As we implement our Inclusion and Expansion Plan 2021-25, student and faculty presence at NLS will incrementally grow to 3x and 2x respectively, and the campus will have to accommodate a larger community. Our experience during the pandemic has reaffirmed that everyone benefits from larger, more open spaces on campus. To enhance the lived experience for the NLSIU community, the University has commissioned a Master Plan for the redevelopment of the existing campus.
NLSIU Vice-Chancellor Prof (Dr.) Sudhir Krishnaswamy said: “The Master Plan will help us in terms of rethinking the fundamental use of the campus. This includes use in terms of sustainability, accessibility and overall connectivity on campus among other measures. The University should ideally be an integrated campus. We want to increase engagement not only within, but even outside the classrooms. We envision a constantly improving campus with more activity spaces and common spaces – both large and small ones, where we create more opportunities to live, work, and play together.”
About the Master Plan Architect:
The process of this revised Master Plan began with a public tender for experienced planners in September 2021, resulting in the selection of Venkataramanan Associates as the Master Plan architect in January 2022. The VA Group brings to the table 50 years of extensive planning and architectural experience in urbanism and designing for real estate, specialised environments and institutional clients spread across 2000+ projects in 29 locations. Their award-winning designs in Bengaluru include the educational master planning for the TIFR ICTS campus, the Art Village at the Valley School, the mixed-use Brigade Gateway and the Church Street redevelopment project.
We spoke with Jahnavi J Ashar and her team from the VA Group, to elaborate further on the Master Plan.
Why is a Master Plan for NLSIU important?
Campus planning encompasses several factors – cultural, ecological, social, and aesthetic – that shape the built environment and perception of a campus. A comprehensive master planning process incorporates these factors into plans, guidelines, and design strategies that shape a campus to be resonant with a university’s highest ambitions.
Historically, college buildings have been considered permanent structures—landmarks designed to stand forever. Longevity is key to planning for a campus facility. In order to accommodate evolving pedagogical needs, any space that is built must be flexible and adaptable to accommodate changing needs of a campus. This means that a rigid master plan with prescriptive uses for buildings and spaces is rarely appropriate.
“Place making” is at the heart of our master planning approach, and is an important component of a strong university brand. “Place making” is the process by which we create quality places that people want to live, work, play, and collaborate in, while capitalising on the existing assets of the campus. A university’s campus environment, as well as the way in which it connects to its context, must convey its values, and provide a great experience for students, staff, and visitors.
What are the key features of NLSIU’s Master Plan?
The vision is to create a master plan that ties the existing functionality of the spaces along with new interventions in line with the ecology of the campus. Our approach is to develop multiple nodes or points with different functions across the site. This would mean adding more functional spaces along with the existing ones. These structures would create landmarks on campus thereby increasing its legibility. By this, we mean a visual sense of the campus for anyone navigating through it.
By adding and connecting various developments along the site, there is a potential to seamlessly integrate the old and new developments. This approach will be applied for further detailing of the Master Plan as well.
As next steps, the campus is being surveyed (including building, structural stability and biodiversity surveys) and the social construct of the campus too will be evaluated in detail.
What kind of changes can we expect to see in the following aspects of our campus?
The earliest buildings on the NLSIU campus were built three decades ago. While some require immediate changes, others need modifications and alignments for functional use. Some portions may be considered for demolition to make way for more meaningful expansions. Areas for development of new buildings will be identified based on campus requirements. These new structures will be based on design principles of green buildings.
b) Improving social life on campus:
We will chalk out a clear hierarchy of open spaces; different kinds of congregation spaces will allow for different levels of interaction between people. These spaces may be created through regeneration of existing green cover, development of a central green space, adjunct green spaces around the buildings, courtyards and corridors and spaces for active recreation.
c) Landscape, topography and connecting clusters:
At present, the campus comprises a series of isolated clusters, roughly divided into five areas built around the existing green zones. These are connected via varying scales of pedestrian pathways – pathways connecting larger buildings, smaller pathways that may go through a building or within campus structures, or meandering pathways. However, there is potential to create a strong connecting network throughout the campus that reinforces everyday practical and functional use. The linear nature of the site also necessitates a pedestrian network. The master plan aims to create a walkable campus, with a variety of open spaces to create an inclusive and collaborative environment.
“Pause points” (intermediate functional spaces along a route/path) will be created in this network such as “plazas” or “nodes.” Based on the design approach for different zones on campus, these pause points may be explicitly distinct from one another, or may have one common aspect that ties them together. For example, we could choose to add different huddle spaces every 250 metres along the pathway from the Academic block to the Library, or have a shaded tree-lined pathway as a commonality throughout this route.
d) Biodiversity and sustainability:
The phased and controlled development of the campus has been instrumental in protecting and nurturing the natural environment within which the University is set. Our aim would be that further developments will be included as part of these natural systems. Nature-based solutions will guide further development and interventions, and the inherent natural ecology of the site is the basis of the Master Plan development.