When Bangalore-based architects Kiran Venkatesh and his wife Nithya were deliberating on an exciting theme for an architecture exhibition, they first thought of the India code +91—and then homed in on single-family, independent houses designed between 2000 and 2009 in different parts of the country.

This house in Hyderabad’s Jubilee Hills area, designed by Nandu Associates, has exterior walls of inexpensive Dholpur stone. The vaulted roof segments are lined with solar power panels.

In a day and age where the cookie-cutter approach is often used to build homes, the houses featured at the Max Mueller Bhavan exhibition are distinct in their elevations, interiors, colour and texture. Glossy colour photographs of each residence hang alongside their layout sketches. There is a section devoted to large black-and-white designs and models of homes yet to be built.

The exhibition has been organized by InCITE, a contemporary architecture initiative that the couple instituted with its first show in 2008. It has been accompanied by a workshop, organized by and8 architekten and InCITE, and nine presentations on contemporary designs and architecture. “The idea of our initiative was to begin an exchange of contemporary design patterns and styles that (have) emerged in the last 10 years in urban Indian homes," says Venkatesh, who also runs InFORM Architects Pvt. Ltd in Bangalore.

Click here to see more images of products featured in ‘+91 Residences’

Seventy-seven architecture firms are taking part, 91 homes completed between 2000-09 have been showcased, and 19 work-in-progress residences and 42 models have also been featured. Some dominant, albeit contrasting, trends are evident in these works.

Compact, functional homes

This Kerala home designed by Lijo Reny Architects is bright, with natural light flooding in from large openings, but remarkably cool because of skylights.

For Mohandas Konanoor, a Bangalore-based software engineer whose 2,800 sq. ft house (designed by Venkatesh) is featured in the exhibition, functionality was a prime concern. “I insisted on a small kitchen garden and garage, but I also ensured that the design of the house was completely functional, without any wastage of space or any unnecessary features," Konanoor says.

Compact housing is an international trend, says Achim Aisslinger, who runs architecture and design firm Aisslinger+Bracht in Hamburg, Germany, and was in Bangalore for a presentation at the exhibition. “Minimal housing is the order of the day in Europe as most people have curbed their real estate investments," he says. Aisslinger has designed Loft Cube, a portable 160 sq. ft space that doubles as a portable home and workplace. It takes three days to set up. Priced at $140,000 (around Rs64.5 lakh), it is expensive by European property standards, but has got a good response, says Aisslinger.

Homing in on the environment

Designed by Uday and Mausumi Andhare of Indigo Architects, this home in Ahmedabad looks like a conventional bungalow on the outside, but actually has few barriers to the outdoors. A bamboo blind is sometimes the only exterior ‘wall’ for its living spaces.

They have other grassy weapons in their eco-warrior arsenal too. “We install vertical screens made of heat-treated bamboo...that help in considerably cooling down the interiors. We also try to build in multiple courtyards or openings in a house so that there is enough natural light without heating up the interiors," says Jos.

In another residence on show, designed by Hyderabad-based architect B. Nanda Kumar, the placement of vaulted roof segments is meant to ensure that overhead solar panels get the maximum possible exposure to the sun.

And, no, “green" measures don’t necessarily add to costs.

The design by Delhi-based architects Rohit Raj and his wife Vandana for a retirement home in Solan, Himachal Pradesh, uses local materials such as slate, stone from Manali and local wood to bring a natural texture to the structure, keep the budget within manageable limits and check the carbon footprint.

Spatial shifts

There is a growing pragmatism among architects while designing homes for younger couples. Two very different trends are visible here.

One interesting feature in contemporary homes, says architect Uday Andhare of Ahmedabad-based Indigo Architects, is the lack of barriers. Andhare cites examples of houses without living rooms or with verandas flowing into living rooms, separated only by a bamboo screen.

Nanda Kumar, for example, has created five terraces that surround the Hyderabad residence he designed. They keep the outdoors accessible throughout the home, creating a sense of openness.

In complete contrast is another trend. “There is (also) an emerging stream of thought where working couples prefer homes that can be locked up like a box when they leave," Andhare adds. “Open spaces are minimal in them."

At home together

The draw for visitors lies not only in the ideas on display, but in the options and guiding principles behind them. “There is no sense of competition in this, we only tried to showcase the various patterns that have emerged in the way we live, over the years," says Venkatesh.

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