Now that we are social distancing and self-isolating, we are becoming more spatially aware. How do we get more natural light in? How do we revamp the energy of a space? Cue shows on OTT platforms — from Grand Designs and Stay Here to Sanrachna to The Creative Indians — that can inspire us to make our homes our sanctuaries. One of the latest to join this subculture is HOME on Apple TV+, a deep and personal dive into a home’s cultural identity, the historical ethnography of the architect, and the collective impact on architectural design and lifestyle. The story of Auroville’s famous Wall House, and its creator Anupama Kundoo, encompass the ‘India’ episode (Apple approached the architect after seeing her work in Italy, where she created a replica of the house inside the Arsenale at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2016).
“I am at peace with the lockdown,” Kundoo, 53, tells me over the phone, “because I did not wait for an outer circumstance to be able to live on the inside. I have, since an early age, been looking for this kind of time. The main resource I have is time and how I spend that resource is a great inward experience.” Then again, not everyone has the living space Kundoo has. A linear yet massive structure of wood and other earthly elements that is a reflection of Kundoo’s personality: sure of itself and unrelenting in creativity.
Spaces with life
Auroville is a hub of architectural goldmines — buildings such as Satprem Maïni’s Vikas Settlement and Roger Anger’s Matrimandir Temple come to mind. But the foundation of Wall House stands out for its functional appeal as well as striking design. Featuring brick masonry, an arching roof of guna (burnt clay pipes), long steps to establish spatial parameters, and natural light. Living up to its name, the spaces inside can be redefined with adjustable walls (she worked with local craftsmen to create ferrocement screens that can be pulled and pivoted to open up the space between the main living spaces and the outdoors).
Reduced energy demands of the 20-year-old house are entirely met by solar photovoltaics for electricity, along with a solar water heater and pump. But more importantly, Kundoo was mindful in not using steel for Wall House; all experiments were undertaken, in fact, to minimise reliance on materials like steel and cement. These materials, she points out require huge energy and infrastructure to produce and exclude local building skills and participation. That said, despite the episode being just 30 minutes, viewers can still fully appreciate the three-year journey of creating the house in the late 90s, at a time of a global resource crunch.
Until production for HOME actually unfolded, Kundoo says she did not realise where the project was headed. “Its concept is refreshing because it does not look at a home as an object created for others. In today’s culture, I have often seen that people are very concerned with how things appear to others, what kind of statement it makes. The show looks at a home from the inhabitants’ points-of-view. I’m really happy about that because, as an architect, I get to see how people understand that the home is an extension of oneself.”
Ask her what the West can learn from India in terms of architecture and she pauses a minute before responding: “Since we are not a mainstream industrialised nation, we still engage directly with the way we make things. The West can learn a lot about personal engagement… actually, it is already happening given we are all staying at home now and reflecting. It is not just how your home looks but also your food culture, your morning routine… one now has the chance to reconfigure all of that.”
Hand work to the fore
Home, hearth and the screen
- Tiny House Nation: Available on Netflix, the show sees renovation pros John Weisbarth and Zack Giffin travel across the US to showcase ingenious small spaces and the inventive people who live in them. They also help new families design and construct homes in a space no larger than 500 sq ft. Expect a micro-apartment in New York City to a caboose car turned home in Montana.
- Lockdown language: The way we see and use our space is changing. More homes are opening back up to a mud room, a space to leave your outerwear and shoes before proceeding inside. And, of course, dedicated home offices as well as DIY standing desks are becoming a thing.
- Ask the pros: The home-conscious Insta-community is quite active, scrolling through their Explore page and getting in touch with interior designers for advice. In turn, interior designers and companies such as ArchitectureLive.in, Peter Ippolito, Clodagh and Royce Epstein are enjoying new demographics through Instagram Live.
- Self-sufficiency: Lockdown has invited more sustainability and efficiency. Kitchen gardens and a greener attitude to power and water consumption are on the forefront of citizens’ minds, so much so that #MyKitchenGarden and #GreenLife are trending on social media.
Similarly, she feels the North of India can learn a lot from the South too. Kundoo grew up in Mumbai (with Bengali roots), but she was always drawn to the South for its personable nature. “Auroville provides a fertile ground for new ideas around rethinking urbanism, education and economy. The rest of the country [and the world] can learn a lot from that. City engineering is not about the outer infrastructure, but about the well-being of human society’s spirit and matter,” she says, adding that she looks upon the craftsmen’s contributions to Wall House as “living intelligence” because it is important to her and Indian urbanisation to not separate the materials from the human resource.
The ‘India’ episode also has Kundoo narrating her family’s lineage. Were there points at which she was hesitant to share something? “It is always a bit uncomfortable to open up about very sensitive issues [including memories of her paralysed mother who had a second stroke, before passing away in Wall House], but I felt this was the right occasion to step out of my comfort zone. There is aspiration in this production team, and HOME is not superficially done.”
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