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  • Yogesh M Singh

How is Nivasa redefining low-cost architecture in India?

Read on to find out how Nivasa is solving the rural housing in Southern India


While designing for underprivileged communities with minimal resources, the users are mere beneficiaries of the initiative instead of clients. Their needs and beliefs often get marginalized by the top-down approach to design. The difference in how we go about designing for the affluent and the poor suggests an underlying nonchalant attitude towards community needs and preferences. Nivasa has been striving for an analyzed and well-choreographed experience through the project GRIHA.

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The vision of the project is to develop prototypes for houses, anganwadis, offices, and lime kilns to be implemented in thirty districts of Karnataka. After the completion of scaled drawings and models, Nivasa will further assist in the construction of these prototypes as per needs.

The housing shortage, as well as poor standards of living, are a few of the primary issues social architecture intends to trump over. Low-cost structures seldom provide livability and contextual ingenuity per individual needs.

Nivasa's aims to provide dignified habitation in compliance with culture, climate, availability, usage patterns, and accessibility. The core house module has been conceived as a flexible component achievable within government allocated funds.

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Conception and Space

The design process for the Nivasa team started with the segregation of the various typologies of village houses according to their plot size and income of the owner. The comparative analysis demonstrated several programs, prevailing material choices, and finishes in the housing units. The research stage also involved numerous surveys and interviews involving resource people.

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For the kiln design at Chitradurga district, the building technology experts of the team proposed a prototype that was efficient in fuel usage and took less time to construct. The new kiln significantly increased the lime productivity with no compromise in the lime output.

The Anganwadis were the prime typology of all the templates. The design aimed to cater to the various physical as well as psychological aspects of children. The ideas were kept consistent with the design requirements put forth by the Ministry of Women and Child Development.

Anganwadis can be fundamentally interpreted as a small learning space for children along with a kitchen. The space is clear and flexible creating a humane scale and organization. Nivasa has successfully incorporated colors and ergonomic proportions in the study spaces while keeping grounded aesthetics befitting the environment.

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The completed five houses in the Udupi district stand amidst the Kodagu farms. The structural materials employed include bricks and wooden rafters (for the roof) covered with locally sourced tiles. The houses consist of animal rearing sheds as per the requirement of the locals.

The material aesthetic is coherent with the vernacular constructions contributing to a delicate sense of familiarity. The application of simple paints and colors adds to the individuality of the structures. The mud blocks stood as a resilient option when tested for the bearing capacity. Nivasa employs systematic research to produce more durable and lasting designs as an essential outcome.

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Socialistic community-based design primarily relies on interaction and collaboration. Several practices employed from the design phase to the implementation phase foster both direct and indirect interactions amongst the community. Training sessions were conducted with the skilled as well as unskilled participants in the construction process. Education is the core of sustained change due to its ability to empower people to democratically assist in the process. Nivasa held sessions with school children for awareness of environmental issues.

The team also received help in the form of physical labor from the community. The contribution facilitated the transfer of skill to the locals and instilled a sense of ownership among the people. The cooperation from the local bodies, contractors, and other NGOs like Plan India, Coca-Cola foundation, and APSA made the process straightforward and simplified.

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The Nivasa team seemingly restores local identity and stimulates holistic advancement for the underprivileged sections. Nivasa's approach helps voice out the needs and opinions of the masses while making it an educating experience. While a low-cost design is often interpreted as temporary, repetitive, and unresponsive, project GRIHA fulfils the vision of a resilient, discrete, and dignified architecture.

While Nivasa team's work is phenomenal, we'd like to express our interest in working with NGOs and social foundations to help them realise their infrastructural needs within a tight budget.

We're currently working in close collaboration with an NGO in Patna, Bihar to program their child care spaces.

Get in touch with us here or email at if you are looking for architects and designers who share the same societal vision with you.

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