APARTMENTS are an ideal solution to today's land scarcity and sky-high prices in urban areas. But do they cater to special individual needs?
Apartment design has witnessed a change from having been typical contractor or `builder'-friendly models to client-friendly architect-designed spaces.
There are many ways to start a`flat' or an apartment complex project. A builder can buy a land, build at his own cost, probably with the help of an architect and sell the `flats'. A landowner can approach a builder for a joint venture or it could be the other way around. In some cases, it could be a group of people approaching an architect for their apartment complex. But in most cases, either the land or the finance is a constraint. Hence the poor structures that are not future-compliant.
To ensure that these `apartment concepts' do not result in just another living space, we could look at many ways to improve the spatial aspect and character of the building. A little expert touch of colour, some greenery and providing for a few special areas could make the difference.
Most apartments are designed, keeping vastu in mind; so we more often than not see a repetition of room arrangements in accordance with the site and space requirements. To break away from that, we could try introducing some interesting elements and colours, say, large French windows or well-designed flooring. Ample flooding of daylight inside the apartment does have a huge impact. Client interaction alsocomes in handy when the internal walls are being built. One may want a large living room, another a large study room. All these requirements can be accommodated when the buyer interacts at this stage. Even a couple of feet of extra space could make that space more liveable. The toilet position and other areas where water or sanitation lines are to be provided are a little difficult to modify or a slab has to be sunk for that purpose. Even having a 3'0"-wide loft, rather than a conventional 2'0" one, would ensure that you can store that large travel suitcase as well.
But your usage would not be restricted to just the apartment space you have bought or got built. So the whole of the exterior, the land and the terrace areas are going to be an excellent recreation zone.
Greenery could be provided at all possible places. From the `plants box' near the balconies to the ground floor entry landscapes, every possible place can be made rich with a touch of greenery.
We can also create some external gathering spaces near the entry area. Low platforms or `thinais' can be built, which are ideal for an evening chat, while the children play in a landscaped area. The terrace can be used as a jogging area; even a small gymnasium can be built there. Terrace parties too are in vogue today.
Unlike private residences, apartments are huge buildings. So care has to be taken while designing the exterior as well. Many elements like the balconies and sunshades are just stuck-on elements, which could be eliminated by a few recessions and binding of elements with the architect's touch.
The buyer or the owner knows better what they want; he can always explain his requirement to the site engineer. But some features like the colour choice, material selection, tiles and flooring are really an expert's work that cannot be done by the buyer. You could always be involved in the selection and buying process for all materials, but let the designer compose the whole selection, as he would have a better visualisation and understanding of materials and colours.
So, all these efforts put in by the buyer can help to create a special apartment suiting his requirements, which he would be proud to own for years.
(The author is chief architect, Murali Architects, Chennai)