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The Hanifl Centre for Outdoor Education

Neeraj Manchanda

2016

A panorama of nature that captures the imagination.

A sky dome that is held down by peaks of the Himalayas.

A winterline that creates a new horizon.

A vertical landscape that is covered by clouds for sometime each year.

Together these comprise both the wonderful setting and the subject of study for the Hanifl Center for Outdoor Education.

Woodstock School’s 250-acre reserve forest campus in Mussoorie, in the Lower Himalayas, is a unique and beautiful setting that has shaped and inspired students from around the world for more than 150 years.

As part of its objective to help the school’s extended community experience and understand this rich yet vulnerable environment, the school has run a well structured outdoor education programme. The brief for the Hanifl Center was for a facility that could become the home for this outdoor education programme, allowing future generations to discover, value and help conserve fragile ecosystems of this region of the youngest mountains of the world.

The nature of the Center’s activities requires it to be an adaptive resource, allowing it to become learning space, base-camp, seminar and conference centre or a location for workshops and interactive learning. Supporting such a programme makes it imperative for the Center to offer student and staff accommodation in addition to providing primary resource areas.

Through its design that promotes natural day lighting, water conservation and the use of passive solar techniques for thermal comfort and water heating, the Center enables users to not only learn in it but from it.

Woodstock School took over ‘Ashton Court’ some years after 1991 earthquake in the Garhwal Himalayas, with its two buildings and a small outhouse having suffered enough damage for them to need not just repair but complete reconstruction.

In order to gain maximum advantage of natural heat from the sun most key resource spaces of the Center, including student and staff accommodation, look south. Solaria in the main building and the trombe wall in the students’ rooms in the annexe, working in conjunction with an insulated north perimeter in both buildings help gain heat from the sun and make internal temperatures more comfortable for occupants. The two key spaces of the main building, the conference room at the upper level and the dining the dining area beneath have solaria directly against them on the south. The sun’s energy is also used by the solar hot water systems mounted on the roof of the residential building to bring down the overall power consumption.

The Center’s focus on maximizing the day lighting is reflected in the location and size of windows, and translucent false ceilings. Together, they bring natural light to internal spaces, including those located on the north against the mountainside. The main conference area and all the learning resources rooms benefit from this natural light, taking away the need for artificial lighting during fair-weather days.

The importance of harvesting rainwater in locations such as Mussoorie cannot be overstated. Unlike the plains where the ground water recharge is the preferred strategy, hilly terrains require a different approach. Rainwater from the Center’s roof travels to an online filtration treatment system, from where it is pumped into the central water reservoir of Woodstock School.

As one of the last properties on the Tehri Road as one drives out of Mussoorie, the Hanifl Center is the significant punctuation point, rooted to an older footprint, designed to address concerns of the present, equipping those who study herewith sensibilities that can help protect our future.