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Year 60, And Counting – Paving the Road for MIT’s Latest Architecture

Sixty years is a long time. Sixty years ago, our government failed to educate its citizens. India had a literacy rate of 18%, contrasting the current 74%. Contemplating the 1950s, most slip into torpor. Lodged between the exhilarating but tragic ’40s and later decades of shimmering aspiration, the ’50s seem almost a black & white newsreel.

For the 1950s, as lived, were precarious times: years in which solutions to crises – political, economic, and international – had to be invented on the fly. Such was the socio-political climate of India when Dr. TMA Pai laid the foundation for what was then known as Manipal Engineering College (MEC). Our college had humble beginnings. For the first few months in 1957, classes were held in the Kasturba Medical College campus. It was only until the end of that year that we had a campus to hold classes in.

Evidently, times have changed – and so has our campus. In 2007, MIT’s Golden Jubilee celebrations heralded the construction of our Innovation Center (IC). Over the last decade, it has served many fine engineers by incubating their projects. Our institution has grown by leaps and bounds since the foundation stone, and the Diamond Jubilee Year is an excellent time to reflect on the sea-change that has been MIT.

It’s been sixty years – and the college never stops counting the years ahead. Our entire landscape is poised to develop – be it the standard of academics, the culture of extra-curricular activity, or even the road to class every morning. The familiar walk from the Food Court to the classroom will be very different by the end of next year. You may well find yourself walking through the Student Plaza, and right alongside students hard at work in the TechShop’s project bays. The road to class may not even be just a road anymore – if you choose to walk on the bituminous race track Shell Oil Company is working on behind the IC.

Student Plaza

Courtesy: Sundaram Architects Pvt Ltd

At a Glance:
Expected Completion Date – August 2018
Contains – Amphitheatre, Shops/Convenience Stores (vegetable and fruit vendors, a tailor’s shop, a stationery stall with photocopying facilities, a florist’s stall, a unisex saloon, a boutique for ladies), Recreation Spots (ice cream parlour, a restaurant, and a coffee house), ATM vestibules

While most of Ancient Rome and Machiavellian Italy considered its ‘Plazas’ or ‘Piazzas’ to be the epicenter of its cultural community, it also sometimes served as a public space to bring conspirators and thieves to justice by way of the executioner’s hand. Although it is unlikely that MIT’s Plaza will fulfill all the purposes of a traditional town-square, it does fully intend to obey a Plaza’s most important feature – being central to the lives of the townsfolk.

Set to be at the hearth of MIT’s thriving social life, this 26,000 square feet complex has aspirations beyond its mere novelty. Aside from reinforcing an already wide ranging, world-class infrastructure, the Plaza hopes to play host to the numerous cultural activities (such as street plays or music performances) of the student populace with its amphitheater. This could serve as the hub for most Revels and Pre-Revels events.

Courtesy: Sundaram Architects Pvt Ltd

However, even as Public-Space archetypes are commonly known for their exhibitionist aspects, they are specially valued for their intimate design, that is to say, the existence of private spaces within public ones. This is seen in the numerous shops and businesses that will occupy the Plaza. They include vegetable and fruit vendors, a tailor’s shop, a stationery stall with photocopying facilities, a florist’s stall, a unisex saloon, and a boutique for ladies; not to mention the two ATM vestibules.

Apart from being a one-stop shopping center for any student’s essentials, it will also offer recreational spots for its visitors in the form of an ice cream parlour, a restaurant, and a coffee house. The structure will be segregated into two floors with a fountain in the center. Initial estimates put the project completion time at eighteen months, starting from February this year.

Courtesy: Sundaram Architects Pvt Ltd

The original renderings of the Plaza indicate massive pillars, multiple archways, tinted glass paneling, and effervescent greenery. Though the project boasts of a seven crore investment, its true spatial value will be realized when it teems with students. After all, this Plaza too – not unlike its more ancient counter-parts – stands to become a potent symbol of self-identity.

MIT Tech Shop

At a Glance:
Expected Completion Date – November 2018
Contains – Project Bays, Centralized Facility for Testing, Autodesk Center (Design and CAD Lab), Seminar Hall, Student Activity Center, Student Council Room, Classrooms for Discussion, Basketball Courts

For years, MIT has promoted student activity. The students have, in return, made inroads in national and global competitions. However, times are changing. Industry requirements for engineers have multiplied – with increasingly more companies looking for employees with hands-on experience in the field. There is a growing need for “experiential learning”. To fulfill this need, the college plans on having a single facility dedicated to all student activity – the MIT TechShop.

