Anupama Kundoo's house in Auroville reflects the zest the architect
infuses in all her projects.
Having grown up in the concrete jungle of Mumbai,
and being exposed to all excesses of the present urban trend, the
quest for new directions for a more hopeful future began to lead
Anupama to new areas of research in all fields of development.
This search was two-fold: the
first being the exploration of technologies of low impact, but pucca
structures that are healthy, climatically comfortable, structures
that can form the basis of an aesthtically pleasing building language.
The second, eco-friendly infrastructure to take care of the running
needs of the settlement in terms of water, waste and energy management
through renewable sourcesas well as passive methods (25 percent
of the nation's total energy demand is due to cooling, lighting
and appliances). The first resulted in a series ol low impact roofing
options and the second in a handbook of integrated eco-planning
Says Anupama, "As kuccha housing is being
steadily replaced by pucca ones nationwide, the indiscriminate use
of RCC has been on the steady increase. Further strain is being
put on the nation, in terms of energy production demand, in terms
of producing energy for manufacturing cement and steel, as also
transportation of energy in bringing these industry based materials
to the far away sites. Further, the RCC roofs in their standard
application result in boxes that are storehouses of heat from the
sun throughout the day. Additional energy is artificially sought
to cool these 'storehouses'. This is far more than would be needed
if the roof was better insulated.
plan is alive to the volume it encloses and makes an earnest attempt
at conserving. Linear in plan, the house is oriented to the south-east
for optimum air circulation. The house is basically a narrow, 2.2m
and long vaulted space contained within the brick masonry with the
various activities arranged in a row, like in a train. They are
placed so that each activity can spill over on the north east side
in the form of alcoves and projections, and on the southwest, under
the large 4m overhang provided by the main vaulted roof. This way
the design of the house ensures that the activities are cocooned
into private secure spaces, while the spillover in the living areas
are large and open to nature. The house is simple, with clearly
defined lines and masses, yet the play in the volumes is such that
it becomes hard to distinguish where the inside ends and the outside
begins. This play of indoors and outdoors is quite a marked feature,
as it goes far beyond mere inter-penetration. Long steps create
a further demarcation of spaces, and they continue on the outside
into the garden. The south-west fašade is a transparent wooden structure
with a mesh to allow full view of the sunset, while the vault overhang
provides adequate shade and ensures that the heat and glare of the
direct sun does not reach the cool interiors. The house is characterised
with a cavity wall at the north side that connects the insides with
The structure is massive, with an impressive
fašade scaled down due to the smaller achakul bricks of size 18cmx2.5cm,
with raked joints filled with lime cement mortar. To make the house
more climatically responsive, outer walls were designed thick. While
the house is open to a picturesque view, keeping the interiors free
from glare and heating up, the double height volume of the house
enhances the air stack movement, thus keeping the insides cool.
The vaults are made of achakul bricks and guna tiles, with the fired
clay technology that gives the roof a variation in colour. Punctuations
in the vaults bring in the light and also enable hot air to escape
the area, thereby creating a draft. Use of structural steel has
been entirely eliminated in the construction of the vaults and minimisd
in the flat roofs and intermediate floors by introducing shallow
terracotta hollow vaults and smaller spans. The windows have been
designed in layers with flexible variations in usage to further
regulate the climatic comfort throughout the year. Water bodies
have been added to further cool the house.
On the first floor, the bed extends out of the
brick fašade on a space frame structure so that more space is gained,
finished with a wooden floor procured from the short-living acacia
auriculiformis trees that were extensively planted in Auroville
in the early years. The bedspace extends on the other side, with
the vault forming a covered terrace, and then further continues
as an open-to-sky terrace and a water body. This water body can
be used to take a dip during summer, and is also required for garden
water to be raised due to the solar pump that is being used in the
place. The bathrooms appear to be more outdoor in character, especially
in the way they blend with nature. The natural materials used for
finishes further enhance the house. On the other side of the main
vault is an independent room with a separate toilet with the possibility
of its own independent entrance. The vault space can connect or
separate the two parts of the house depending on the desired use.
interesting feature in the ceiling is the burned clay pots as fillers
in the RCC slab. The pots create dome voids that look good without
any plastering and can be made with inexpensive shuttering planks.
These pots serve a dual purpose and are not only useful for creating
floor slabs, but also act as insulators. The whole house, due to
the materials and construction, is filled with the sensitivity that
The same high level of energy consciousness
can be seen in the choice of materials that have been used. For
example, lime has been used in the brick mortar instead of cement,
although 10-15% cement was added for quicker initial setting strength.
As the walls are in exposed brick and lime mortar, use of finishing
materials in the form of plasters, paints and glazed ceramic tiles
is reduced or has been completely eliminated. Even the flooring
is rough granite in bathrooms, which acts as an alternative for
nonslip flooring with few joints. The house runs entirely on solar
energy through solar photovoltaics that take care of all electrical
demands. The garden water also gets pumped up through the solar
pumping system, and the solar water heater provides all the hot
There is an interplay of light, texture and transparency in the
architecture that envelops the house totally. The intelligent use
of materials and back-to-basic elemental technology is welcome and
the current need of the day.
Some of the eco-friendly technologies that are
being developed and extensively used in Anupama┤s work include:
Insulating Terracotta Roofing Elements: roof vaults are built
out of hollow burned clay tubes that are stacked along a catenary
curve thereby requiring no structural steel for reinforcement. The
external surface is plastered and waterproofed, including a layer
of chicken mesh to prevent cracks and leaks. The tubes were made
in a cylindrical extruder to obtain the basic form, after which
they were tapered on a wheel over a wooden dye. Ray Meeker fabricated
these units in Golden Bridge Pottery.
This has the following advantages:
a. allows terracotta to be reintroduced as tiles, but without
needing any supporting wooden rafters as a substructure, wood being
no more abundantly and affordably available.
b. neither shuttering nor demoulding is required. Only a
frame is required on either side to guide the catenary shape.
c. the village potter can be given employment thereby keeping
most of the money in the immediate local area.
d. transportation energy is reduced as bullock carts suffice.
e. fast and modulor, as the units can be produced in advance
and need to simply be assembled.
f. the texture of tiles gives the interiors a warmer feeling
than the flat plastered standard ceiling.
g. enegy efficient as compared to RCC.
h. hollows in the tubes ensure climatic comfort.
Burned clay trapezoidal units for flat roofs
Series of shallow vaults are built out of hollow burned clay trapezoidal
tubes that are assembled in between trapezoidal beams involving
minimal structural steel for reinforcement. The system allows quick
clean assembly. The steel involved is more than the former technique,
but far less than the regular concrete slab. This is an option for
roofs that are at the uppermost level of a structure, and therefore
need insulation, but where the vault option cannot be applied due
to the need for a flat terrace above.
Burned clay pots as fillers in a RCC slab
This is a slab that is an option for building floors that are not
the uppermost slab and do not therefore need to be insulated. The
idea is to increase the effective depth and thereby save steel,
while also reducing the volume of concrete. The pots create dome
voids, that give a good finish, require no plastering, and can be
made with very inexpensive shuttering planks. The saving in steel
is about 60% and the saving in cost about 30%.
Main walls using achakal bricks (local village bricks that are 2.5cm
high) in lime mortar with unique bonding details. A small percent
of cement, 10% in the lime mortar, gave it initial setting strength.
There are six alternative insulating roofing techniques that are
aesthetic while simultaneously minimising steel and concrete and
achieving eco-friendly architecture that is climate responsive.
The house is fully run on solar photovoltaics, and passive solar
principles are used.