Done in collaboration with Luca de Stefano and Justin Frank.
After our visit to Chandigarh we decided that the existence of exclusive Gated Communities was inevitable and that instead of going with the architectural high road we would embrace the economic markets in an attempt to limit the destructive effects of this typology. We would create something that gives back to the city, rather than dividing it with high walls and security guards.
Initially we lift this commercial housing, in order to negate the need for walls, which were a strong visualisation of the segregation we were trying to avoid. But of course our market-driven model still requires a certain level of exclusivity, and this is achieved through the lifting.
This lifting also creates the potential for interaction at ground level with the rest of the city. By utilising this as a commercial area, we can create a vibrant dialogue with the city, rather than the city attempting to overcome more and more compartmentalisation by gates and walls.
After lifting the commercial housing, we define a slope on which to place the units. This has a two-fold effect. Firstly, although we are not building a high rise, every house has a view, one that is even vastly improved over traditional apartment blocks as there is a larger space before your view is blocked. Secondly, because the houses are still on relatively flat topography, they are more like a traditional village, with the potential for a garden and access to houses from the outside rather than a lift.
This also creates streets, exterior spaces belonging to the inhabitants that are a catalyst for random encounters and through this making “community” a tangible reality, rather than just an abstract concept used to describe a collection of individual apartments walled off from the rest of the city.
Each house has at least one interior courtyard, depending on size. These allow for natural ventilation, as every room has at least one side that faces a facade, another upgrade over most existing gated communities. The increase of natural light also hugely increases the quality of the spaces inside.
Below the slope, but still raised from street level, we place more affordable housing. This creates a place that the poorer residents of Chandigarh can live, close to the centre of the city, in a building that is constructed in large parts from the funds of more wealthy residents. A more traditional apartment-style construction, the flats all have large, north-facing windows, and internal “streets” that contain the circulation.
Our model also considers the inhabitants, becoming a self sustaining model.
The middle and low income groups located on the edges of the building can work close by, without the need for expensive and long travel as is often the case with cheaper housing located outside the central sector. Most can even work in the community, as shopkeepers and salespeople in the commercial strips, security guards or maids and nannys for their more well-off neighbours.
In the current gated communities, a small (usually less than 8m2) room is designated as “Servants room”. In our proposal however, they retain a sense of dignity, with a space to call their own where they can live their own lives and raise their own families.
The interaction with the surrounding city is also vital to our scheme, and extends beyond just shops at street level. Our building also includes a publically accessible park on the first floor, going once around the perimeter of the building.
It also contains the parking for the community as well as the public surrounding the building within the structure, out of view. When visiting Chandigarh it struck us that this was very much a city designed to the scale of the car, however it contained almost no parking spaces. This led to people abandoning their cars on the roadside, on green verges, or adapting their gardens into parking spaces. Our model ensures a secure space for cars, that will not get in the way of public life at street level.
Removing some of the shops on each side creates obvious entrances. These give access to an intermediate space, that is sheltered from the weather, but is still open to the city. This has consciously been created as the entrance for both types of housing, encouraging an interaction between people that is completely non-existent in traditional gated communities.
The city is already one of the richest in India, and with our project we provide a city-connected place for more wealthy people to live, with the potential of attracting more investment in an area that is one of the fastest growing in the region. They have modern, spacious housing in a community with their peers that has everything they desire. However they are still part of a bigger community, that of the city, and interaction is encouraged through architectural features.