Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Design Concept

This is a difficult post to write because I can go on and on about all the things that we are trying to achieve with the design of this house. But I will try my best to be concise yet comprehensive.

The core principle behind the design concept and decisions is ‘to be true to the place where we are building’. We asked ourselves this question: Why would a person choose to live in Goa (part-time or full-time)? We realized the underlying theme is because Goa allows a person to reconnect with nature. This aspect has since been central to our design concept.

In our proposed building design we have tried to minimise barriers between the built structure and nature. Each room has been designed such that it has an internal space (bedroom, living room, bathroom) and an external space (verandah, courtyard, balcony) that meets with the larger green open spaces on-site. Many walls dividing these internal and external spaces are designed to fold or slide to create a barrier free integration of inside and outside.
House in the Jungle in Brazil
The architectural style would probably be called ‘Tropical Contemporary’. It suggests a contemporary open plan layout where there is seamless interaction between the inside and outside. In addition, there is a focus on the use of local natural materials while integrating contemporary technology and design.

Furthermore, we realised that we must make every effort to preserve our reason for coming to Goa. Hence, we have resolved to try to keep our immediate site surroundings and Goa green, idyllic and free from the added pressures of development. How we do that is to commit to building a green building, by using local materials, reusing and recycling building material whenever possible, reducing waste, minimising energy use, storing and reusing rainwater, cleaning our grey water on-site and reducing the storm water runoff from our site.

We aim for our project to be responsive and responsible. 

My inspirations have been:

Architecture practice in Auroville where architects question all standard norms of construction to build in the most innovative and sustainable manner. I spent close to 4 months in Auroville while working at the Auroville Building Center as part of my architectural professional training in the year 2000. I remember attending a party at architect Anupama Kundoo’s house. I was blown away by how her house could completely open out to be a part of its landscape but at the same time she could easily close it up if she was heading out of town. It was the first place where I saw an open air shower bath and then a plunge pool on the terrace. Breeze blew through the entire house and one did not need even a fan on the warmest day or night. I loved the freedom and luxury it represented where one could sit, sleep, and bathe everything while enjoying an uninterrupted connection to nature. This was a truly unique experience for an urbanite; there were no neighbours, traffic noise, pollution, or congestion. This was a kind of architecture where your space and its experience changed with seasons as different trees around you would flower and fruit, migratory birds would join the local birds, frogs would appear in the monsoons and butterflies in spring. 

Anupama Kundoo House in Auroville
Along with the spatial innovations, at the Auroville Building Center we were building homes with mud excavated from the sites (hence not requiring new building material), straw and other renewable recycled materials like glass bottles, broken tiles, etc. There were also stepped pools in my backyard that organically filtered the water from the kitchen and bathroom. Communities generated power through the sun and wind. These were the innovations in Auroville almost 11 years back, probably it is time for a few of these to make their way to commercial construction, specially while building on Greenfield (i.e. virgin) sites in environmentally sensitive areas.
House for Pradeep Jayewardene in Mirissa, Sri Lanka by Geoffery Bawa
Geoffery Bawa – What I love about Bawa’s work is his understanding and use of local natural materials, the play of light in his buildings and the integration of open spaces in his designs. Bawa got the opportunity to work on some of the most beautiful sites in tropical Sri Lanka, its seafronts and lush green hills. The key element in his design has been to integrate his buildings with nature. The buildings were never meant to make an architectural statement but instead get lost in the landscape. His architecture was more about the outside than the inside. In urban areas, Bawa pioneered the courtyard house where the home and its living areas were arranged around internal courtyards instead of looking out onto noisy city streets. In suburban and rural sites, Bawa deconstructed the traditional courtyard home to create 'walls' and 'no walls' breaking the separation between inside and outside spaces, creating outdoor rooms and embracing the site's landscape.

House for Osmund and Ena de Silva, an urban courtyard house in Colombo by Geoffery Bawa
Bawa has influenced several architects in Goa, most notably Architect Gerard da Cunha and Dean D'Cruz. While in architecture school, I also had the chance to visit Goa and we visited many buildings built by these two leading architects. They left a firm impression on my mind. Gerard and Dean built in Goa while respecting the land and nature of Goa. It was legend among us students that these two architects many times did not do drawings but actually designed their buildings on-site while considering all the unique site features of orientation, wind direction, topography, views, trees and other vegetation. It presented a respect for the site and surroundings that I hope to embody in our designs. 

House designed by Dean D'Cruz 

Other leading architects in India have been following these principles of responsiveness to the site and surrounding and environmental sustainability. Unfortunately, this way of building has not found its way into commercial real estate development. Most commercial construction tends to play it safe, are afraid to experiment and therefore produce conventional buildings that look and feel the same regardless of their location and specific conditions. We hope to change that by raising the bar. Stay with us while we work on it.

Continue Reading: Design Concept II


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