Architecture is the manifestation of live-scale buildings from sketches, models, and formal plans. It harnesses a multitude of assets like physical construction supplies and manpower to name a few. However, a built form is a living organism, implying it requires resources to last. Sustainable design is a branch of architecture that focuses on reducing the consumption of construction supplies and minimizing reliance on mechanical systems. These triumphs can be easily achieved by site-specific designs involving redirecting wind flow, reducing heat gain, and learning from vernacular traditions.
Conversations with the Wind
Cool breeze cascading from one end is amongst the most wonderful impressions in the world. When people cannot survive without air, why limit this sublime companion in our buildings? This truth was realized and implemented by Charles Correa first in the Tube House in 1960 and later in the celebrated Kanchanjunga Apartments in 1983.
Inspired by the windcatcher houses of Sindh province in Pakistan, the Tube House is a model of a sustainable low-cost housing settlement. Designed as a multi-functional module, the adobe embraces three major openings directing the flow of wind. While orienting the adobes around a courtyard, Correa abides by the simple concept of ‘Warm air Rises and Cool air Sinks’. The breeze gushes from the door in the veranda and flows freely through the living area, before exiting from the outlets in the roof. Hence, the fluent passage of wind creates a refreshing ambience apt for the semi-arid climate of Ahmedabad.
The Kanchanjunga Apartments
Dominating the skyline of the opulent Cumballa Hill in Mumbai, one comes across a striking, tinted yellow edifice. Though brutal in character, and modern in form, the design of Kanchanjunga Apartments stems from the traditional bungalow typology. The complex consists of interlocking units having porches on both ends of the apartment, again applying the concept of ‘Warm air rises and cool air sinks’. One of these terraces is interpreted as a double-height veranda, providing room from the plantation and increasing privacy. The orientation of the sculptural skyscraper enables the terraces to behave as sustainable inlets and outlets for a variety of seasonal winds.
Deeply influenced by Mahatma Gandhi, in 1945 a young Englishman found himself building homes for ‘Ordinary People’ – folks in need of a home. Years later, recognized as the Gandhi of Indian Architecture, Laurie Baker’s buildings exhibited open-plan spaces, excellent ventilation strategies, and above all, an artistic expression of bricks.
Laurie Baker Centre for Habitat Studies
Built at the summit of Laurie Baker’s architectural expression, the Laurie Baker Centre for Habitat Studies is an extraordinary brick building. The complex integrates environment-friendly filler slabs, thereby reducing concrete utilized in construction. Rat Trap Bonds – ‘bonds with cavities’ also suggest the architect’s sustainable approach. Behaving as inlets for light and ventilation, the Brick Jaalis imbibe an atmosphere of coolness. The presence of a bamboo staircase is a notion of Baker’s use of locally available materials. Thus, the sustainable edifice is a synthesis of raw brick facades flowing forms, economic construction strategies.
The DakshinaChitra meaning, ‘A picture of the South’ is a journal of four South Indian States – Tamilnadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka. Housing humble abodes of potters, weavers, fisherman, and the colloquial community, the DakshinaChitra is an application of traditional sustainable systems. The roofs of all habitats have extended overhangs which reduce excess heat gain, facilitate water drainage, and are pockets for recreation. Additionally, the habitats incorporate open to sky central courtyards, a popular sustainable strategy responsible for lowering the room temperature. Hence, DakshinaChitra Museum is a revelation of Baker’s context-specific endeavors.
Supervising the Sun
B.V.Doshi, a recipient of the 2018 Pritzker Prize, was an early pioneer of sustainable architecture in India. Doshi’s incorporation of energy-saving systems and a reverence for natural resources can be most evidently seen in his architectural studio, Sangath.
Sunken partially beneath the ground, seeking escape from the warm summer breeze, the Sangath is a prototype of vaults, terraces, and ambiguous surfaces. Insulated from inside by clay, the tunneled volume plays host to sunlight during the day, eliminating the need for artificial light. Whereas the grassy landscape and reflective Chinese mosaic engulfing the vaults, minimize heat gain. The interior of the studio consists of untextured concrete surfaces, which reflect and refract light. Finally, the cascading water not only enchants the inhabitants but also attributes to an invigorating ambiance.
Hence, seemingly small endeavors like altering the flow of wind, puncturing the edifice at multiple levels and double-height ceilings effectively reduce the need for artificial ventilation. The contemporary versions of Jaalis carved in Brick and the understanding of early building traditions are fruitful means to a sustainable end. On the other hand, architects ought to embrace unconventional schemes that present sustainable solutions to conventional complications.
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Wikipedia. (n.d.). DakshinaChitra. DakshinaChitra – Wikipedia. Retrieved May 25, 2021, from DakshinaChitra
Taylor Metcalf. “AD Classics: Sangath / Balkrishna Doshi” 15 Aug 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 25 May 2021. <https://www.archdaily.com/158300/ad-classics-sangath-balkrishna-doshi> ISSN 0719-8884