Typology: Accessible Library for Physically Challenged Children
Area: 1500 sft / 139.3 sqm
Location: Golconda, Hyderabad, Telangana, India
Year: 2015
Status: Completed
Role: Lead Interior Designer

The site is located in a very low income area of Golconda, Hyderabad. Even a couple of years back, this area had no proper school. The schools in the surrounding area where either not affordable or not accessible by children in this area. It was difficult for regular children to attend school, so one can imagine the difficulty that a physically challenged child or a girl child had to go through.

Since the past four years a charity called Mohammedia Educational Trust, run by one of Hyderabad’s most renowned couple, Mr Mazhar Ali Khan and Mrs Afia Khan, has been funding a small scale school in a shed in this area. This shed is a load bearing structure with a tin roof which is held up by a truss system. The shed is approximately 800m²,and has about five ‘classrooms’. These classrooms use notice boards as partitions between two classes. The school teaches students up till fifth grade, after which they have to transfer to one of the other schools. Each class has about 6-7 students.

In 2013, the charity has funded for a new school building, which houses all the basic facilities that a school needs. The location of the new school is just behind this shed. Unfortunately, due to the rocky terrain of the site, this school could not be designed to be accessible to physically challenged children.

The habit of reading is not inculcated in these children. Statistics show that the healthiest habit of most successful people is reading, be it reading eBooks or listening to audio books. As a child, one of my fondest memories is me running through the long lanes of bookshelves. I could choose any book I liked. The best part was I was reading outside of supervision.Books open up new worlds to children, perhaps which they may not visit or perhaps reading will lead them to those worlds.In order to collect books for this library, the architect designing the library collaborated with the charity and organised a campaign called ‘make progress’. This campaign helped to collect more than a 1000 books in a month.The trust of knowledge and the love of learning begin with reading. I think reading is the only positive addiction.

Children have different requirements compared to adults. Things that simulate children are different from those that simulate adults.This library will be open to physically challenged children, and will cater to the specific needs of children and the special needs of the physically challenged. I have consciously avoided designing for the mentally challenged, since they come under a totally different umbrella. The three types of disabilities that I will be designing for are the wheelchair or the crutches bound, the deaf and mute and the visually impaired. 

When a stream flows on the same path, over time it becomes a river and creates a contour on the face of the earth. Even if the river dries up, the contour created by it remains the same. Similarly, my library will become a path for the inclusion of physically challenged individuals and able bodied individuals onto the contours of society.

The beautiful topography of the site and the landscape around it became my inspiration for designing the library. To sum it up in a few words, the inspiration for my concept is “contours of the earth”.

One thing I realised while zoning my space is that physically abled people can use the ramp but physically challenged people cannot use staircases. Staircases are a physically challenged persons Everest. Taking into account the topography of the site, I came up with the shape of the ramp, the contours of the site resulted in an infinite loop ramp that became the central feature of the library. The ramp acts as a river previously mentioned in my concept. This ramp is not only a mode of navigation but is also an experiential pathway that takes the user on a journey of the space. The ramp lets the children access every part of library and view the library from different vantage points.

The twist about the space is that children who enter the building after reaching the reception must take the ramp to access other parts of the library, the ramp leads the children to the first level of the library which houses the lounge area and holds books for leisure reading, and contains comics, fairy tales, fiction, fantasy, mystery and horror novels. To access other parts of the library children need to keep walking ahead, the ramp is one way, this reduces ramp traffic and keeps the space organised. The ramp then leads you to the ground level of the library, where the children can find research books, this is a quiet zone, especially where the older children can study or do their research and holds books like classics, biographies, text books, reference books and literary books. Books in this library are available in languages, English, Urdu, Hindi and Telugu. Books in braille are also available for visually impaired children.

The ramp goes out of the building at some parts and comes back in at some parts. This was done to make as much use of the space as possible. The angle of the ramp is 4.8°, and the ratio is 1:12. Since the slope of the ramp is very low, the lower area of the ramp is taken out of the building, and the part below the ramp that can be used are taken inside the building. This concept of the ramp going in and out of the building forms a contrast to the existing box like structure, breaks the symmetry and is truly outside the box. Also, it takes children on a trip to the outside, where they can enjoy the landscape and get some fresh air.

The part of the ramp that comes out of the building is supported by a cantilever beam. A shade is also designed along with the ramp to protect it from rains and the sun. Locally sourced non-slip vinyl tiles are used as the flooring of the ramp. The tiles form a gradient of colors, which attract the children, and seem to be more exciting than regular stairs.

Textured flooring and textured wall finishes is how different spaces are differentiated. Also, braille signage provided in different parts of the library helps the children to recognize different spaces.
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