Monday, May 21, 2007

Designing an apartment complex

Contemporary architecture in the cities in india is now a reflection of the needs of the urban indian.

In cities such as Bangalore and Chennai, these needs stem from the development of the IT industry, the large employment it generates, the rise in the standard of living and the growing expectations of a population of young people who are participants in this revolution. As this happens, there is a new architectural typology that is emerging – the Residential complex that consists of apartment units, a clubhouse and a convenience store.

In 2006, residential development in urban india is taking on a new perspective. The search is on for shelter that is not just a place to live but a place to create a new lifestyle. The price of the land is higher than the structures that are constructed on it. Therefore, it is more economical for a developer to build apartment complexes instead of a colony of houses or “villas” as we refer to them today. Each apartment unit sits with many other apartment units in a large complex that also offers a clubhouse, a swimming pool and a central landscaped area.

In chennai, it is the Old Mahabalipuram road where many such “gated communities” have begun to develop. What is a “gated community” and where does this term originate? In America and in some European countries, it is common for the rich city dweller to buy a house in the countryside which is one among a group of houses, sometimes nestled amongst the mountains and which is gated, i.e. provided with high security. People feel the need to have a house that is safe from the crime and violence of the city.

In India, living within a gated community is symbolic of a new lifestyle. It implies that you can afford an apartment that is well-constructed, that is maintained by a good management service that you pay a monthly fee for, that provides your children with a play area, that is private and safe, and that provides you with the amenities you need to counter-balance a work-life that is hectic and harsh on your health.

The design process for one such residential complex began with conceptualising a complex of building volumes that would be an interesting play of masses & voids; where the different planes of the façade would be planes of bright colours from a warm palette; where the light and shadow of a tropical sun would make the architecture a different experience.

What one learnt is that in chennai, the apartments that sell within a residential complex are the ones that get ample south breeze; where the kitchen & puja room are located as per vastu; apartments which overlook the ‘centrally landscaped area’ and which have two car parks. This is what is important for a buyer.

For the builder, that is the one who sells, it is important that the price of the land he purchases or partners on is reasonable; that the infrastructure – road and electric supply are available; that the architectural design is good; that the plan, the elevation & 3D views translate quickly into a brochure that is attractive; that the advertisement in the newspapers is appropriate and timely; that the apartments are booked early so that he recovers the money invested in the land or that which is needed to bring in the material for the construction to begin.

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