The Tube house was designed by Charles Correa (1930-2015). It was a winning entry in a competition organized by the Gujarat Housing Board for low-cost housing.
During the 1960s Ahmedabad was quite a fertile ground for architectural experimentation. In 1961 the Gujarat Housing Board held an open national competition to encourage new ideas for low-cost housing. Though the competition brief specified walk-up apartments, Correa’s winning entry of row-houses provided the same density and larger living space per family.
Inspired by the wind-catcher houses that can be found in Sind in Pakistan, Correa developed a low-rise high-density arrangement of long and narrow parallel units that, through their very shape, set up a convection of natural ventilation. The Tube House, as it came to be known, spoke of sustainability long before the term became fashionable. Tube House can certainly be read as an early example of Correa’s “form follows climate,” ideology. The principle found its way and strengthened through application in several other projects over the following years – most notably in the Ramkrishna House (1962-64) also in Ahmedabad, the PREVI experimental low-cost housing competition (1969) in Lima, Peru, and the iconic Kanchenjunga Apartments(1969-83) in Mumbai.
Correa’s take on designing a low cost housing unit in 1960 in Ahmedabad was to respond to the hot temperatures of the city. With the tight dimensions of 18.2 metres long by 3.6 metres wide (60 ft x 12 ft), the unit minimizes the use of doors and windows. The roof slopes rather dramatically to protect the inner volume of the house from the harsh sunlight. A small internal courtyard, reminiscent of traditional Indian houses and a recurring element in Correa’s work, is covered here by a pergola grid to minimize the heat impact and ensure security.
The slits in the sloping roof, along with adjustable louvers by the entrance, use the simple principles of “Hot air rises” and apply it to utilize the conventional flow of air currents to naturally ventilate and cool the house. An open floor plan distributes the functions on different levels of the section of the house, which enables privacy and creates visual barriers without the use of walls or doors. Built at the height of the Indian socialist movement, the opposing spectrums of the Ramkrishna House and Tube House further cement Charles Correa’s position on housing design in India.
In conjunction with environmentally responsive design, the Tube House won an award for low cost housing, alerting the architectural world that socially and environmentally conscious design was a sustainable option in the developing world.