The arrival of the Rajkumari Ratnavati Girl’s School is a profound moment for Jaisalamer, India. In a region where female literacy hovers at a mere 36 percent, the educational space, designed by New York-based Diana Kellogg Architects and commissioned by nonprofit CITTA, serves as a sanctuary for 400 girls, ranging from kindergarten to secondary school age, who live below the poverty level.
Here, the oval-shaped structure, a shape symbolizing both femininity and the planes of the area’s plentiful sand dunes, contributes to an environment that “will not only equip young women with the tools to further their education and independence, but will also raise awareness surrounding the issues faced by women in India on a global scale,” explains Kellogg.
“The school will serve as a safe space for girls from one of the most economically challenged and geographically remote communities in the world.”
Hand-Crafted Touches Create an Inclusive, Empowering Sanctuary
In her design, Kellog sought to translate the message of the space’s empowering curriculum into its physical landscape. Handcarved sandstone, rosewood furniture incorporating classic Charpai woven seating, and a parapet wall are all highlights, while solar canopies and jali stone screens help mitigate the oppressive heat. The canopy on the roof, embedded with a metal framework, doubles as a playground, complete with seesaws, swings, and monkey bars.
By using nearly 100% local materials and craftspeople, many of them the fathers of the girls, carbon emissions were also greatly reduced for the project. Additional sustainable features include the building’s elliptical form, which promotes a cooling panel of airflow to help provide relief in the harsh desert-like environment. Cisterns, meanwhile, provide drinking and recycled brown water.
A forthcoming adjacent exhibition space and women’s cooperative will further promote the importance of education. The school was also a winner in the Sustainable project category at the 2021 HD Awards.
Another version of this article originally appeared on our sister site, Hospitality Design.