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Defence Colony Residence

Vir.Mueller Architects

Defence Colony Residence
By Michael Webb -

Seven conquerors established cities on the site of India’s capital before the British constructed New Delhi in the 1920s as their short-lived seat of empire. Ruins of the earlier foundations are scattered through the fast-expanding metropolis as inspiration to architects who care more for their own culture than the seductive gleam of East and West. Sadly, the newly prosperous middle class has embraced some of the worst examples of global glitz, notably in the Defence Colony neighborhood, a short drive south of the center. Laid out in the 1950s as a community for retired military officers, it grew into a leafy enclave of modest bungalows. As the Indian economy began to boom at the start of the new millennium, land values soared. The area was rezoned to permit houses of up to five stories, and builders persuaded owners to max out their sites, turning the floors they didn’t need into apartments for rent or sale. Many of the original bungalows are gone and the rest are at risk. Pankaj Vir Gupta and Christine Mueller, the principals of vir.mueller architects, have created a new paradigm. A well-educated couple commissioned a house, having admired their previous work and their concern to find an economical and ecological solution. The architects decided to work with exposed brick, a material that was widely used in Delhi as recently as 30 years ago, but has now been supplanted by steel and concrete. Himanshu Parikh, a daring structural engineer who had worked in Europe for Arup and Buro Happold, before moving back to India in the 1980s, collaborated with vir.mueller. He suggested they create a load-bearing structure - a closed box with brick walls braced with reinforced concrete floor slabs would meet the city’s tough seismic code and provide good thermal insulation. The construction cost could be reduced by designing flat reinforced concrete slabs and omitting structural beams. This would also allow greater freedom in laying out each floor. “We remembered the brick...

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