Frank Lloyd Wright’s memorable phrase that houses should grow “out of the ground and into the light” seems to be apt for a home like the one that Samir and Seema Sud have just had built for themselves, about 50km from New Delhi.
In this day and age, we might have to acknowledge the need and convenience of highrises but that doesn’t mean you can’t take time off to stand and stare. Or become attuned to what environmentalists, and by extension thinking planners, developers and home builders the world over are increasingly saying, that what we build should be caring of the surroundings.
The Suds’ brief to architect Biplab Talapatra was to build a retreat away from Delhi where they live and work, and to stay away from the slick city idiom as far as possible. “We wanted something quite different in tone and feel from our high–energy city home and also something that would be both cost-effective and low on maintenance,” says Samir. “We didn’t want to come here on weekends or on holidays and spend all our time cleaning up!” The Suds, both busy doctors, have a sprawling, modern, several-thousand-sq ft house in central Delhi, and had planned this one primarily as a weekend retreat.
Though this is a personal project, completed just a few weeks ago, Talapatra’s work follows the practices espoused by the Centre of Science and Technologies for Rural Development, where he is a consultant with the New Delhi chapter. Space and form has been organized in sync with natural considerations, articulating the vocabulary that the clients wanted, through cost-effective technologies that, the architect says, “avoid retardant areas and standard geometrical forms.”
This vision has translated into exposed brick work, no wood at all (a lot of the furniture is in stone and brick, and therefore, fixed), flooring completely in Kotah and Dholpur stone; an ‘open’ dining room; an inner courtyard around which the rest of the house is built, reminiscent of the traditional ‘naalukettu’ of Kerala houses; double layered (rat- trap bonded, yielding a three–inch insulating cavity) walls, domes as well as flat ceilings, and a roof that allows the Suds to hang out in summers. The different types of roofs are most interesting, and, as Talapatra explains, “RCC joists support locally procured sandstone slabs. Overlaid with Mangalore tiles, the air cavity between the two layers is ventilated to the outside, generating a continuous flow of convectional air current.”
The house, situated amid a peaceful village settlement is far removed from the numbing macadam of the Delhi-Jaipur highway, and a long mud track meanders to it. An interesting silhouette of roofs, with serrations and curves, is both prelude and overture, and the house exudes an easy, open, weekend feel that is apparent even as one enters. Prominent among sensory impressions is the intermingling of spaces, each very different from the other—some open to sky, some covered, some secluded, some expansive, and a connection between the building and its environment that still leaves room for surprises. Furnishings and accessories are kept to the minimum—this is a house where you can find a nook that beckons, whatever the weather, whatever your mood, and succumb. “We do end up going there even during the week”, admits Samir, “and frankly, we both love the place. It has turned out just the way we wanted, though it’s bound to grow and change over time—it’s low-key, understated, very different in character from our city home, a place where we feel different.”
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