Among the top six international homes at the WAN Awards, the House with a Brick Veil seeks to negotiate the fine line of privacy and connection in dense urban localities by infusing openness and filtering/ framing visual links with the neighbourhood.
Built within a congested locality in Central Delhi, the House with a Brick Veil explores potential solutions for middle class multi-dwelling units built on tight site constraints allowing their residents to enjoy their connection with nature.
Delhi’s poor urban planning laws have resulted in unplanned noisy neighbourhoods; forcing home owners to shut windows and balconies, creating dark unventilated interiors fed with artificial light and air-conditioning. In this case too, the surroundings offered scant views except for a few scattered trees. The site is enveloped on three sides by busy roads – subjecting one to choked street views and cacophony. The best light and worst views also concur in the same zones. The brief was to build a calm oasis within this chaotic neighbourhood.
A stack of 3 apartments – a duplex and two smaller flats, the layout for the combined 1000 sqm floor plate (about 200 sqm per floor) residence utilises the maximum permissible built-up area. Aligning with a strong regional tradition of brick production, the building was conceived as a brick masonry structure with a high thermal mass maximising daylight and minimising solar gain. A 345-mm thick “brick veil” wraps around the building; as a buffer between the home and the city, floating away from it at times to form intimate courtyards for light and ventilation.
The form of the house has been generated as a response to its context - a combination of its setting, climatic orientation, building bye-laws and client requirements. Sections were configured to respond to potential views from the house. The geometry of openings in the brick veil is independent of the fenestration of each floor thus allowing a hit-and-miss line of sight through them - juggling privacy and framing views to the outside. This lets natural light and ventilation fill the building while screening residents from the heavy traffic nearby.
With courtyards on either side, rooms are laid around the core of living spaces. Folding doors and sliding partitions allow seamless flow of spaces for the small house to function flexibly. Small terraces are pulled into the house, flowing out from either side of the central living spaces into the twin courts to act as floating landscapes. Dense plantations on the multiple terraces and the rooftop adds a soft layer of screening in the constructed volume and aids in creating privacy in a compact space which is opened out to three out of its four sides.
The understated yet unique expression of the house has invited a huge amount of interest among the neighbourhood. Materials that age gracefully over time have been used to keep the construction process honest and simple while highlighting a high degree of artisanal craftsmanship. Crafted details like stained glass windows and reclaimed doors are inserted into the new construction of exposed brick, cast in-situ terrazzo floors and planked concrete slabs to imbue it with a traditional yet modern narrative.