by Sunena V MajuAug 06, 2022
Half a kilometre from Le Corbusier’s Centre in Chandigarh, India, a house draws inspiration from the late Swiss-French architect’s ideals of what a space should imbibe, nurture, and look like.
Local studio Charged Voids, led by Aman Aggarwal, has designed House 1065 as a symbol of criticism in response to the city’s degrading urbanscape, which according to the architect has gone for a toss in the last many years.
“The best part about Chandigarh is that it's a beautifully planned city. However, people today are trying to build huge villas in the name of modern architecture, and the result often ends up looking like automobile showrooms,” he says.
“You know what they say, that architecture should not be always be a mirror of its time, sometimes it can be a criticism of the times one is living in. This home is something like that for me. It’s a reinterpretation of what Corbusier would have done now,” adds Aggarwal.
Located in Sector 27, which is part of the first phase of the city, and often referred to as Corbusian Chandigarh, the house is designed for a couple, their parents, and two children.
“Le Corbusier used to say that architecture should have a spiritual root and that the interior spaces should put you in a sense of calm. The house is all about that. The interiors are all about the essence, and the envelope is about the vocabulary,” muses Aggarwal.
The studio has taken references from the modernist architect’s style, be it in terms of materiality, form, or spirit. An expansive, curved concrete roof (emulating form of the nearby Assembly designed by Le Corbusier), sun breakers, and an unhindered open plan are a few highlights of the architecture.
The two-storey house merges eastern spatial planning with western aesthetics. Courtyards and gardens overlap with the interiors and help penetrate nature into the built fabric.
The ground floor includes a lounge, dining, kitchen, a master bedroom for the elderly, and a double-height tower that has been designed as a prayer room. Geometric glazed openings cut into the white walls of the tower which is visible from the entrance, filter daylight into its curved volume.
The upper floor has three bedrooms, two for children and one guestroom, each opening onto deep verandas on the outside.
The transition from public to private spaces is choreographed via cross axes traversing the plan: a vertical axis defines the central circulation and a horizontal one unfolds layers of vision through the house.
Glass curtain walls create a transparent enclosure for the lounge, and the dining area on the ground floor; sliding doors further open these spaces to the interior courtyards.
The core materiality of the house is cast-in-situ exposed concrete, a material pioneered by Le Corbusier and used in many of his buildings including the Capitol Complex, the Secretariat, and the Palace of Assembly in Chandigarh.
As per Charged Voids, it came as a surprise that a city such as Chandigarh, which is born out of cast-in-situ concrete, doesn’t have people anymore who can build with the same technique.
“People are so used to doing stone-clad or plaster that they have forgotten to do exposed concrete or exposed brick. It’s ironic that when I was working on this project, I had to get people from Delhi to get it done,” recollects Aggarwal.
“One of the reasons why,” he adds, “it took us three-and-a-half years to finish the project”.
On being asked the biggest challenge he faced on the journey of this project, the Chandigarh-born architect concludes with a smile: “There is always a resistance to the new”.