Pune, Maharashtra, India

The Mahindra United World College of India is one the twelve campuses worldwide under the United World College banner, lead by Nelson Mandela and Queen Noor of Jordan at the time of its design in the mid-1990’s.  Patronized by doyens industry, the Mahindra family, the college accommodates about two hundred students from over sixty countries, on an integrated residential campus. It is located in the picturesque Sahyadhri Mountains of the Western Ghats, about one hundred kilometers southeast of Mumbai, on a plateau one hundred meters above the Mula River basin. The campus is an idyllic settlement for youth, promoting mutual respect and understanding of individualities from diverse cultural backgrounds. The buildings are all crated of local stone and exposed concrete, with gently sloping masonry surfaces, terracotta tile roofs and square cutouts in the walls. The structures are a kind of mirror, or reflection, of the mountains surrounding the campus, becoming a miniature model mimicking the jagged contours in the distance.

The concept of the campus plan evolved from that of a mandala. It centers the plan of this diverse, micro cosmos, around an academic quadrangle with passages radiating out from it, offering points of encounter along the way, as well as views towards the valleys in the distance and a series of interconnected, flowing spaces. Using the auspicious North-South axis to intersect the sun’s east-west movement in a plan centered on the academic quadrangle, a system of individual structures is laid out, each having their own character and identity, yet integrated via connecting walls and a strong architectural language of masonry and terracotta tile roofs.

One enters through a grand doorway, the Mahadwara, onto a meandering stone walkway, which moves through the reception area, the Administration Building, into the Academic Quadrangle. Long stone walls direct one’s movements, as if exploring a medieval town. The four corners of the open classroom quadrangle open out to views and different activity areas. On one side is the “campus lawn” toward the west towards the vast landscape of the Mulshi Lake, with its dramatic sunsets. To the east, parallel, sloping walls frame a narrow passage leading to the Catering Center. Likewise, the quadrangle opens to the south, to the multi-purpose Hall through an amphitheater as a strong ‘connecting element’. The element is made an event in itself. Through the devices of a stair and a ramp, the level change vanishes. In its place comes a gathering space for students, which they nicknamed the ‘Spanish steps,’ as if in Rome.

Each student has their own small spatial domain in an individual sleep and study area. Like the traditional courtyard houses of the region, or wadas, eight students manage a small cottage surrounding an intimate courtyard, which is the social and spatial focus of each house. Just as traditional villages of the area are divided into hamlets, or wadis, so are the student cottages and faculty cottages, mixed together t form four hamlets. These residential hamlets cluster around the Student Center and swimming pool. This network of crossing paths integrates the entire college into a hierarchy of social spaces. These residential areas are linked with amenities for the entire campus, including a Student Center, a swimming pool, a Medical Center, a landscaped promenade, Studio for graphics, music, as well as for dance and drama. These are flowing spaces, interconnected to one another through walkways and gardens.

The external gardens, passages, courts, ramps, and quadrangles all serve to integrate interior and exterior spaces. Each classroom of the Academic Quadrangle has its own private garden court wherein the learning process can spill out-of- doors. In the Library and in the Administration Building entrance porches and the glass atrium connect the exterior into the interior. In the Science Center and in the Academic Quadrangle, courtyards are used with covered passages around them. Several murals cast in the form finish concrete appear on ceilings and walls, denoting cosmic symbols drawn from nature. While the individual buildings enjoy considerable variety in terms of their generic order, the campus is bound together by a strict system of dimensions, proportions and a materials language. Columns and walls are used as counterpoints, while square windows break the solidity of heavy masonry. Derived from the vernacular, waterspouts, ottas, ponds and steps, engage the eye and catalyze movement on visual planes.

Set in the foreground of vast rugged, mountains, the building angles and geometry mimic the imagery of distant landscapes, and appear in the same scale due to the sizing impact of perspective; making the near large and the distant small; making the campus appear to be in the same scale as the vast landscape. These techniques of borrowing landscapes and of creating kinetic experiences through articulate choreography of movement are unique aspects of this campus in the mountains.


LocationPune, Maharashtra, India

Built Up Area19,973 Square Meters

Site Area120 Acres



Mahindra United World College of India

Prime Contractor

C.E. Godse and Associates, Pune.


Structural Design : C.E. Godse and Associates, Pune.

Landscape Design : Ravi & Varsha Gavandi Landscape Architects, Pune


Ramprasad Akkisetti and Deepak Kaw

Design Team

Prof. Christopher Benninger, Madhav Joshi, Rahul Sathe, Aparna Sharma, Santhosh M.P, Anurag Bansal, Manisha Boradkar, Debashish Mitra, Sandeep Karkhanis, Khushru Irani, Pramod Potdar, Krishna Kakad, Kulin Kapadia, Deval Gandhi, Vivek Dhamnaskar and Amit Oberoi


1998 Inside-Outside Designer of the Year Awards

1999   J.K. Cement-Architect of the Year Awards

Commendation Award for Public Building

2000  Journal of the Indian Institute of Architects

Anchor Award for Public Building Category

2000       The Business Week

Architectural Record Awards of AIA, USA

2001   The Aga Khan Award for Architecture Geneva, Switzerland

Finalist for, 8th Cycle

2002   The World Architecture Awards, Berlin