The Off Grid House is designed to establish an architecture that is capable of its own identity and simultaneously, it harmonises with the immediate environment. Located within a sought-after, yet dense neighbourhood in Central Delhi, the primary design challenge was to determine whether simple and honest architectural principles can develop a higher quality of life within a mundane assortment of stacked family dwellings. The client, a young developer, came to us with a simple brief–a conventional multi-family house on a small rectilinear site.
Residential architecture in Delhi has seen a gradual shift in form and structure–driven by the need of more housing for a growing population and the need capitalised by real estate developers. The ‘Kothi’, a multifamily setup, carefully planned for natural lighting, ventilation, and sensitivity to its surroundings has been taken over by masonry boxes sitting on small rectangular plots. Most of these are a display of the latest trending materials on the façade, devoid of natural light and ventilation within, and disconnected from the streets and context.
An in-depth study of our site and surroundings revealed similar shortcomings in the form of repetitive plans and incoherent facades, and we took it on as an aim of the project to redefine the approach to designing a house on a small plot within a dense fabric.
The house accommodates three apartments–two single floor dwellings and one duplex. The site conditions allowed only two open sides towards the front and back, and shared common walls with adjacent buildings. The simple and clean structure of the Off Grid House was generated as a response to this orientation, coupled with the climatic conditions of the site.
The overall mass is divided into two, keeping the less frequented service areas like staircase and toilets towards the hot south sun. This minimizes solar heat gained from the exposed south façade during summers, while at the same time, it allows sun to penetrate throughout the house at lower angles from the north east and south west during cold winters.
The habitable spaces–the living room and bedrooms–aligned with the available open faces of the site to maximize penetration of daylight and connection with the surroundings. This encouraged energy efficiency by reducing the dependence on artificial lighting during the day.
The architectural language of the front façade seeks to create a balance between the privacy of the residents along with establishing a relationship with the immediate context and surroundings. The connections to the outside are in the form of large glass openings and sheltered terraces.
The sporadically yet carefully placed columns, almost off the grid from the walls behind, reveal controlled views from the inside to the outside and vice versa. They orchestrate a rhythmic flow, creating both inward looking spaces and outward looking extensions. The architecture thus starts to engage with the street it abuts, allowing glimpses of the street as well as the activities within.
The materials used define a minimal palette–exposed brick walls, metal railings and natural teak wood–materials that age well over time, and are locally procured and crafted, to keep the construction process honest and simple.