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Playing with tradition

Playing with tradition
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First Published: Thu, Sep 03 2009. 01 15 AM IST

Updated: Thu, Sep 03 2009. 05 12 PM IST
The facade is green, yellow and blue, set against the greenery in the little village of Mangattukara, about 7km from Kochi airport. Designed by artist Bose Krishnamachari for his brother, C.K. Mohan, it is as far removed from a conventional Kerala home as you could possibly imagine.
Click here to view a slideshow of other parts of the Chempakassery ‘tharavad’
Krishnamachari’s memories of his ancestral home, a typical Kerala tharavad, are of the celebration of festivals and vacations when four generations of the Chempakassery family would get together. Since the tharavad goes to the youngest son by custom, Krishnamachari designed this house for his youngest brother Mohan to keep alive both tradition and childhood memories.
Traditional Kerala homes revolve around the nadumittam, a central courtyard. Krishnamachari too designed a living room, kitchen and bedrooms off a central, semi-enclosed courtyard, keeping the tenets of vaastu shastra in mind. He had help from a cousin, a vaastu shastra practitioner. “My main concern was that all the natural elements (such as light and air) should be allowed to pass through the space freely,” he says.
The courtyard is built around a water body. Natural light streams in through a part of the roof which is laser-cut stainless steel. Steps and pillars adapted from temple architecture get a novel twist, with light-reflecting materials.
Outside the dining area is the main kitchen, where cooking is done on a wooden fire stove in true Kerala style. Designed in consultation with Mohan’s wife, it uses modern Corian on marine ply. An indoor pantry is used for heating food and preparing beverages.
In contrast to the original family home’s darker interiors, the new house lets in a lot of light. Besides clear panes in the living room, the sit-out downstairs, terrace and home theatre upstairs, the bedroom windows and wardrobe doors have frosted glass and hollow cloud-glass bricks make up some walls.
Old shapes in new shades
The choice of strong, contrasting colours is meant to create a dramatic ambience for its owner Mohan, a well-known theatre personality in the area.
Krishnamachari loves the strength and depth of black. It colours the ceiling over the courtyard, and the home theatre’s built-in sit-outs are in black granite. “When you lie down and look at a black ceiling, you are staring into emptiness…tamasoma jyotirgamaya (lead me from darkness towards light)—it is through the black space that you can see light, just like you see the stars only at night,” he says.
Corian and resin finish the furniture he designed for the house. The mix-and-match palette includes materials from traditional temple architecture such as granite, sheesham and teak, as well as stainless steel, glass bricks, Corian and concrete.
All in the family
The terrace has an assortment of Krishnamachari’s installations, including sculptural seats in shocking pink. Some of the lights are designed by him. He also designed the “random” pattern of the sheesham wood staircase, echoing sheesham grills in teak frames.
The work of other artists are on display too. At the entrance are traditional murals by Sadanandan and Bindulekha. Contemporary paintings, prints, sculptures and photographs by Sudarshan Shetty, Yogesh Rawal, Riyas Komu, Gary Hume, Robert Brechtle, Sebastian, Bara Bhaskaran, Zakir Hussain, Manasi Bhat and Jehangir Jani pepper the living room, stairwell and bedrooms. A mass of “family tree” portraits forms a conversation piece in the living room.
Krishnamachari plans to put smaller sculptures in the window grills and switch the artwork around. But most of all, he looks forward to changing the colours when he paints the house anew.
CONNECT
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First Published: Thu, Sep 03 2009. 01 15 AM IST