Architect Amit Khanna and his team at AKDA, New Delhi, designed an apartment in South Delhi known for its circular aperture of brick within a square brick screen where the facade tells a story about context.
The work of Louis Kahn left an indelible impression upon the architecture of South Asia. In a time when most architects in this part of the world were still working within a post-colonial framework, Kahn was able to fully actualize his vision by participating in projects which on one hand could be considered as late Corbusian plasticity relative to the modernism that was too fresh and new at the time, and on the other hand became the foundation for early regional Modernist architecture.
Crucial to his form-making was the act of puncturing seemingly vast brick and concrete walls with soaring geometric voids, creating dramatic shadows as the harsh Indian sun made its way through the sky. These voids were often circular, vast arches that were pure in their conceptualization and inch-perfect in their execution, a testament to the genius of Indian craftsmanship.
Consisting of 4 apartments that are elevated above a parking level, neighbors hem in the property on both sides. The 30-foot width of the building provides little light at both ends. The floor plans of the apartments are reductive, with all services concentrated in a core on one side of the building, including the staircase, elevator, 3 bathrooms, the kitchen, and both bedrooms. The other half of the building is an expansive living space illuminated by full-length windows on either end. The top floor has a courtyard that’s open to the elements.
On the facade, thin brick tiles are supported by a framework of crisp stainless-steel profiles, both acting as a tension ring within the void and as supporting angles on the top and bottom of the screen. The entire brick screen is elevated off the ground level, proportioned to be a perfect square circumscribing a circle. The exposed side and rear walls are finished in an exposed grit wash set in white cement plaster.
The exposed brick walls of the interior contrast with the concrete floor made from locally supplied concrete slabs. Kota stone from Rajasthan is used as pavement in the courtyard and bathrooms, and features a yellow hue. Blue handmade tiles offset a stainless-steel counter in the open kitchen in the backsplash and 2” thick Kota stone floors. The open kitchen itself is animated by quartzite and cantilevered from a wall that rises to the sky, opposite an open courtyard.
The project illustrates an evolving understanding of the durability of materials in our harsh climate. Brick is inherently durable – as long as it’s built on strong foundations or laid on a base of concrete to keep them from shifting or becoming uneven over time. Clay bricks last almost indefinitely, being largely immune to fire, wind-borne debris and temperature fluctuations – their exceptional thermal mass helping mitigate heat transfer.
On a TCO and lifecycle basis, bricks are among the most eco-friendly insulators for building walls, blocking out a great deal of noise from outside, helping cut down the amount of energy needed to maintain the temperature inside. Every component of the building has been selected with the same high performance and energy efficiency parameters.
The building has many wonderful and practical additions. Windows with double glazing are installed, the terrace is overlaid with terracotta roof tiles, air conditioning systems use variable refrigerant volume based on active control of indoor conditions monitored by LEDs throughout the building, and the bathrooms have sensors installed to switch the lights on and off automatically when needed. All apartments have a keyless security system that uses digital access. The project seeks to up-end those ideals, fore-going modernity in the pursuit of sustainability, meaning and craftsmanship.
Project Fact File
Design Team: Amit Khanna, Ankita Misra, Krishna Yadav
Location: New Delhi
Plot Area: 200 Sq.Mts.
Photographs: Andre Fanthome