Guddo’s home

︎ Khichripur colony, East Delhi
Completed : June 2018
Carpet Area : 200 square feet
In collaboration with Tekton Studio, Delhi

 A large proportion of the population in Indian cities lives in Informal Settlements. These are congested areas, often marred by overcrowding and poor infrastructure and services. Houses here are primarily self built, and with ever expanding families of their inhabitants, they undergo constant additions and renovations.
I had the pleasure of being involved in the design and construction of one such informal home - for Guddo aunty, my family’s domestic help who worked with us for over 2 decades. For the longest time, aunty, who knew every detail of my routine and needs, didnt understand what it was I did. Years after graduating from architecture school, years after seeing me carry around countless models and massive drawing sheets, she finally sat me down one day and made me explain it all to her, and what she heard really impressed her. Then in October 2017, while I holed up at home and wrote my Grad school applications, aunty asked me --
will you help build my house”? 

The brief
Khichripur was conceived as a resettlement village decades ago in the 1960’s, when a series of plots were allocated to accomodate the population boom and rapid urbanization in Delhi. At that time aunty’s family was small, and they built a simple 2 room-house on the land using iron and stone - the predominant construction technique used at that time. Since then, aunty had 4 children - two boys and two girls - and by 2017 when we started the project, they were atleast eight, living in that house. The daughters had been married awaty, but the eldest Monto was now married and had two kids. Various additions and changes had been made in the house throughout this time, but these were now insufficient.  The house had been long dilapidating and demanded attention, and more space would anyway be needed for the younger son Inderjeet’s family, who was already 25 and of age for marriage.  

The family had some other needs as well - each of the son’s families would need private space, creating a larger kitchen and family space, and providing a complete unit on the ground floor for the now aging parents, who would not be able to climb staircases for their daily business in the future, which was to be given utmost priority in the design. The house  Most important however was, to render a rich, new and modern quality to the house by virture of the finishing materials, and leave all “traditional” artefacts far behind. In addition to this, was my designers mind, that wanted to enhance the quality of the space by maximising natural light and ventilation. The whole house was to be demolished and rebuilt, and all this had to be achieved in a 200sqft space and 10 lakh rupees (about $15,000). This was all the money the family had saved up for this major endeavor, and that meant there was no scope for making mistakes. 

Nothing about this seemingly small project was simple or straightforward, and getting through all the hurdles with the family made it a highly enriching experience. 

“design as a collective balancing act” 
Coming up with the design was no easy task. As the architects, we wanted all family members to have everything they wanted. To achieve this, we would have discussions and consultations to make the smallest decisions.  Through this process, we had several disagreements, primarily about fundamental things - in addition to our knowledge about construction materials , we also brought our romantic ideas of traditional techniques for saving costs - using
The family however, wanted prioritizing aesthetics versus durability while selecting materials, allocating space for balconies, 

“establishing trust is paramount” 

“home is not just a building but an extension of a people’s values, culture and everything they stand for”
The entire process of building the house, the regular visits to Khichripur, was a lesson about the everyday life in an informal settlement. Working with aunty’s family meant making friends with all those who occupied the street. From the local kiraanewala, to the lady who let me park my car outside her home, to . Everyone there knew me, and my visits were always accompanied by social interactions and greetings. Most energetic of all were the kids, who in part were intrigued to see a young woman marching through their neighborhood and giving directions to the construction team, and very fascinated to see the evolution of a house that appeared to be very different from its surroundings
It always felt as if my visits was a sounding bell for the entire street and beyond. Once construction started, I began encountering new faces during every visit, of people who 

“an innovative system is required for providing architectural services 
A low budget project meant the construction team was relatively inexperienced to understand and execute our complex design. Although the main contractor, Sushil ji, had agreed to work on a smaller fee, he had only done interior work previously. This meant that he needed to be supervised more frequently than usual, or mistakes would happen that we could not afford. For instance, the straircase had been designed extra intricately to connect the labyrinth of spaces, and getting that executed was a mammoth task that altered the design. 


Approach and Design process  
In addition to the given brief, having recently built a similar home for my employer Ashok Lall’s driver, I too had certain systems and methods that I was determined not to compromise on.
    1. To achieve the most optimal design, I knew that customization would be crucial in this project. Over the course of the process, we had had countless long meetings and discussions with different members of the family, so that we could meet each and every oneoftheir needs.Various tools and technqiues -models, drawings, 3D, sketches. a lesson in communication
Reuse old materials as much as possible to save costs- bricks and metal all reused. Minimal wastage
A comprehensive cooling system
The design process was somewhat like solving a jigsaw puzzle, it was about finding the best way to arrange all the pieces without wasting even an inch of space.