The TechShop boasts an ambitious design and an even more ambitious purpose – to house all extra-curricular activity under one roof. This will undoubtedly have a major effect on student life. MIT has big plans in store for this all-in-one megastructure. For starters, it will be located just across the road from 13th Block (Girls Hostel).

Proposed Site Map (Courtesy: Sundaram Architects Pvt Ltd)

The current plan suggests that this building will have five floors, with two basketball courts and a viewing gallery flanking the structure.

The Ground Floor will have eighteen Project Bays for Student Projects (including Formula Manipal, Team Manipal Racing, and others). The Bays are being constructed to allow convenient service and repair for the vehicles.

Ground Floor Plan (including Project Bays and Basketball Courts) (Courtesy: Sundaram Architects Pvt Ltd)

The others floors will house multiple classrooms and discussion rooms for student activity. The college’s vision is to shift all extra-curricular activity into one building – with dedicated space for Student Projects, Student Council, and Student Exchange Programs (AIESEC, IAESTE). Student Bodies (like The MIT Post and The Editorial Board) and other clubs may see their offices shifted to the TechShop in the coming few years.

And there’s still more to be done around this structure. To aid students involved in racing projects, MIT has collaborated with Shell Oil Company to construct a bituminous race track. The track will be situated behind the Innovation Center – to be used as traffic thoroughfare during the day and cordoned off for racing at night.

Shell’s Bituminous Race Track for the Bugatti Circuit, Le Mans

MIT KEF R&D Center

At a Glance:
Expected Completion Date – November 2017
Contains – Design studios, Well-equipped casting and testing laboratories for precast joints, beams, and slabs, modelling and simulation laboratories, a conference hall, and a museum.

Out of the many buildings slated for construction in MIT, the KEF R&D Center stands out as an anomaly. Why? Because it won’t be built on site – rather, it will be constructed offsite and transported to campus. This center not only plans on aiding research in construction science – but it’s a construction marvel by itself.

In a move that will work towards providing a cutting edge research & development facility to civil engineering and architecture students, MIT has tied up with KEF Holdings – a Singapore-based multinational holding company that specializes in innovative offsite construction technology – to set up a state of the art R&D Center.

Mr. Faizal E. Kottikollon laying the foundation for MIT KEF R&D Center in November 2015

This is with support from one of MIT’s distinguished alumni, Mr Faizal Kottikollon. The R&D Center will provide budding engineers with practical know-how about offsite construction and aims to enrich the research and academic curriculum.

“Having graduated in Civil Engineering from MIT and also my MBA from TAPMI, I have deep regard for the institution. I have always wanted to make a contribution towards strengthening the R&D facility of my alma mater; I am happy that we as a company could make this a reality”, Mr Faizal said.

The proposed facility will cover about 28,000 square feet – comprising several design studios, well equipped casting and testing laboratories for precast joints, beams, and slabs, modelling and simulation laboratories, a conference hall, and a museum. The knowledge and hands-on experience that the students gather at the MIT KEF R&D Center can be put to good use at the KEF Infra One industrial park in Krishnagiri, Tamil Nadu – as the company plans to hire talent from the university for internships as well as full time roles.

Food Court

Courtesy: Sundaram Architects Pvt Ltd

At a Glance:
Expected Completion Date – August 2017
Contains – Seating for 1056 students, live kitchen counter

The new Food Court will reflect the same purposes served by the existing one. It is located near the Boy’s Hostel Blocks and is being developed to compensate for MIT’s growing student population. However, that should no longer be a problem as current construction plans indicate a 32,270 square feet structure that can seat over 1,000 students at a time.

As far as concept sketches go, the preliminary designs showcase the Food Court in primitive colours with elaborate fixtures that make it all the more contemporary in style. Using a concept known as structural glazing, the building captures an even more transparent appearance and is far from your average mess hall. The interiors too boast of unique features such as the latest in kitchen design, centralized air-conditioning, and a live kitchen counter as well. Consisting of two floors, the Food Court will be operational as soon as this August.

New Ladies’ Hostel (Block 22)

At a Glance:
Expected Completion Date – November 2017
Contains – 238 rooms with double occupancy, all air-conditioned.

The New Ladies Hostel is located quite near the Student Plaza, and is expected to be complete this year. We spoke to the architects hard at work, and they offered to give us a tour of the construction site.

Rendering of a room in Block 22

The new rooms are slated to look like the rendering above. Apart from providing double occupancy and air-conditioning, each room also comes with vinyl artwork on the wall. Our tour of the room in construction gave us photos quite similar to this rendering.

Actual Photo taken on site