An ingenuous amalgamation of two local stones – Cuddapah and Jaisalmer teak – ensures a tantalising combination of shades of grey and sandy brown. The stones used not only elegantly emphasise the cubic volumes of a residence in urban Delhi but also protect it from the fierce climate.
When Amit Khanna Design Associates, Delhi (AKDA) set out to develop a residential space for their highly successful clients, conceptualising a house to serve as a hallmark for eclectic living inside a free-willed structure wasn’t top priority.
The architectural perspectives for Cuboid House were determined by two-fold issues which every Dilliwala is familiar with: firstly, the invasion of developer-driven apartment blocks that have taken over the immediate context of modern Delhi and secondly, the familial need for a home that is functional, fun, optimises space, is adaptable and has a dash of personality. That it should also be fashionably relevant and viable are design principles the AKDA team took as understood.
Knowing they had to create something different yet serviceably aesthetic, the designers discarded the commercialised approach to using up the complete permissible envelope and embellishing peripheral walls with trend factors. As architects of a modern world, the AKDA team, sensitively attuned to the local urban environment we inhabit, appreciates how projects increase in scale and scope as well as the subsequent impact of these in the micro-context. This realisation helps them think of community issues, in addition to clients’ interests.
So began the strategic occupation of all the area permissible by local code and redistribution of the same between the various floor levels created within the plan of the house. This tactic enabled the designers to emphasise the most distinctive visible element of the house – its cubic volumes.
In sharp contrast to the urban condition where 50 feet tall forced facades, punctuated only with unusable three feet balconies and large expanses of inoperable glass with little or no protection from the climate, dominate the majority of apartment structures within the Capital, Cuboid House stands tall and creatively distinguishable.
Its deep recesses (for windows) and large overhangs work well together to temper the scorching heat of Indian summers while respecting sustainable building traditions that enhance the views from within.
As the principal architect explains, “In traditional architecture, a jaali screen made of stone featured elaborate cut-outs, and as a result could offer shade from the harsh midday sun as well as allow in a filtered breeze to cool the skins of those inside. We have used aluminium in a horizontal screen, which is more stable as it doesn’t deteriorate, and is economical. It also goes with the theme of the house, where everything is geometric and straight.”
A near regimented sense of scrutiny to process and exactitude, dedication to charting a course based on suitable materiality, inventiveness and environmental awareness, irrespective of appearance and the scale of the project exemplifies the driving force at AKDA.
Combining the above virtues with a sense of purpose and client awareness the team notched up top marks for participatory development in design evolution. An unwavering faith in their design abilities gave the AKDA team the impetus it needed to meet the two challenges of the project: the problem of ensuring sufficient light while giving residents enjoyable views and that of restricting heat.
The solution? Setting every room in from exterior walls by 2.5 to 5 feet to ensure no direct sunlight would fall on the glass, thus, reducing the ambient heat and minimising load on the air conditioning.Additionally, they planned lower service floors to extend to the perimeter to deliver a larger ground floor area, which, in turn, maximised the parking space available at road level.
However, the highlight of Cuboid House remains the remarkable approach to demarcating levels: instead of stacking upper plans above each other, the building is designed so that it steps away dramatically as it rises, giving way to a series of decks that open up to views on the north-east.
The AKDA team incorporated anunusual, indigenous Indian stone for the exterior cladding. Thus, the big fat ‘No’ to phoren Italian stone, and obviously workable ‘Yes!’ to good ole Cuddapah from Central India.
Thus bedecked to affirm elementary yet precise rules of spatial sequences structured around minimal architectural events, the design strength of Cuboid House lies in its imperceptible variation of light and shadow across a series of decks – an experience beyond mere envisioning.
Text By Deepanjolie Sonya Figg,
Photographs by Akshat Jain and Amit Khanna