Hyderabad is one of the fastest growing cities in India. The old city is space stagnant and the development is rapidly moving towards and happening around the new city, which has the space to absorb it. The soaring land prices around here are a direct result of this. The site is located in a relatively new, but dense layout right in the heart of the new development fast engulfing the city. It is enveloped by an existing residential tower and a soon to be built tower on the south and east. The north and west are flanked by roads which are the only breathable facades. Poorly thought out planning laws make this layout a cluster of close proximity buildings with the only relief facing the road. Typical area hungry builders’ plans dominate the surrounding built environment; with unusable balconies (often turning into utility storage areas) looking into each other with no privacy or view.
The clients are a family of three generations (and a probable fourth in the near future) moving to this new part of the city. The land parcels available here would mean they would have to depart from the spacious, horizontal lifestyle they were so used to before, and move into a more vertical settlement. The program was essentially two duplexes, stacked over a stilt parking floor, with the lower one occupied by the older part of the family and the one on top by the young couple and their future born. Like most families in India, they are very closely knit. They work, eat and live together; often having visits from other extended family members.
Vertical settlement and social isolation
In various avenues of the urban scenario, a high rise can be very notorious and have unpleasant outcomes. There is a palpable absence of sense of community amidst dwellers of tall buildings. Numerous studies have been made relating to evaluation of social effects of high rise buildings. One such study demonstrates that social withdrawal stems from irregular and dissipated interaction within the high rise environment. This feature is almost embedded in the nature of a vertical arrangement of dwelling as there is no interaction or mingling between people sharing the same space. It’s not that social spaces are completely absent in high rises; there is a stark lack of: effective social spaces, accidental meetings between users and spatial adaptability of fixed spaces.
It was decided at a very early stage that the primary outcome of any concept should overcome the drawbacks of a vertical settlement and keep the social interaction between members of the family alive. The form generated is a direct consequence of this, the context and the brief.
The service areas are pushed to the back of the building with minimum set back, creating room toward the breathable faces of north and west. Double height chunks are then removed from the façade of the building to create large, open courtyards that every level of the building opens onto. All the living spaces directly or indirectly open onto these courtyards. Almost all the openings to any room never open onto the roadside façade directly. The ones that do, have been fit with an external perforated metal mesh, making them visually private from the outside; while creating transparent views from the inside. Large sliding/folding glass doors conveniently placed in living areas make sure the courts are easily accessible. These are kept flexible in nature; mostly empty, except for a planter and an occasional bench. Privacy here is achieved through punctured walls and louvered metal screens, making them a buffer between the living spaces and the cluttered outside.
The nature of these courts is flexible enough to absorb all sorts of activity on any level: large gathering of extended family members, impromptu parties or just a summer siesta. The intangible nature of these courts; the accidental or incidental interactions between members of the family; keep the amalgamated feeling of a home alive, compared to the disconnected withdraw of an apartment. Through these spaces, one can walk out on to the balcony; converse with a family member reading paper, all the while taking in the aromas of food being prepared in the kitchen below. Large projections into these courts act as spaces for yoga, waiting, prayer or dining; depending on the level.
The duplexes are open within themselves through large cutouts inside. These double height volumes host the internal staircases within each flat. The bedrooms at the back are given large sliding shutters, instead of regular doors, so the courts can be experienced better. Poly urethane based concrete floor flows through these large openings seamlessly from one room to another. The construction process is kept simple and the material palette is honest: an unostentatious dominant white, which swells the space up more than it actually is. Flashes of turmeric yellow and earthy orange break this monotony, creating contrast and visual depth, at required places of interest.
In a surrounding environment of stacked clone construction, this garnered a lot of attention from builders and public alike; mostly due to its stark nature on the outside and with the surprise amount of open space once inside. It could also be due to the fact that it is achieved within the same cost that makes up its surrounding neighbors. Hopefully this could demonstrate at a local level, how simple planning principles and a focus on necessity of open spaces could change the high rise canvas of the city.
Location: Hyderabad, Telangana
Design team: Baba Sashank, Vindhya Guduru, Anusha Dasari
Site area: 3600 sqft
Project area: 10390 sqft
Civil contractors: ECMAS
Structural Engineer: Raghavendra (ALONUM Design)
Initiation of Project: July 2016
Completion of project: July 2018
Photographs: Monika Sathe Photography