The Sheikh Sarai Housing is a complex of 550 units in South Delhi. Which is a low-rise, high-density scheme that combines the diversity in the units with axial pedestrian networks for a range of spatial and visual experiences. Also, that is based on the Self-Financing Scheme (SFS) for the Delhi Development Authority (DDA). Since the 1970s, there was an increasing need to cater to the housing of the citizens in Delhi. Also in Delhi, with the increasing strength of the professional and the trading classes in the cities along with migration from two and three-tier cities, housing strategies had to be considered for the needs of the middle-class group.
The Mass Housing Project
The Sheikh Sarai Housing is located in the Sheikh Sarai neighbourhood in New Delhi. And the site is about 35 acres. So the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) commissioned the architect Raj Rewal to design a residential housing scheme for the middle and lower-income group of people. Raj Rewal experimented with the Sheikh Sarai Housing Complex as one of the earliest experiment on the topic of social housing applied to a big scale site. It fits into an environment defined by the absence of symbolic features that characterize the site, which is located on the outskirts of New Delhi.
Construction of Units
The housing complex’s development began in 1978 and was completed in 1982. Subsequently, the Sheikh Sarai site was originally intended for the development of a combination of LIG, MIG, and HIG housing units. However, due to financial constraints, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) introduced a new category of housing known as the Self-Financing Scheme (SFS). Within this scheme, the allottees had to pay for their units in 5 installments over the period of the construction of the units. As a result, people who signed up for a unit were entered into a lottery and had the option of specifying their preferences for unit type, layout, and location. The entire mass housing scheme is completely economically viable because of the subsidized housing units and also because of the use of local materials for construction. Finally, this increased the affordability of the apartments.
For the sake of completing the project, the housing units were classified into types. The break-up of the units was as follows –
- Category 1 – 48 units (1 Bedroom).
- Category 2 – 557 units (2 and 3 Bedrooms) and MIG – 192 units (3 Bedrooms).
Categories 1 and 2 were under the Self-Financing Scheme (SFS). Raj Rewal was the architect of the units in Sector D only, which consisted of the Category 2 units only.
Taking inspiration and connection with the historical cities like Udaipur and Jaisalmer in Rajasthan. Also, the Sheikh Sarai Housing is the characteristic of the urban fabric of India. And the design plans establish a clear concept of the close relationship between public and private spaces. As a result, the design arranges the open spaces in a methodical hierarchy throughout.
The mass housing clearly is based on the Haveli Typology inculcating the traditional patterns of urban space. On the other hand, these patterns are refined and perfected into ideal ensembles of collective dwellings. Raj Rewal has masterfully taken advantage of the irregularities on the site as every element offers a harmonious physical entity for living and working.
Built Form of Sheikh Sarai Housing by Raj Rewal, New Delhi
To imitate a traditional urban settlement, low-rise high-density walk-up flats are packed to form interior shaded streets linked by gateways and open courtyards (traditional Indian architectural components) for public use, and as an expression of style of the architect. The gateways, a common feature throughout the project, enabled a high level of transparency despite the fact that it was a high-density development, making it legible for the users.
Movement and Flow
Clear demarcation of vehicular and pedestrian streets, limiting vehicular flow to the road’s periphery with few access points along the road It improves pedestrian flow by puncturing the built solids along the central spine. So that is defined as the parking spaces and flow of traffic outside of the housing clusters. Moreover, there is a clear pattern connecting the movement to space, from person to neighborhood, also pedestrian to vehicular. The movement zones flow from the outer margins to the inner areas of the housing scheme, overlapping accordingly to create access points along the periphery.
Community Spaces at Sheikh Sarai Housing by Raj Rewal, New Delhi
Moreover creating intimate courtyards connected to one another, embodying traditional components of Indian architecture, to foster common areas for the community. The scale of these courtyards manipulates to encourage more social activities and interaction among the resident community, in addition to acting as social facilitators. So the individual to community equation structures through a progression of private spaces to squares of various sizes with shaded paths running throughout. Because every open space is meticulously controlled and organized, there is no room for neglected green spaces. Thus, the open greens are at the strategic places because they facilitate the orientation for the pedestrians.
Clusters and Units
The massing of building blocks creates clusters with inner courts and inside shaded streets. Also, the blocks of units connected. On the other hand, maintain the proper spacing between them and creates a system of covered pedestrian streets and internal courts. The organization of the blocks at Sheikh Sarai housing are also similar to the traditional medieval cities of Rajasthan.
Six different types of units ranging from 70-120 Sq.m. (70 Sq.m., 95 Sq.m., 110 Sq.m. and 120 Sq.m.), organized in two different clusters, 3 and 4 story high. The units come in a variety of sizes and types, ranging from studios to three-bedroom apartments. While the differences are slight, the necessity for economy and design is evident throughout the interior. Consequently, the apartments are tight, with no ambiguity of space caused by larger floor spaces to negotiate from. Despite the closeness and clustering of both units, each room is well-ventilated and well-lit, with an adjoining patio for each apartment. However, all the units are provided with courtyards or rooftop terraces.
Areas of Spaces of Sheikh Sarai Housing by Raj Rewal, New Delhi
- Area of Intervention – 38195 Sq.m. ~ 3.82 Ha.
- Built Up – 12740 Sq.m. ~ 1.2 Ha.
- Surface Parking – 6622 Sq.m. ~ 0.66 Ha.
- Green Areas – 3931 Sq.m. ~ 0.39 Ha.
Urban-scape at the site level, the architect developed the project by employing urban strategies of articulated flows, segregated spaces and applied the same on the site level. Therefore in a structured urban settlement. Raj Rewal designed the layout density at Sheikh Sarai as 100 DU/ha which comprised about 11% greater than the master plan applications. For instance, the compact dense development both on the ground floor and above maximized the use of space.
In conclusion, the Sheikh Sarai Project resembles the morphology of medieval Indian cities and its white composition, intentionally modern, is reminiscent of Udaipur. Most importantly, the housing scheme stands as yet another landmark in Delhi housing chronology and is responsible for the DDA’s middle-income housing to reach the limelight once again.
Also read: The Interlace in Singapore by Ole Scheeren
Brian Brace Taylor, M. P. (1992). Sheikh Sarai Housing – New Delhi. Retrieved from Raj Rewal Associates: https://rajrewal.in/portfolio/sheikh-sarai-housing-new-delhi/
Gupta, S. (June, 1991). Housing with Authority : The role of public and private architects in public housing in Delhi. Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Kit, S. (2018, November 6). Research Project – Low-Cost Housing Issues (Solution). Retrieved from Blogspot.com: https://samkit-education.blogspot.com/2018/11/research-project-low-cost-housing.html
SiddhikaChichani. (March 26, 2018). POST INDEPENDENCE ARCHITECTURE IN INDIASHEIKH SARAI HOUSING COMPLEX, NEW DELHI. Slideshare.net.
Singh, H. (August 12, 2015). SHEIKH SARAI HOUSING COMPLEX. Slideshare.net.
Hello, I am an Architect and an Urban Designer. I also have an avid interest in Architectural Journalism and am always looking for opportunities to cure my words into writing projects. I love urban sketching as well and always enthusiastic to explore my passion in the field.
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