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Set within the expressive Mughal, Gothic and Baroque architecture of India's cultural city and second-largest urban super-city is a series of evolving urban contradictions. The Living Steel competition for Rajarhat New Town created the opportunity to harmonise, challenge and embrace these apparently opposing urban, economic and cultural conditions to develop a new model of housing for a new city:

urban evolution versus planned satellite town;

city of culture versus boom economics and urbanisation;

mass housing versus homes for individuals; and sealed cellular space versus open and permeable vernacular.

Contemporary housing rarely deviates from the accepted model of sealed cellular spaces, which often fails to respond to demographic and environmental conditions. The challenge is to create an economically viable alternative: expressive, joyful and responsive to the environment.

SymHomes Mk1 is the symbiotic relationship of a sealed, conditioned and contemporary living space, enveloped by a permeable responsive outer skin. As the two skins become permeable, the spaces in between make an outdoor room and internal spaces engage with the landscape.

It will be delivered as a factory-produced kit of parts, developed with Tata Steel. Only at extremes of temperature and humidity will it require mechanical cooling and conditioning. A low-energy under oor system will temper the internal environment in low and mid season, switching to air-only at peak times. There are also shading screens. The project includes solar thermal for hot water, incorporates a ground-source heat pump and features combined heat and power; the electrical component is mainly to address peak loads and power cuts.

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