Why do our cities contain a plethora of overused boxes of masonry with repeated plans and facades? When residents are shut in their houses, under the guise of privacy, what effect does it have on the neighborhood communities? To beat back the trend of profit-driven ‘developer’ housing, we explored simple and honest architectural principles to achieve a higher quality of living with multi-dwelling units.

Location : Delhi, India
Built-up Area : 10,000 sqft
Year of Completion : 2021
Architects : UnBox. Design | Architecture + Interiors
Architects Website : www.unboxdesign.in
Team : Aman Issar, Ashley Grover
Photography : Avesh Gaur Photography
Materials : Bharat Bricks, AluK Windows India, Saint Gobain Glass, Asian Paints

Off Grid House by UnBox Design - Sheet4
©Avesh Gaur Photography

We were approached by our client to design a multi-family residence, in an overcrowded yet in-demand locality of Delhi.

The plot is open on two sides; the front opens to a primary approach road, looking over a single, full-grown tree and the only opportunity for views, while the back provides filtered views of a small community park. The house is designed to accommodate three families on four floors: two of them are single-level apartments and one is a duplex.

Off Grid House by UnBox Design - Sheet6
©Avesh Gaur Photography

The massing is derived from our careful study of the climatic conditions and user comfort. The overall mass is divided into two zones. The lesser used service areas, like toilets and staircase, are kept towards the southern side, affected by the hot sun.

All the bedroom and living spaces, are aligned with the open facades, to provide maximum daylight, ventilation and connection with the surroundings. This was instrumental in reducing the need for artificial lighting during daytime, making the household energy-efficient.

The façade’s architectural language negotiates the thin line between the residents’ privacy and their relationship to their neighborhood context. Large openings integrated with sheltered terraces help connect the residents to the outside world.

Off Grid House by UnBox Design - Sheet8
©Avesh Gaur Photography

A seemingly sporadic placement of columns can be noticed; however, their placement is consciously planned to be off-grid from the walls behind. A rhythmic flow is orchestrated by these connections, as controlled views are revealed to the outside, creating both inward-looking spaces and outward-looking extensions. Thus, the architecture and the adjoining street harmonize to allow glimpses of the activities within and without the dwelling.

The use of tactile and pure materials creates a pristine and timeless design. This approach uses textures and light to tantalize the senses and highlight the overall experience of the spaces. Thus, we simultaneously place the user’s integrity at the core of the design ethos while respecting the context and rich tradition of Indian craftsmanship.

The work presents durability, functionality, and comfort as its prime components, using architectural language to boldly convey aesthetics, but abstaining from “trends”.

Floor-to-ceiling height doors function as access control, aiming to create fluid spaces, lacking vertical segregation and providing a sense of connection by being visually obstruction-free.

©Avesh Gaur Photography

The doors and windows, therefore, maximize the natural light, which penetrates to the core of the dwelling; leaving the foyer as the only space without direct natural light. Nevertheless, it is well-lit as a result of the seamless openings. Cross-ventilation across the floor plate is also facilitated by the alignment of doors and windows on the front and back façades.

‘The Off-Grid House’ is a thought-driven and thought-provoking attempt toward an alternative and unconventional approach to designing apartments. One that is led by vocabulary capable of individuality, while concomitantly being in harmony with its immediate context. It is a humble endeavor to put emphasis on the value of the design process instead of the face value of the end product. We believe various approaches can be possible to counteract the status quo bias present in contemporary residential design.

At UnBox, we believe that true luxury goes beyond cosmetic splendour. The actual investment lies in the luxury of well-lit, well-ventilated, healthy spaces, incorporated in timeless designs, which Indian metropolitans suffer a dire shortage of.

Lastly, it was uncovered through post-design inquiry that the Off Grid House has achieved substantial cognitive notability. It is referred to as a landmark to enable wayfinding time and again. Though being a humble and chance attainment, it truly fulfills the intent of designing a building that showcases its individuality without overpowering its surrounding context.

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