Defence Colony Residence. New Delhi, India
The Defence Colony residence derives its material and tectonic
vocabulary from the plethora of tombs and palaces - fragments of 15th century Islamic architecture - that anchor the urban landscape of Delhi. Built with load-bearing masonry walls, designed to withstand the loads of a Zone 4 seismic location, the residence creates its sense of architectural and urban identity in adhering to one primary material - local brick
The mass of the bricks is expressed both in the thickness of the walls, as well as in the surface articulation, keeping the house thermally temperate, and endowing it with a rich earthen hue. Simultaneously however, the brick transforms into an effervescent and lacy veil in the screens that shade the west facade of the building. All doors and windows, made from Teak timber sections, were hand fabricated from logs by the carpenters on the
Mirror-polished stone floors reflect the light within, offering a luminous counterpoint to the masonry walls. The architecture engages in a play of kinetic energy, allowing glimpses of the street as well as the activities within.
This project resurrects and perpetuates an ancient architectural craft of load bearing, brick masonry construction. Like all craft traditions, this practice represents a confluence of cultural, material, social and economic practices. Brick has always been a fundamental building module in Indian architecture. Moreover, it links modern architecture with an ancient craft tradition, refined over centuries of use. In reviving this material, and especially using it so extensively - as structure, surface and detail - this project makes a strong and coherent argument for linking sustainability with this most basic and local of all building materials. The unbroken lineage of brick masons, trained by their ancestors, risks being marginalized as construction practices in India are becoming increasingly mechanized.
In a frenzy of appearing “contemporary”, buildings are assembled from catalogues. The art of making architecture with a singular, basic material - local earthen brick - is considered anachronistic! As the new Indian architectural culture seeks international expression, this project expresses the
vitality and beauty of building with a local, sustainable and basic material. It also sustains the livelihood of a guild of brick masons struggling to retain their place in society.
This is simply a hand-crafted, modern house, seeking to restore the relationship of inhabitants to their fundamental material context.