Tanzania Travails: Chole 4 Apartments by SPASM Design Architects
Under the creative dual leadership of Sanjeev Panjabi (SP) and Sangeeta Merchant (SM).SPASM Design Architects based in Mumbai has quietly worked at building up a substantial portfolio of notable and wide ranging projects across two continents. Having projects in India as well as East African Tanzania, their designs are rather marked by a direct freshness in approach and simplicity in execution. Their self-professed chaotic working style throws up some spectacularly clear design solutions, which are presented in, what appears to be, a ‘no frills’ package, where the design finds its aesthetic and functional fulfilment within itself, independent of added finishes and furnishings. Be it a weekend home like Khopoli House (featured earlier in this section) or Khadakvasla House, a Hotel X, a Muhando Street Office or a Chole 4 Apartment building, across all types of buildings SPASM works with the same honest commitment to pure design, optimising its ingredients like relevance, technology, budgets and locale. We take a look here at an apartment building completed in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania by the name Chole 4 which exemplifies all the above mentioned virtues of a design by SPASM.
The programme for Chole 4 was simply a cluster of 12 three bedroom rentable homes of apartment and duplex typologies in a residential district in hot and humid Dar-es-Salaam. The challenge, to begin with, was a restrained site. The value addition proposed was to introduce as many outdoor and community spaces as was possible in a multi storeyed building, to create breezeways and opportunities for neighbourly interactions. With all the talk and concern about the need for outdoor greens and common spaces requiring introduction at higher levels in tall buildings to replace the absence of access to grounds at those levels, SPASM’s Chole 4 could be considered an early and successful experiment.
The homes were placed in two elongated 7 storeys high apartment blocks, fitting snugly on the site, one a block of duplexes and the other one of single storey houses. Placing the lift and stairs at the approximate centre of the longer sides gives a central entry point into each home. Having rooms placed in a line along the longer orientation allows each room to have maximum openings and even terraces.
These two primarily independent apartment blocks are then connected to each other by decks bridging the gap between them at alternate floors. This creates two floors high common open spaces between the neighbours, which are also shaded breezeways providing outdoor relief from the heat and humidity. The timber decking of these common terraces lends an added “outdoorsyness” to them.
Down below these decks, on the ground between the two buildings is placed the elongated swimming pool at entry level, acting as a coolant for the breeze blowing over it as well as another common outdoor amenity between the neighbours. The Gym at terrace level completes the provision of common amenities and spaces between the neighbours.
The inward walls of the two blocks which flank the common decks and pool were envisaged as green walls with creepers growing over them, to serve as a vertical garden around the common areas, making up for the lack of greens. As seen on the initial sketch, this green wall having a slight curvature to create a tunnel effect for the breeze to blow through and provide fresh, oxygenated air at all levels looks like such a wonderfully simple design solution.
The scheme has been visualised with a green entry point with a welcoming pool as one of the first sights. The homes enjoy total privacy, independence as well as breezy views on account of their orientation, while also getting connected to neighbours at the deck and pool levels where they can chat over beer or simply relax in company.
The most striking facet about Chole 4 is its simplicity. The complete fulfilment of all that is required from the design is achieved by the concept itself, totally obviating any need for added detailing or finishing. Like the perfect gift which, because it is so self containingly wonderful, neither requires nor should be concealed behind layers of wrapping, a design by SPASM seems to render any finishes and frills futile by virtue of its conceptual fulfilment.