ModSkool: Phase 1
Modskool is the modular design and construction of a low-cost school that was built in a few days and can be dismantled within a few hours. The modular school was initially designed as a response to repeated forced evictions in Delhi, specifically for the children of farmers along the Yamuna. The project has been awarded the Beazley Design of the Year 2020 in Architecture.
Every year, parts of Delhi disappear as squatter settlements built informally by the poorer citizens continue to be evicted. After a school for around 200 children in a farming community on the floodplains of the river Yamuna was demolished due to the 'illegal' status of the settlement, the community approached us to help them design a temporary school that could be dismantled before the bulldozers could arrive on ground to demolish it. Yamuna Khadar is a settlement of farmers on the floodplains of the river Yamuna in Delhi. It is a rural community nestled within the city but set away from the rest of it, connected only by a dirt road to the nearest main road. For a farmer there, public transport is neither accessible nor affordable, and they have either cycles or just their feet serving the last mile.
Since 1993, a school by the name of ‘Van Phool’ had been educating young children and serving as a crucial bridge to a formal education system which they can’t access till they are old enough to travel to the nearest secondary school on their own. In 2011, the Delhi Development Authority demolished the entire settlement, leaving a pile of rubble in place of the school which used to run out of an old brick building. The settlement had gradually rebuilt itself since and the school had been operating under a temporary shelter made of tarpaulin sheets pulled over a thin bamboo framework. On filing a Public Interest Litigation claiming their Right to Education, the community representatives eventually obtained permission to rebuild the school as long as it was ‘temporary’.
Our team began to evolve a design brief for a school that could be quickly dismantled in order to protect it from demolitions. The brief was carved out of the urban and political setting of the place, which required it to provide a protected space conducive to learning while fulfilling the legal criteria of how temporary or permanent it was allowed to be. At the same time, it needed to be affordable, easy to maintain and developed closely with the community so that it could meet their exact needs.
Through several consultations with the school staff over 2016, emerged the modular design of a low-cost school that could be built in a few days and dismantled within a few hours. With the help of structural engineer, Vinod Jain, the structure was designed as a steel frame bolted in a way that it could be erected easily, and dismantled quickly when required. The infill walls, doors and windows were decided to be made out of bamboo, reused wood and dried grass, materials that farmers commonly used to build homes in the area. The team, with the help of the engineer, also raised funds for the construction of the school which totalled up to 7000 USD. Under the leadership of the local youth mobilizer, Naresh Pal, the school was finally built hands-on in less than 3 weeks in the summer of 2017. The school was built by the students, school staff and parents from the village along with the help of around 50 volunteers from outside the village who heard about the project on social media.