A concrete oasis in a concrete desert: The House in 1970 by Architects Collaborative

Designed amidst a high-density urban settlement in New Delhi, the residential project seeks to tweak the widely adapted plotted style of residences in the Indian capital.

by Anmol AhujaPublished on : Dec 05, 2020

Nestled among similar size plotted residences in a tightly packed urban sprawl, the House in 1970 clearly seeks to reminisce through its being, a bygone time, as the very name suggests. Through a number of conscious choices by the young duo of architects from Architects Collaborative, this residence built on a 100 sqm plot of land aims at a relative timelessness by conforming to an aesthetic that today’s borrowed sensibility would consider dated. Through defying its context and attempting to create its own, akin to an oasis, it creates not just a visual relief from the unyielding concrete cuboids that characterise New Delhi’s horizon, but also a needed break in the etheric chaotic and unplanned development of its vicinity.

  • The residence sits in a dense urban settlement in Delhi | The House in 1970 | Architects Collaborative | STIRworld
    The residence sits in a dense urban settlement in Delhi Image: Vibhor Yadav
  • House in 1970’s open long side offers possibility for an open facade | The House in 1970 | Architects Collaborative | STIRworld
    House in 1970’s open long side offers possibility for an open facade Image: Vibhor Yadav

Responding to a simple brief of two 3 BHK duplex setups for two kindred families, the project and its design faced certain unsaid challenges from the small plot size and the unremarkable, cloned architecture of its surroundings. The designers coalesce this with their learnings from a comprehensive study of the site and its context’s case, leading them to conclude that the genericity was a result of modest budgets and an outlook that considered good design or architecture a luxury instead of a necessity. Attempting to immediately shun that outlook then inherently became a part of the brief that the architects worked with.

  • The living space lined with timely, curated furniture pieces | The House in 1970 | Architects Collaborative | STIRworld
    The living space lined with timely, curated furniture pieces Image: Vibhor Yadav
  • A folded steel staircase provides access to the other level of the duplex through the courtyard | The House in 1970 | Architects Collaborative | STIRworld
    A folded steel staircase provides access to the other level of the duplex through the courtyard Image: Vibhor Yadav
  • The passageway on the upper floors looks over the courtyard | The House in 1970 | Architects Collaborative | STIRworld
    The passageway on the upper floors looks over the courtyard Image: Vibhor Yadav

One of the major advantages that the rectangular site offered was an open ‘length’, from where the plot faced a 10m wide street, allowing greater flexibility with the layout and the possibility of inducting more natural light and ventilation into the interior spaces. As a result, the entire façade along the nearly entirely covered plot’s longer side was decided to be a porous skin from the initial stages of the design, with the architects stating brick to be an imperative material to achieve that. Interestingly, in the wider context of Indian homes, internal privacy from the vicinity where large yards or gardens aren’t an easy affordance to come by is an extremely essential quality in any home. The internal planning thus improvises the layout to introduce a central court like space punctuated with greens in the middle, while the bedrooms and private spaces bordered the other two shorter, open ends of the plot. Taking obvious inspiration from the Indian brick jaali, the singularly detailed façade works with the spacing between the bricks peaking towards the middle, while gradually reducing almost to an opaque towards the end, in what may be perceived as a strict algorithmic sequence that the architects achieved in collaboration with skilled local masons. Dynamism or motion is the second layer of detail added to the alternating brick courses to form a weave like façade.

  • The triangular coffered ceiling is a distinct visual standout | The House in 1970 | Architects Collaborative | STIRworld
    The triangular coffered ceiling is a distinct visual standout Image: Vibhor Yadav
  • A breakout space for conversation on the upper level | The House in 1970 | Architects Collaborative | STIRworld
    A breakout space for conversation on the upper level Image: Vibhor Yadav
  • Top view of the courtyard space, meant as a focal point for the house | The House in 1970 | Architects Collaborative | STIRworld
    Top view of the courtyard space, meant as a focal point for the house Image: Vibhor Yadav

The other dominant material that shapes the overall scheme, concept and material choices for the House in 1970 is concrete, used in its ornate, exposed form. The raw formwork was created keeping in mind that the finish achieved would be the final iteration, and the straight, austere concrete lines of the residence in nearly all internal spaces bear timely testament to that. The standout here is a triangular coffer roof capping the courtyard, allowing an interstitial light through the black bodied fixtures placed in each of the triangular volumes to permeate the space below. As an aesthetic detail, this coffer breaks the orthogonal linearity ingrained in the space, boldly. Bespoke, conversation worthy furniture in natural wood and a muted upholstery outlines nearly every spatial break in the house, while terrazzo proves to be a final closed link along with other material choices that dates the building to an older time, while at the same time lending that timeless aesthetic it thrived for. The terrazzo flooring playfully reminisces a fond childhood memory for nearly every one of us, while the bathrooms cloaked in black terrazzo is a stunning variation of this classic material.

  • The bedrooms are characterised by natural wood furniture and muted upholstery | The House in 1970 | Architects Collaborative | STIRworld
    The bedrooms are characterised by natural wood furniture and muted upholstery Image: Vibhor Yadav
  • Black terrazzo in the bathrooms is a bold touch | The House in 1970 | Architects Collaborative | STIRworld
    Black terrazzo in the bathrooms is a bold touch Image: Vibhor Yadav
  • Terrazzo flooring outlines all the internal spaces of the home, including the bedrooms | The House in 1970 | Architects Collaborative | STIRworld
    Terrazzo flooring outlines all the internal spaces of the home, including the bedrooms Image: Vibhor Yadav
  • The gaps in masonry in the porous façade are maximum at the ends of the house, where the bedrooms are located | The House in 1970 | Architects Collaborative | STIRworld
    The gaps in masonry in the porous façade are maximum at the ends of the house, where the bedrooms are located Image: Vibhor Yadav

“At its conclusion, the project is an attempt at introducing architecture in a context and outlook intimidated by it, an admiration to the luxury afforded by the character of spaces. It is a homage to the naked materials, and their timelessness,” states Madhav Maini, one half of the founding duo behind the young Delhi-based practice Architects Collaborative, along with Abhishek Saxena. In a time when rapidly replicable floor plans with an increasingly daft, almost foreign material palette invade the sensibilities of the “traditional Indian home”, the House in 1970 finds meaning by going back in time.

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