In a sustainable initiative by Social Design Collaborative, ModSkool has been created as an anti-eviction module for farming communities in Delhi. These schools are made with the idea of easy dismantling if the settlement would be demolished.
ModSkool is a simple and adaptable low-cost school in Delhi. It was conceived as a reaction to the forced evictions of a farming community in India’s Khadar area. The ModSkool was created with the purpose of “Dismantle not Demolishing” against legal clearance. It was designed to provide the basic educational needs of children living in agricultural settlements known as “Squatter Settlements.”
This school was designed in response to the conditions by a community-driven architecture practice called the Social Design Collaborative, led by Swati Janu. This project was also the winner of the Berkeley Design of the Year 2020 for its features. The project was conceived after a school for 200 children in a hamlet along the Yamuna River was demolished due to clearance laws.
Since the colonial era, this farming population has lived in the region. It is controversial to comment on who the true squatters of the city are – the farmers or the metropolis. Swati Janu decided to walk the talk of helping the farmers and planned and executed the project to the last detail. A series of talks with school employees, an evaluation of community requirements, and consideration of available financial resources led to the final design. The school was erected on-site in three weeks. It was a collaborative achievement with a highly motivated design team, dedicated volunteers, students, and members of the community.
The basic construction of ModSkool is a bolted steel frame that surrounds a single classroom. This frame is made of bamboo, recycled wood, and dried grass, all of which are popular building materials in the region. The school’s façade consisting of rotating bamboo screens open the classroom entirely to allow for natural ventilation. A corrugated steel pitched roof is elevated above the school’s walls, creating ventilation spaces and sheltering it from severe rain. The school was built in less than three weeks with the aid of students, teachers, and the surrounding community. Within a year of operation, the school relocated further down south. This helped rebuild the surface suiting to the new location. The basic structure was maintained, yet the school got a new form.
This kind of construction provides a sense of strength to the community which can now move without losing out on their children’s education. Making the structure with their bare hands, and known materials give a sense of togetherness, even in such volatile situations. Such community designs work towards empowerment, safety, and a sense of place within their place of living.