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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Revisiting Hi-rise Typology

By Savitha Hira
Photography: Akshat Jain & Amit Khanna; courtesy the architect


Multi-disciplinary design studio, Amit Khanna Design Associates from Delhi work towards breaking away from the typology of apartment blocks in urban Delhi...

Often design begins as a core problem-solver and builds, taking the project beyond its tangible expectations. Very recently we featured sky condos that defy typical planning to evolve an architecture that is non-standard and a programme distribution that is unique. With Cuboid House, an apartment block in Delhi, which is meant to be rented out at the onset before the owners decide to live there themselves, the architect rises up to the challenge of building a strong architectural vocabulary that is independent of the variety of interior treatments that will inevitably make subjective statements out of each floor.

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As we speak to Ar. Amit Khanna, he laments the fact that developer-driven apartment blocks have largely overtaken the architectural vocabulary in urban Delhi, where typically the complete permissible envelope is occupied and the buildings sport differently treated facades in keeping with perceived architectural trends. Our observation underlines this as a phenomenon in urban India. Incidentally, this liberty at being non-contextual and insensitive to a more cohesive human-environment interaction, is fashionably termed ‘individuality’ that tends to permeate through to every realm that touches us; and by hind sight, seems more disturbing than constructive.

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Serious issues these; have led several architects to put on their thinking caps, skew them and emerge with optimum solutions. Cuboid House is one such solution, where the building strategically optimizes all of the area permissible by local code, but redistributes it amongst the various floor levels via a series of open decks that open up to views on the north-east, facilitating an interior-exterior interaction. Additionally, this also creates a kind-of dramatic stepped back elevation as the building rises.

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With a built-up area of 15000 sq. ft., the project attempts to demonstrate how volumes and material usage can augment the life and feel of a structure. Two local stones, one grey (Cudappah), the other sandy brown (Jaisalmer teak), are used to emphasize the cubic volumes that give this house its name and form its most distinctive visible element. Added to this is the strategic monitoring of natural light into what is essentially, a narrow thin building via a 50 ft. tall aluminium facade element that adds to the luminosity of the interior spaces, without totally barricading the housemates from the outside world. 

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Two light wells are placed in the main living space; equipped with operable windows that not only bring light, but also draw out air from the floors and vent from the terrace. Aesthetically too, they engage, lending a suppleness to the project. The deep recesses for the windows and large overhangs temper the fierce climate of Delhi and recall sustainable building traditions, while allowing for views from within. Here is a project that reinstates that change is a matter of positive informed choice and need not be construed as a defiance or renaissance of general mass appeal. 

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3 comments:

  1. The design of this building is a refreshing alternative to a 'block' approach - with innovative solutions to bringing natural light into the building - and providing outside space at the upper levels. It's a very pleasing design for appartment living - and seems to sit well in the surrounding area.

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  2. This is a super article, and raises a very valid point about the "collaboration agreement" trap which most bungalow owners in Delhi fall into. Having been enticed into a zero-investment redevelopment model by a developer, the landowner is then left with little or no say in the extent of exploitation which has to be done (though she/he does exert some influence over exteriors, interiors, building materials and the like). But since the developer has to bear the entire construction cost (and often to pay an upfront premium to the bungalow owner also), in return for which the developer gets one floor of the completed building, the arrangement inevitably ends up in four identical rectangular floors, making an uninspiring and homogenized cube.
    The cuboid house (a name which is more apt to describe the faceless cubes designed by in-house or bespoke architects engaged by the developers) which you've written about is a wonderful departure from the norm, and really refreshing.
    Well done.

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  3. truely refrshing from traditinal block type appartments..

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