Sparkrill International School
Educational Architecture I Warangal, Telangana
Client SR Educational Trust
Area 2.25 Lakh Sq. ft
Photographer Rajesh Vora
Team Shimul Javeri Kadri, Vaishali Mangalvedhekar, Sonal Parekh
The entire built environment incorporates learning experiences that range from simple measurements painted or carved into the floor, to telescopes and sun-dials in the landscape, incorporating the planets to scale, in the structure of the staircase.
Situated in Telangana, the historic city of Warangal is home to The Sparkrill International School– an institution with a focus on nurturing creativity, academic excellence, and extracurricular interests in its students. The physical realm of the school utilises a variety of space-making techniques and child-friendly infrastructure to provide a strong foundation upon which the students build their future careers.
By creating sheltered courtyards, spillover spaces, and breakout areas, the architecture of the school effectively blends formal learning structures with informal collective spaces that are contextual to the local landscape. Bolstered by a keen awareness of environmental efficiency, the Sparkrill campus serves as a truly inspirational learning and engagement zone for the students and faculty alike.
The master planning of the site balances openness and accessibility with traditional institutional structures. The sprawling 28-acre plot is divided in half by a wide arterial access route from which smaller streets emerge to connect buildings between the east and west wings. Along these routes, naturally occurring boulders, a pond, courtyards, and smaller streets break the grid-like monotony and act as casual meeting spaces for the residents on campus. The general layout of the site is reminiscent of the urban fabric of many global cities, situating the campus amongst competing international players, while still retaining an inherently Indian context. The main access route to the campus, which curves along the circumference of a full size cricket pitch, ends in an organically shaped landing– an inviting entry into this lush learning zone. An undisturbed, naturally occurring rock outcrop, a key feature of the landscape of Warangal, is symbolic of the efforts to retain the pre-existing natural conditions of the site.
The physical realm of the school utilises a variety of space-making techniques and child-friendly infrastructure to provide a strong foundation upon which the students build their future careers.
Passive design strategies
The Sparkrill campus stretches linearly on a north-south axis, surrounded on all sides by lush green farmland. Orienting the buildings of the school on an east-west axis allows for the spaces to be adequately shaded from the harsh summer heat, and simultaneously ventilated by the cooler easterly winds. Deep, curvilinear eaves shade windows on the upper levels of the buildings, and wide singly-loaded corridors nullify the need for an active HVAC system, both lending to the campus’ distinct architectural style. During longer summer days the eaves cast their wide shadows across the campus’ many courtyards and streets, creating a naturally cool micro-climate for the children, even outdoors. Access to fresh water throughout the year is essential for any active campus. At Sparkrill, devising a system to harvest the region’s ample rainfall during the monsoon season months ensures sustained water levels and a reduced ecological footprint. Water channels and drainage spouts serve as both, a strategic solution and learning tool, that the school employs to encourage climate-friendly practices. A series of gutters along the sloping roofs of the buildings redirects water to a drainage spout, designed specifically to flow freely into open water channels (which also run along the sides of the campus’ many streets), creating small-scale rivers and waterfalls. It is a common sight to watch students chasing paper boats in the currents, or mapping the flow of the water from roof to ground level. The stepwell design of the assembly courtyards, too, doubles as a water collection point, with efficient drainage to a large central reservoir which stores the ample rainwater and supports the campus even in dryer months.
Safe and open learning environments
The architecture of the school reimagines the very nature of academic life by breaking the thresholds of building structure and student autonomy. This intent is elegantly reflected by softening the boundaries between indoors and outdoors, study and play, and formal and informal spaces. With a total capacity of around 1,200 students across primary and secondary grades, providing ample multi-functional spaces was key to ensuring the students' a holistic and engaging educational environment and ensuring their emotional and physical wellbeing. The school buildings– placed within a short walking distance of each other– are clustered neatly around courtyards and ‘streets’ for play, travel and assembly. Their organic position creates vibrant opportunities for social interaction and peer-to-peer learning just beyond the classroom walls, but well within the active spaces of the campus. The football pitch, a popular gathering point in the evenings, is strategically surrounded by the hostel blocks, activating the area to make it both accessible and safe for the students even at dusk. Inspired by the traditional architecture of Rajasthan, the campus’ courtyards and streets serve not only as easy access routes between academic buildings, but also as casual meeting points during recess and after-class hours where students can gather, study or play. The sunken courtyard often becomes a focal point, where students might settle on its gentle steps during their breaks or even use it as a mini amphitheatre for performances and assemblies.
The idea of play spaces, relax spaces and safe outdoor spaces to experience nature inform the design.
Nature and nurture
One of the goals for the SJK team was to de-institutionalise the physical environment of the school, and incorporate nature to create a deeply engaging space for learning. Singly-loaded corridors serve classrooms only on one side and open to sprawling lawns on the other, generously adding to the ease of access and openness of the school to Warangal’s lush surroundings. The classrooms are spacious, with a flexible design that allows for up to 40 students per class, as prescribed by the CBSE and IB boards. Lowered ceiling heights in the corridors and reduced sill levels ensure the scale of the space is more appropriate for children, allowing them to even jump out – at the ground level – into the streets outside. The students also participated in painting the corridor walls in vibrant hues and playful murals to temper a traditionally strict school ambience. When asked about the layout, one of the students said , “I can see my friends from other classrooms by standing in the corridor and we meet [here] during break time, and don’t go anywhere else.” Similar strategies are also utilised in the dining and art block - a multi-use building nestled amongst the trees along the eastern boundary of the site. The flexible art studios on the upper floor open into a substantial terrace that becomes a vibrant breakout space, stirring the interest of students throughout the day. Since the institution offers boarding facilities for the students, residence halls are also a crucial part of the overall design. The hostel block occupies the southernmost end of the plot, laid out around three sides of the football pitch, sheltering it from the sun as well as providing stadium-like views of the matches for those watching from the windows. Inside, the floors are planned as large, open dormitories with half height partitions. Children are provided with a private, cosy corner while still being able to peek over partitions and interact with their friends. These dorms are designed in an alternating rhythm, with double heighted terraces that perforate the facades of the building itself. They provide a vertical connection with the floors above, and also serve as shaded terraces for the children to gather or play indoor games. The design of the residential block lends a sense of homeliness and warmth for the students, making the campus a comfortable and enjoyable home away from home.
A distinctive experience
Educational architecture offers a unique set of challenges and opportunities that the SJK team were able to successfully navigate. For the Sparkrill International School campus, the keen focus on de-institutionalising the academic elements became the main design driver. Child-friendly, easily accessible spaces allow for the indoors and outdoors to be closely linked, creating a strong sense of independence and comfort for students, while meeting safety and accessibility concerns. Grounded by simple yet elegant techniques, the environmentally conscious design of the school highlights the inherent value of Warangal’s natural surroundings to the forefront of the student’s lives. The distinctive experience of each space exemplifies a continuum of inspiration and creativity that transcends beyond the boundaries of academia.