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The Brief

The Site

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Location

The six houses comprising the entire project are located in Jethabhai ni pol, a 15th century Hindu neighbourhood within the Walled City of Ahmedabad. Due to the hot and arid climate the Old city streets are narrow with a dense urban fabric made up of houses with central courtyards.

The north side of the site is flanked by Khatri ni pol; a neighbourhood that has been completely converted into an wholesale electrical market.

However, Jethabhai ni pol remains a predominantly residential neighbourhood peppered with a few institutions such as temples and schools.

The closest landmark is Khadia cross roads on Gandhi Road that leads to the Ahmedabad Railway station a kilometer away.

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Urban Form

The population density in the Old City of Ahmedabad is around 23,711 people/square kilometer. Urban planning used to achieve such a high density is by a traditional 'row house' type configuration with narrow streets and a small square in each neighbourhood for festivities such as marriages and religious events.

Most of the houses in Jethabhai ni pol have an 'auspicious east or north' facing entrance as per the HIndu Vastu Shastra. Also, the houses are aligned along an axis leading to a Shiva Temple.

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House Form And Culture

The traditional house within the historic city is the true generator of the urban form. The central courtyard house is characterized by its wooden architecture of intricately craved ornate facade and a composite construction technique using timber and brick lime structure where the side load bearing walls are shared by the houses producing a  block of closely packed houses that are separated by narrow streets.

Climatically, this row house type arrangement provides insulation from the hot sun, also the wooden facades cantilever over the streets further increasing shading. Natural ventilation is made possible by using the stack effect; with the courtyard heating up and sucking in cooler air from the street and the narrow light well or chinni at the back of the house. Each house also has its own well and a rainwater storage system.

Anthropologically the house and the neighbourhood are one homogenous entity. The front room on the ground floor acts as a formal living room that extends onto a small porch towards the street called an otla, which steps down into the narrow lane making the street an extension of the living room and vice versa. 

The ground floor is predominantly kept for public activities such as socialising, cooking, dining and praying while the above floors are sequestered as private suites for each male member and his family.

By the time the building reaches the roof level, the eaves of the houses on opposite sides of the street are almost touching, with predominantly two - three storied structures within the Old city this creates a nine square kilometer roof scape that is ideal for flying kites.

The Task

The Brief

This adaptive reuse project entails the renovation of six 400 year old houses that have to be restored, connected and adapted to a new program.

Four of the houses are in a row on one side of the street and two adjacent to each other are on the opposite side. The houses that are next to each other will be connected in order to incorporate a varied program.

The program for the six houses is spread over a 1000 sm. footprint. It is layered in that it varies from floor to floor within the mostly three storied structures. 

House 1: This is the primary ancestral home, it will remain a private residence for two floors with the third floor becoming a part of a Bread & Breakfast.

House 2: Next to it, this house will have a long-term residency apartment with a workshop, artist studio and an exhibition space on the ground floor. The second floor will be administrative and a tailoring studio with the third floor being a part of the B&B.

House 3: A lounge on the ground floor and dining above. This house has 'heritage' elements in the facade which will be restored. However, the rear of the house that is dilapidated will be used to insert a new structure that will have an elevator and a regulation staircase that will feed all the four houses.

House 4: The entrance lobby, a gallery on the ground floor. A kitchen and dining space on the second floor and B&B rooms on top.

House 5: The first of the two houses across the street will be completely used by the B&B

House 6: Lastly, this house will be converted into ancillary staff housing to serve the other five buildings.

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