Nobody knew that almost half the population on Earth would have to stay inside at their homes for weeks or months. The unannounced global lock down has led people to live, work and play at their place of residence. At these large numbers of times spent at home, people are starting to evaluate the design of their home as we become “refugees” that are left outdoors.
The Architectural Design of our homes has a huge impact on our well-being during trying times like these, if not otherwise. As an Architect, this pandemic presents itself as an opportunity to re-evaluate the way we design residences. It brings up a lot of questions in my mind for everyone staying at home.
CONNECTION WITH OUTDOORS
OPEN-TO-SKY SPACES — these can be Balconies, Verandas, Terraces, Porches, Courtyards, etc. Basically, anything that connects us with the immediate outdoors. The value of these spaces, which have been long overlooked by Home-owners in exchange for more space inside their bedrooms and halls, is set to grow in popular demand. With governments asking people to come out in their balconies and cheer for the people working in essential services, people started to realize the value of the balcony as a real connection between their neighbors and surroundings.
A well designed and aesthetically pleasing balcony or terrace is a luxury in today’s state, and a hot trend for post-pandemic world. Imagine a terrace with ample green plants and shrubs along with simple seating spaces for those times when the weather is amazing, in every residential setting. Home-owners are set to hire professional to revamp their existing spaces into places they can enjoy in after coming from outside (or staying inside too much).
As a thumb rule, we need to provide large aperture sizes for windows and allow Daylighting to be one of the prime design consideration among all others.
Figure 2 : Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash
Proximity to Natural Daylight and Sunlight is another prospective element to look for in the interior spaces. It has been well-utilized in the western world since their Cold climates favor large windows. For Indian tropical climates, large windows are a luxury depending on the direction of the room. As a thumb rule, we need to provide large aperture sizes for windows and allow Daylighting to be one of the prime design consideration. Study, Home offices, Living areas should be the first to get maximum daylight since we spend most of our active time either working or for leisure.
QUALITY OF INDOOR AIR
While the costs for mechanical ventilation still remain high, middle class homes in India rely on natural ventilation for fresh air circulation inside frequented spaces. A strong design emphasis towards ventilation strategies that allow for ample fresh air pouring inside should be one the key factors while designing houses. Often, high-rise apartments and low to middle class houses lack a proper ventilation system through the Architectural design of the house. This issue is coming out on the front as we saw a rapid dip in PM levels of the most polluted cities in India like Delhi. People are starting to realize the value of fresh air and their house design is to blame for it.
As a designer, we can take inspiration from many solutions that master architects have previously employed in their designs. The image on left shows the approach taken by Charles Correa (1930–2015) for Kanchanjunga Apartments, Mumbai in 1983. He understood that for Indian climate and circumstances like pollution and noise, a combination of elements will create the perfect opportunity for clean air. He created a large (1.5 height) buffer space between outdoor-indoor and placed vegetation acting as a natural air purifier and sound absorbing element while providing shade and greenery at a higher level than ground. We need to come up design ideas like such that solve urban issues like these and ensure that air quality is a concern while designing.
MODIFICATION OF SPACE LAYOUTS
To maximize space inside living areas, builders and developers often wipe out a few transitional areas like an entrance foyer. Most families have employed an entrance protocol that allows a family member or someone else to come in from outside to sanitize themselves before entering the living quarters. This type of space is almost never provided in most middle economic apartments. For this, we would need a space like an entrance foyer that might be connected to a small powder room for quick cleaning and dusting off while they take off their shoes and bags before entering. This can only be accomplished with a behavioral change in the society that architects can help facilitate and bring to the forefront with their design.
I expect to work from home methods to be more liberal and widespread after we come out of the pandemic and the idea for Home Offices is bound to spike among young professionals and slowly become the new normal in a decade.
Developers provide a small study room, which feels like an afterthought in most cases. People have been using their study room for home-offices for working from home, yoga, meditation, exercise, etc. I suspect such activities are set to grow and the need to these rooms to be bigger will also grow proportionately.
Indian Houses shy away from displaying their kitchens as an integral part of the house. This might come from traditional and cultural values that Indians have, but for the next generation, a modern blend of the 2 is the need of our time. As we spend more time indoors, we will benefit from more open-style spaces that include a kitchen in the living areas. This would allow for the maximum volume of air and space in the center of the home and makes Kitchen the heart of the house.
“House is a machine for living in”
-Le Corbusier, French architect (1886–1965)
The master Architect Corbusier made this remark and popularized Villa Savoy, his model of a modern house. This statement is a fundamental thought for an Architect while designing residences. For a machine to work best, it needs a great mechanical design and care throughout its life like oiling and cleaning. Likewise, A House needs a great Architectural design and care that its residents can give it.
This phrase rose to fame in 1927. It has been a century since, maybe architects need an updated definition of a ‘HOUSE’ that they design for their clients. Everyone needs a different machine on the outside, but we need to look at some fundamental updates on the inside. We can learn a lot from this time we spend in each of our homes and think of a few things we could help make better.
There will be an increase in demand for more productive spaces with storage that provide more utility to the resident. The blending of Eat-Live-Work-Play should be the next mantra facilitated by flowing of spaces into each other through architectural and interior design elements.
Health and well-being of residents will become a primary concern, rather than an afterthought or as a luxury. Focus of Architects will shift towards building certifications like “WELL” by IWBI that focuses health and well-being of occupants in residences and offices.
With the advancement in building technologies and people’s lifestyle choices, we can build upon Corbusier’s statement. I envision a completely “Self-Sufficient House” in the near future as a trend. We have advanced green building solutions that can provide a building with its own Energy for electricity needs and own Water to fulfill its water requirements. With ever-increasing trends for urban-farming for growing own produce, some people might be able to create a home that has it all with least dependence on the outside world. Bear in mind, this is not a suggestion for a ‘Safe House’ by any means, but a more independent way of living and building houses.
During the time of this pandemic, the extent of the effect of the Architectural Design of your apartment or house will depend upon your daily schedule at home and lifestyle choices. Maybe your house design is perfect for you, maybe it lacks just a few things or maybe you are one of those people who will start revamping their balconies and terraces when this time comes to an end.