the nature of the project. The text you read below has consequently been slightly modified to be an accurate depiction of the actual state of the project.
Meant to be a residential school for young women in Western India ("our aspiration is to try to prove the idea that if you have girls in front of really strong teachers and being pushed to think about how they can change the world, you will be able to produce leaders") and located into the valley slope above the small village of Lavale, the building that will host the Avasara Academy is, as said before, an ongoing project, but one whose work-in-process condition actually goes much further than the usual.
"A school in the making" is not just the description of a construction site, it is the most intimate expression of a design approach, a participative and open one, that sees Case Design at the center of a galaxy of local craftsmen, artisans, European visual artists and New York City-based climate engineers.
At the beginning of this short film, Case Design founder Samuel Barclay explains that when he started his architectural firm Avasara Academy was his only project: "There was a very small group of architects working on the project, but very quickly this circle grew", recalling how Case Design engaged collaborations with different experts coming from all over the world and taking advantage of the expertise of local farmers for the building and landscape project, bringing together not only all of the experience, knowledge, and skills those people had, but also their energy and enthusiasm.
Drawing from the belief that collaboration and empathy lie at the core of all good work, the Academy is designed to become "a sanctuary, a safe space" for everyone to fully develop as a person.
Case Design and all its collaborators created a space that can host moments of hospitality, social interaction, reflection, play, ritual, seclusion, performance, and comfort. This is why, for instance, the artistic practice is an added value to the work: the use of the colors heavily influences our perception of a space and therefore should be valued way more - here Malene Bach, a visual artist from Copenhagen, studied natural pigments and local traditions to find the best palette for the school. As well as the collaboration with local artisans, who not only know where to get the best and most durable material for the school, but also can sew the school with the landscape, transforming it in a true landmark for the entire region, and to infuse it with some sort of familiarity.
Everything here, from the seating space to the color of the stones that create the flooring is carefully chosen, to be able to meet the quality requirements (everything should be able to last for generations) and the limited budget; everything here is meant to provide the girls not only with an education but also with a throughout experience that could really help them shape their own lives. The greatest thing, explains Barclay, about working in India is the ability to make things - to interact and collaborate with people.
In October 2019, Case Design released a new version of "A school in the making" on the occasion of the "Case Design: The craft of collaboration" at the Vlaams Architectuur Instituut. The new version, featuring new content and revisiting the existing one, focuses much on the collaborative nature of the project, about its relationship with the region and the environment. On this occasion Samuel Barclay expressed his satisfaction over the possibility of sharing this project at the 2018 Venice Biennale, halfway through the construction of the campus: it was, he says, "an incredible opportunity for us and what we wanted to try and so was to create something that would go beyond the realm of just the period and the space of the exhibition itself, and so all the elements that we tried to create for the exhibition were all things we wanted to bring back to the school. Not just physical artifacts like light and furniture, but also to explore ideas". A bamboo gym, new collaborations, a peace pavilion or the glass blowing technique from Murano, Venice were part of the results of the Biennale experience, but what strikes the most here about this project is the opportunity to witness the realisation of such a big scale project not only by those who are working on it, but also as readers and architect enthusiasts. Opening up this process, making it public, being able to cleverly storytell it, make "A school in the making" an important film about architecture - and, to us, an important acquisition for The Architecture Player.