Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Birds are Beautiful

Times of India, Goa Edition, December 11, 2011
At the beginning of this month, I heard them arrive. At 4pm one evening there was suddenly lots of activity in my backyard. There was lots of twittering and flashes of colors as the winter migratory birds had arrived.

My backyard in Goa is basically a jungle, so we are now honoured each day with spectacular shows courtesy of these beautiful creatures. The Bulbuls are the friendliest, they que up at my birdbath and one by one jump in, wiggle their bottoms, fluff up to twice their size and then fly away.... The bigger birds don't bother with many cute antics, they stay perched regally on some high branch and glide off most gracefully to survey the salt pans and hunt their catch. Then there are the birds that chase the squirrels and the squirrels that chase the birds... It is all very amusing and calming..

Here are some more common birds that I see in my backyard:
The most well dressed of them all, the Asian Paradise Flycatcher (Photo Credit)
The playful and friendly, Red Whiskered Bulbul (Photo Credit)

The most noisy, Rufus Treepie (Photo Credit)
The calm one, Black Drongo (Photo Credit)
The undisputed king, Brahminy Kite (Photo Credit)
The most colorful, White Throated Kingfisher (Photo Credit)
The tiny, Sunbird (Photo Credit)
One of the bigger birds, the Greater Coucal (Photo Credit)
The beautiful, Eurasian Golden Oriole (Photo Credit)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Record Houses that bring the indoors outdoors...

The Bahia House, Salvador, Brazil designed by Studio MK27 
Architectural Record, 'the' premier global magazine for architecture and design publishes a selection of homes each year that make the cut. In their selection, the magazine looks for innovation in design along with timelessness in architectural response. While these may sound like seemingly contradictory principles, I guess the ability to be both innovative while being timeless makes an architectural product truly inspiring. Among other factors, the 2011 selection highlighted the responsiveness of the architectural projects to their surrounding landscape. This principle has been the central theme in our design process and thus this year's project selection was of particular interest to us.

Two projects in particular caught our eye. Both are contemporary country homes and share many design principles and concepts that we are using for our house NIVIM in Goa. The interesting aspect is that both houses are built in completely different materials and technology but utilize the same principles of responsiveness to site and relationship to outdoors.

The Bahia House, Salvador, Brazil designed by Studio MK27 
The Montecito Residence, Montecito, California designed by Barton Myers Associates
First is the Bahia House in Salvador, Brazil built in clean modernist geometry using earthy vernacular materials stone, wood and clay tile. This house is set around a courtyard and the living spaces are designed to become a part of the surrounding landscape. The living room is designed with sliding double walls, one with screens and another with glass. When both are opened, the living room becomes a part of the surrounding landscape. The screen walls provide privacy but allows air circulation. (All images courtesy Architectural Record)
Floorplan shows the living room shown as "2" being an unobstructed space between the landscape

The living room space is designed to be a part of the surrounding landscape with double walls that slide our of the way. (Note the Rajasthani puppets on the coffee table !)
The second house that I have picked is very different in its language (materials, technology, look and feel) but its purpose still remains the same. The house is the Montecito Residense in California, designed by Barton Myers Associates. This house is a glass and steel structure that is designed 'to embrace the garden and not shutter it out'.

The beauty of this house once again lies in the design of the indoors with the outdoors. The living room once again is designed to completely open to the outside, this time with 20-foot wide steel and glass doors that open mechanically and fit under the roof when opened. In the floorplan, notice how the architect has designed the outdoor terrace to be bigger than the indoor living room clearly indicating the importance of outdoor living.
The living room completely open to the outdoor through mechanically pivoted doors
The structure is designed completely in glass and steel with the aim to open it to the outdoors
We like the way the structural metal is left exposed. We enjoy the honesty of material and clarity in design

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Week 45: Construction and crazy jet-setting

15,000 miles in 4 weeks
In the last week, I have been to Singapore, attended a wedding in Mumbai, a funeral in Ajmer (Rajasthan) and entertained friends in Goa. If I include three more weeks then I have also been through New York, Germany and Delhi. While I was traveling some 15,000 miles across 3 continents, 4 countries and 10 cities, my team back in Goa were continuing their efforts to move along the design and construction on-site. Thanks to the "flat world" brought to us by information technology, I was able to run my job-site seamlessly amid all the travels. We continued our project meetings through Skype and construction monitoring through bi-weekly digital photography.

What got left behind were my regular construction blog posts and I hope to make up for it in the coming weeks.

I like this photo a lot as it shows how the fully built structure of the house is completely hidden by the exiting foliage on site. The pool pavilion structure on the left is designed as a light structure built completely in wood and steel.

Here is an update@ week 45? There has been good progress and have completed the steel framing for all the openings and the wood rafters for the sloping wood and tile roofs (above LHS guest bedroom and master bedroom). In addition to this we now have a large team of carpenters who are busy preparing lovely teak wood for the fixed louvers and sliding doors.

Pool pavilion as seen from the living room in the main house
The pavilion block is shaping up really well too and the steel frame structure is almost completed. This structure will then be topped by wood rafters and then a sloping roof membrane.

All this while, the electrical points, plumbing and waterproofing is also being carried out. The site in general is buzzing with activity with civil work, woodwork, electrical and plumbing all happening simultaneously.

Fruiting Tamarind tree on-site
The weather in Goa has already turned to it's annual best. Winter weather in Goa can be compared with Spring or early Fall weather in New York. One is treated each morning by a clear blue sky, light filtered sun that makes everything shine and a cool soft breeze. This is a time when we can now conduct our project meetings on-site at the deck area offering a glimpse to the glorious moments the house will present once it is ready for use.

Tamarinds from our tree ! 
In other news, the tamarind trees on site are fruiting and there are countless tamarinds on-site. We have 2 full grown tamarind trees on-site. There is also a tree on-site that gives a fruit called Tehfa. This fruits smell and look like tiny lemons first and then breaks open to produce black peppercorn like seeds. The fruit is used specially to cook a special Goan Mackerel curry. The one tree on-site has enough fruit to feed curry to the entire village!

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