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by: Michelle Fox, Director of Art + Communications

Shifting our approach

Shelter accounts for the highest amount of monetary losses in climate related disasters (Comerio, 1997). Housing is often the single largest asset owned by individuals and families.

After a storm or natural disaster, resources are focused on restoring shelters to their previous state of operation—often times rebuilding with little to no modifications to the previous design—simply bouncing back.

However, what we have found through our economic analysis in Vietnam and India, is that simple storm resistant construction techniques can be employed to protect shelter from avoidable damages and costs. We argue that investments into construction prior to a storm, proves more cost effective than spending on post-disaster recovery.

With this finding we are encouraging households to bounce forward—learning from the mistakes of the past and considering the future uncertainty of climate change.

How to build?

Resilient Housing Design Competition 2013: Call for Entries In support of our study, we hosted the Resilient Housing Design Competition 2013. We called upon the knowledge of local architects and builders to submit designs that considered shelter in the context of flooding and rising temperatures. At ISET-International, we place high value on the experiences and knowledge of local residents and have been extremely pleased with the creativity and innovation of their response.

Winners announced A panel of judges reviewed many impressive entries, but only one selection could be made for the professional category. We are excited to announce Kalpit Ashar and Mayuri Sisodia the winners of the India Resilient Housing Design Competition! Together this team, better known as Mad(e) in Mumbai, developed a housing design that is not only low-cost and beautifully designed, but flood and heat resistant as well! Congratulations to you both!


Please describe your background and education in architecture. How long have you been a professional architect?

Our undergraduate education in architecture took place in Mumbai, which has majorly shaped the philosophy of our practice and thinking towards cities and architecture. Both of us completed our undergraduate course from Kamla Raheja Institute for Architecture, Mumbai and went to different cities to study further. Mayuri went to London with Charles Wallace Trust award and completed her Masters in Urban Design at The Bartlett, University College London and I pursued Masters in self-sufficient habitats, digital tectonics & emergent territories at Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, Barcelona.

After graduating, we worked with Charles Correa Associates and worked on various national & international projects. We have been also involved with Kamala Raheja Institute for architecture as a design faculty since 2008. Together we formed MAD(E) IN MUMBAI, to pursue our interests in art, architecture and cities.

MAD(E) IN MUMBAI has won many national and international design competitions which include ‘Rethinking Kala Nagar Traffic Junction’ organised by BMW Guggenheim Lab, ‘Revitalization of Banganga Crematorium’ organised by the Rotary Club; and the International Design Competition for Sustainable Community Center organized by International Conference for Humane Habitat.

What was your motivation in entering the Resilient Housing Design Competition 2013?

What attracted us most towards the competition was the phenomenon of resilience itself. We saw resilience here as an ability of architecture to soak the forces of nature and transform itself with seasons and changing rhythms of water. This lens allowed us to transcend the conventional notions of architecture from solid, unchangeable entity towards dynamic process transforming with time.

Another aspect of the competition that interested us was the idea of low cost dwelling. In case of flooding, the poor are the worst affected sections of society as the sprawling city pushes them towards margins and low-lying areas. The attempt of the competition to contribute towards social equity and creation of socially viable environments interested our practice.

Also in terms of tectonics, low cost housing was an interesting and challenging phenomenon for us. We saw it more as an opportunity instead of a restraint. Both of us have always been inspired by simple and local techniques of construction deployed in various geographies of India. This competition gave us a platform to express and explore our interests in assembling local materials together.

What type of research did you do when developing designs? Were you already familiar with low-income communities, and did you do any site visits during your research?

Our research mainly included low cost housing in Indian context. We studied works of Laurie Baker and a few other architects whose practice focuses on developing architectural responses for poor households using locally available materials.

Are climate resilient shelters a topic of discussion in India, or is this an emerging field? Do you find clients and communities receptive to design considerations that relate to climate change?

Earlier, the climate resilient shelters were discussed on public forums when a major disaster took place. Within the last decade, the consciousness towards resilient dwellings has increased internationally and nationally in a public domain. Unfortunately, at the ground level, people are not yet aware of the phenomenon even in metropolises like Mumbai. The residential developments that sweep the city today tend to ignore the relationship of habitat with the climate, seasons and hydrological processes making them vulnerable to natural disasters in future.

Have you ever considered climate change and resilience in previous designs?

Resilience is an evocative idea for us and we would love to explore the idea in all possible directions through variety of projects and contexts.

You have included many details to reduce the threat of flooding and heat in the RHDC 2013 winning design. What concepts are you most proud of, and why?

The project revolves around four simple ideas that fundamentally shape the dwellings. They include:

Building city scale resilience

Here we discuss strategies of contributing towards city scaled resilience. Each residential plot is designed to develop 20% of its land as a water body that could soak flood water. These water bodies multiply across the landscape as rainwater harvesting systems where water is collected, purified, circulated and celebrated. The houses grow around the water body.

Aqueous house typology Here we question stilted typology of flood resilient housing and develop a house rooted in its people’s relationship with the ground plane. Thus, the house gradually lifts up to relate to the ground and lets the water flow beneath towards the tank.

Neighborhood Here we question the monotonously repeating landscapes of flood responsive houses and design strategies towards formation of an intimately stitched neighborhood.

Local techniques of construction Here we deploy simple construction techniques of assembling bricks, bamboo and terracotta together used by local craftsman and masons.

How have you personally seen shelter and climate affect your community?

We could recall the floods of 26th July 2005 in Mumbai that caused considerable damage to the city and the neighborhoods. The unplanned residential developments that interfere with the natural paths water take to reach the sea were one of the prime causes of the floods. If the habitats of the city respect the hydrological processes of the topography and allow the water to make its way, then these devastating incidences could be avoided.

Here we highlight the resilient systems of this winning design entry. Download the 4-page pdf here


Reference: Comerio, M. C. (1997). Housing issues after disasters. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 5(3), 166–178. doi: 10.1111/1468-5973.00052

The Resilient Housing Design Competition 2013 was hosted by ISET-International, Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group, and Seeds India as part of the Sheltering From A Gathering Storm project.

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