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“I wanted to create a building about light and community — a structure that resonates with the soul of its people and enforces the natural energies to nurture and heal the women and girls,” Diana Kellogg says. The New York architect has done just that with the Rajkumari Ratnavati Girls School, a resplendent haven in a region of India where female literacy is barely above 30 per cent. The pro bono project serves 400 girls from below the poverty line within an oval form that references femininity and infinity — and the dunes of its desert home.

The school is made of regionally available stone — Dabri veneer and Jodhpur — and was built with the help of its future students’ parents. Local craft and tradition informed its main features, including a parapet wall that reinvents the jali screen (a privacy device for women) and circulates air while keeping out sand and direct sunlight. The building’s orientation also helps mitigate intense solar gain while maximizing prevailing wind.

And to harness that solar energy in one of the hottest places on Earth, a PV array is installed on the roof — which will eventually accommodate a jungle gym with seesaws, swings and monkey bars. Kellogg has, in effect, perfectly balanced needs and wants: comfort with performance, play with grace.

“A pure expression of its function, this school works as a protection for the students and, by being beautifully integrated into the landscape, offers an adapted climatic environment.”
Gilles Saucier, AZ Awards 2021 Juror

The first in a planned trio of buildings, the school will form part of the GYAAN Center, which is aimed at helping women achieve economic independence and will include a collaborative studio where women will teach women time-honoured weaving and embroidery techniques. The entire project is a gift that keeps giving.

Team Diana Kellogg with Basia Kuziemski (Diana Kellogg Architects); Surya Kumar and Arya Nair (associate architects); Kareem Khan (general contractor); Nat Oppenheimer and Carolyn Bai (Silman); Pankaj Kumar Rastogi and Amit Kumar Sinha (Genus Innovations)

Winner: Buildings Under 1,000SqM
People’s Choice: Buildings Under 1,000SqM
People’s Choice: Social Good
AZ Awards 2021 Winner: Rajkumari Ratnavati Girls School

Built entirely out of Jaisalmer sandstone by community craftspeople, the school’s elliptical design — a reference to both sand dunes and the infinite power of feminine strength — nods to local vernacular with its sun-blocking jali screens.

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