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Modern School Vasant Vihar, New Delhi, India

Location: Vasant Vihar, New Delhi, India
Year built: 1989
Architect: Jasbir Sachdev

Showcasing the humble red brick at its best, Modern School Vasant Vihar in New Delhi is an amazing example of how the theories of Le Corbusier and similar modernist architects can inspire timeless structures. Designed by Jasbir Sachdev, a distinguished architect who worked with Corbusier on masterplanning the city of Chandigarh, the school was built in multiple phases between 1974 and 1989 in Delhi’s then little known suburb of Vasant Vihar.

The suburb was picked for the second campus of the original Modern School in Barakhamba Road (the first private school in India located in Delhi’s Lutyen’s Zone) due to the availability of large parcels of land at highly concessional rates by the government. Ironically, the suburb today is one of the costliest parts of the city, and the school’s brick and exposed concrete structures make it stand apart – particularly from the overly decorative architecture more apparent in the area.

The buildings use a classic tone of red in the bricks, with exposed concrete ramps and staircases giving it a cool brutalist vibe. Landscaped courtyards break up the built forms, with the design paying particular attention to the ingress of natural light and ventilation. There’s no mechanical air-conditioning anywhere in the school’s original buildings and aside from the harshest few weeks of the summer, it’s not missed.

Wide corridors between the classrooms help control noise and give the building an airy, spacious vibe. All the windows are recessed, protecting them from the hot sun and monsoon rain. Most are circular, adding a unique touch to the external form.

Modern School Vasant Vihar is arguably Sachdev’s finest work. Despite a staged development timeframe, the finished result is a seamless combination showing tremendous restraint from an architect who clearly knew his stuff.

About Jasbir Sachdev

Jasbir Sachdev worked with Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret and other prominent modernist architects in the 1950s, including working on the masterplanned city of Chandigarh. This gave him the background needed to incorporate post-modern ideas into a holistic design concept that provides a complete building solution. Relying on the honesty of building materials, Sachdev focused on creating a multi-functional buildings that would be able to satisfy the numerous demands of large, diverse public institutions.

MSVV. Four letters that still cause heated debates among parents in Delhi. Despite the kids coming out of this school feeling entitled, its buildings are truly nurturing and text book inspirational. Some of my fondest memories are of lounging in the recessed circular windows with many other like minded procrastinators. They couldn’t possibly have been designed to solely provide refuge from the idiosyncrasies of high school teaching, however are just another example of how thoughtful architecture can positively influence social behaviour. – Raghav Goel

Learn more about Le Corbusier.

Hero: Modern School Vasant Vihar LinkedIn and gallery photos @junovir