The idea was to build a weekend retreat so that Rajagopal Kadambi, a retired engineer and a former basketball player for the Indian national team, and his family, could get away from the noise around their centrally located home in Jayanagar, Bangalore. Now the couple finds it tough to leave the house at the end of every weekend.
It sounds like the start of a perfect love affair. Built on half an acre of land in Choodasandra village in Bangalore, the Kadambis wanted their house to be different. A friend introduced them to Chitra Vishwanath, who specializes in building eco-friendly homes. She had plans for a sewage treatment plant, constructing bricks out of mud excavated from the plot, and huge door-size windows. Most of Vishwanath’s concepts were new to the Kadambis.
But “Chitra brought us a cardboard model of the tentative design and we loved it,” says Rajagopal. They decided to put their faith in the architect.
“We drove to the plot with Chitra, who took one look at the tamarind tree and decided that the tree was the focal point. In a sense, the house is built around it,” adds Rajagopal. The canopy of the old tamarind tree provides shade to the garden space and has a platform at the base, where the Kadambis plan to host tabla performances by their son Hemant, while family and friends watch from the arch-shaped portico.
Barely 2km from the city noise, the house was built from mud blocks made of earth excavated from the plot. The flooring for most of the house was done with the grey Kota stone, widely available in Karnataka. Kota absorbs heat and adds to the cooling effect of the mud block walls. Most of the roof area exposed to direct sunlight is arch-shaped, so sunlight bounces off it.
The three-bedroom house is well lit throughout the day with the help of skylights, large windows and ventilators. “We have had to switch on lights only at around 7pm, when it’s totally dark outside,” says Hemant, a researcher in archaeology.
Everyone contributed ideas to the design, including Rajagopal’s wife Jyothi. “Chitra wanted the front portion of the house to have door-sized windows so that the house would open out into the garden space, but I argued her out of it. I don’t think I want to deal with leaves, birds and insects inside my house,” says Jyothi. She’s carefully decorating the home and is pleased that it is so low-maintenance.
The kitchen area is closest to Jyothi’s heart. Although they planned the house as a weekend retreat, Jyothi insisted on a well-planned kitchen. The L-shaped kitchen is open to the dining area to make sure she isn’t cut off from conversations while she’s cooking.
The master bedroom is on the ground floor, while the other rooms and a study area are on the first floor. Jyothi and Rajagopal sourced the furniture for the house after a great deal of research. “My mother’s patience is reflected in the amount of time she spent on finding each piece,” quips Hemant. The furniture in the sitting area was sourced from a store that makes old style furniture. “We were looking for some simple but classic pieces,” says Jyothi.
The water supply to the house depends entirely on rainwater and underground water. The backyard has a water recharge pit that replenishes the groundwater every time it rains. A 10,000-litre underground tank also collects rainwater that flows from the roof, to ensure at least 10 days of water supply every time it rains. In the backyard, a sewage treatment system clears sewage and grey water by passing it through gravel and weed. The cleared water is then used for gardening purposes.
The house does not need to depend on water supply from the city corporation. Its electricity needs are minimal since the house is naturally lit through the day, rarely needing fans or heaters, and it has a 200-litre solar water heater.
“We did see many glitches in the course of construction, which got delayed because of the specialized labour required to implement Chitra’s ideas, but having looked at and experienced the end result, we are glad we made this choice. The entire construction cost us around Rs48lakh, and that is not a lot more than what we would have spent had we gone with a regular brick-and-concrete home” says Rajagopal. His family nods in agreement.