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Studios 18: Housing in Rajasthan by Sanjay Puri Architects, Mumbai

Posted by
on May 03, 2016 at 10:40 AM

© Courtesy of Ar. Sanjay Puri, Mumbai; Photography by: Vinesh Gandhi

Glamour or green – most architects go for either of these approaches; that too with a vengeance and in the process lose that transcendent charm that great architecture is wont to possess. Not all green is gorgeous and not all glamour is serendipitous – but what makes architecture special is its responsiveness! When more architects practice responsive architecture vis-à-vis waving those ephemeral trending flags of glamour or green, the profession as a whole will see a paradigm shift.

There is a lot more sensitive and responsible architecture happening in the country today, than say a decade back. But it is when a starchitect’s studio comes out with a rather modest, and highly responsive design solution – that one sits up to take notice. And that’s what happening in a powerful piece of architecture delivered by Ar. Sanjay Puri!

Studios 18 is a housing facility for the staff and guests of a new cement factory in Ras, Rajasthan! Located on an undulating site in the desert, Studios 18 is a part of a layout spread over 36 acres - being developed by the architect’s studio! 

In the Indian desert State of Rajasthan, colour plays an important role in the lives of people. As if to compensate for the miles of arid, sandy terrain they see around them, they wear brightly coloured clothes and chunky jewelry, create wondrously colourful quilts and rugs, make ‘signature’ blue pottery and use myriad colours of ceramic, fabric and wooden artifacts to accessorize their homes! Most cities in the State are identified by a colour too. While Jodhpur is the blue city with traditional homes in hues of blue lime plaster, Jaisalmer is the yellow city for the yellow sandstone amply used in its architecture and Jaipur is the pink city for its pink sandstone architecture! Thus, the colour scheme chosen for buildings built today must respect the regional context in terms of colour too.

And as the sun shines down bright and hot for most part of the year, with   temperatures rising over 35°C, it is also imperative that the architecture of the region is designed to be empathetic to the climate! 

Studios 18 – one of the recent outputs from the studio of Ar. Sanjay Puri, is a housing project, which quite apparently ‘responds’ to the desert terrain and the climate and culture of the place! The contextually designed housing project is sustainable by its design adhering to the existing contours, the buildings’ orientation to reduce heat gain, the facilitation of natural light and ventilation despite cutting off glare, and its low-rise profile. 

The design of the cluster of blocks with a total of 18 studio apartments takes a cue from the organic layouts of the neighbouring villages near the site, with the residential units interspersed within the existing contours along organic streets that weave through the site. Much like old Indian cities, the layout sees the low-rise blocks stepping back and creating interlocked built volumes across three levels.

The circulation spaces connecting the housing blocks are naturally ventilated with an abstract composition of square punctuations on either side facilitating air to move through. The harsh glare of the sun is cut off; yet allowing natural light within the linear corridors, and creating different patterns at different times of the day. 

While landscaping the area around the development, a lot of green spaces have been planned, to provide relief from the sandy outdoors. Thus the corridors become cool, airy and sheltered walkways allowing views of the landscaped spaces on either side while walking through and offering interesting experiences each time. 

The fundamental principle of sustainable design extends to the specific site as well. On the site itself, a 4m level difference is negotiated to maximum benefit – with the building levels stepping down in tandem with the contours. The design program included the construction of 2- and 3-bedroom apartments; for the office personnel and visitors of the cement factory in the vicinity. In response to the hot, arid climate, all apartments are oriented towards the north, north east and northwest with no apartment facing the south.

Each apartment too is cross-ventilated with deep recessed windows and open-to-sky terraces – all significant passive cooling techniques seen in the erstwhile architecture of the region too.

The colour palette used for the housing scheme is probably the most significant part of its visual impact. The deconstructed cubes sport varied hues of the sandy region, of the sky and the earth; at different times of the day – visually differentiating the stepped, recessed volumes as well as identifying circulation spaces. With lighter hues on external walls  to reflect heat off the surfaces, and darker tones indoors to create a cooler feel, they add impact to the highly ‘responsive’ design solution.

It would be equally interesting to see how the whole factory complex shapes up. If this little part of it is anything to go by, indeed the entire development would likely set a new benchmark in Indian architecture! 

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