India House
India House is a modest, multi-functional complex accommodating architectural studios, an art gallery, and an architect’s residence. About fifty people live and work there. It is located in Pune, India a metropolitan city of over five million people, on an urban site of 1100SM. It faces directly onto a busy arterial road, in an emerging neighborhood. The Wada and the Bungalow India House draws its inspiration from the traditional Indian mixed use, courtyard house, locally known as a “wada” that evolved in Pune from the 16th century onwards. In other regions of India these dwellings are known as havelis or mahals. In colonial India the rulers imposed the order of “the white town” with bungalows ruling over a segregated “native town” with wadas. After Indian Independence the bungalow style persisted, at great cost to urban infrastructure, as the preferred prototype for the new elite, aping the habits of their erstwhile foreign rulers. Most iconic “modern” Indian houses, showcased in the west as “contemporary Indian homes,” are in fact manifestations of this inappropriate, alien prototype! India House is a counterblast to the alien, mono-functional, stand alone “bungalow” that requires a large garden plot, set-backs and driveways. The colonial “bungalow style” first took its roots in the military cantonments of Poona in the early nineteenth century and spread outwards into the subdued nation, following railway lines that first left Victoria Station in Mumbai heading up the mountains to Pune and then fanning out over the vast Indian plateau, from where raw materials were harvested. In many ways “the bungalow” symbolizes an imposed fissure onto a once convivial Indian tradition, breaking the city into a structure based upon class and income. In pre-colonial Pune various castes and occupations lived within the same wards, or peths, in the ancient city. Long after the alien rulers left with their administrators and armies, their culture of spoons, forks and bungalows survived as symbols of a new westernized ruling class, in a divided city and fractured society! Exploring the Wada Prototype This contemporary wada employs an arrival promenade that acts as a “street buffer.” It follows lotus pools up to an entrance portal with an ancient wooden door, proceeding on into the courtyard that acts as a connector between living and working areas. Conceptually the scheme is composed of three equal sized volumes (ten meters wide, by ten meters high, by fifteen and half meters long) with the middle volume left open as the atrium courtyard. Large, pivoting, recycled teakwood doors welcome visitors into the residential chambers or into the studios/gallery on opposite sides. This central courtyard, is the focus of meetings, classical dance, lectures and parties. The art gallery is in the basement level and spreads out under the entire building, as in the traditional underground storage kotas. Glass topped ottas, or seating blocks, in the courtyard bring natural light and ventilation into the basement. Ottas are traditional outdoor seating found in village squares, wada courtyards and under trees. Thus, India House takes two steps backward to move five steps forward, bringing ancient wisdom into future scenarios. This design philosophy, and related strategies, persists through the design and the resulting artifact. Micro-Climate and Response Pune, at 600 meters above sea level, has a balmy winter, a hot summer and a substantial monsoon. The hot season from late February to early June is the most severe, yet with very pleasant evenings and nights. The building envelope responds to this conundrum in a variety of ways. The courtyard, or chowk, is open on the east and west admitting sunlight auspiciously in the morning hours, gifting shade from mid-morning till evening, when again collecting the setting sun. The protective walls insulate the eastern, southern and western facades. Sandstone clad walls envelop the structure having no fenestration on the roadside, with the remaining sides of simple walls, modulated with square tinted glass windows, facing an unknown future of commercial neighbors. The road facing sandstone facade is embossed with 78 stone carved emblems of all beliefs, communities and religions of India. This rather staid exterior is counter pointed by sliding glass panels, opening inward to the open and lively central courtyard. These interior windows are protected from glare and heat by movable, aluminum louvers. In the cool winters and monsoon these louvers are kept open, while in the summer they are closed in the afternoons. These louvers span over the courtyard ceiling, as in the Chattiar courtyards of South India, gifting shade in the hot seasons and opening to welcome sun on chilly days. This flexible system allows brightness control in the large studio halls where computer screen-glare is a concern and assures privacy in the house just across the courtyard. Individuals can manually adjust these louvers according to need. The roofs are a composite system of isolative tiles and waterproofed jack-arch slabs. The lotus pools in the promenade and the lap pool in the courtyard cool down the meandering breezes that wander through the chowk. Built Form and Spatial Organization A system of composite stone clad brick walls support “jack arches” that vault (north-south) 1.35 meters centre to centre, running parallel to the courtyard. This lends unidirectionality (east-west) for up to five meters along the supporting beams, instilling a modular order to the entire composition. Double height spaces inter-link the studio reception with the lower galleries and in the residence the formal living areas with the library. A vertical open shaft continues from the library foyer on up to the small rooftop penthouse, or brasati, acting as an air evacuation chimney. This strictly modulated interior and exterior is used to generate a variety of single and double level spaces. It becomes the backdrop for a major collection of classical Indian art, composed of bronze and stone statues, embossed stone murals, miniature paintings, Rajput landscapes, thangkas, and brass prayer wheels. The sandstone “portal” frames a seventh century Mogul wood door, setting the “feel” and ambiance for a sacred precinct.


20 photos and 2 drawings

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