Behind the earth and stone structure that houses Jenny Pinto’s paper-making studio are beds of organic vegetables and herbs, avocado and lemon trees. Pink lotus buds bloom in a pond filled with recycled water and in stone urns. Frangipani trees shed flowers on stone pathways weaving in and out of a wilderness of grass and bushes. Birds of Paradise, palm fronds, purple lilies, pomegranate trees and old rocks punctuate the landscape.
A friendly stray dog rushes out, tail wagging. Another sleeps in the middle of the courtyard. Two are curled up on the terrace. A furball mews lazily from her favourite patch of sunlight.
Thrifty and thriving
For Pinto, the first rule was to build in sync with the climate and the land. “In Bangalore, the weather is great for over 10 months, then why build structures that require 12 months of air conditioning? Why use glass to trap heat in buildings? Why use high embedded energy materials and increase your carbon footprint?” she asks.
(Left) Lots of unmanicured foliage, meandering pathways and young trees welcome visitors to Pinto’s studio. (right) The mud bricks of the studio were sun-baked on site and zinc sheets that sandwich insulation have been used for the verandah roof. Sanjay Ramchandran
In Bangalore-based architect Chitra Vishwanath, Pinto found a kindred spirit: Someone who not just shared her concerns but knew how to address them. Together, they created a building that gives back to the earth even as it takes from it.
Pinto’s studio harvests rainwater and recycles sewage and wastewater from paper making. And it is naturally cool because of cross ventilation through the green central courtyard and the breezy verandahs.
It is all very energy-efficient, designed to do away with the need for even fans, not just air conditioning. “The key is to let air do its thing in a space,” says Pinto. “If you work with the natural flow of air, the weather, the site and the climate, and find simple solutions to make the most of these, everything falls into place. Chitra and I have not reinvented the wheel here. These solutions have been part of our traditional architecture and just need to be reincorporated in the way we build today.”
Teak leaf imprints on pale cement floors, a rubble bed in the courtyard, coconut leaf imprints in high ceilings are inspired touches that cost scarcely anything, yet transform the space. Low-cost wood doors and vaulted filler roofs have also helped reduce building costs.
Taking a natural path meant going against the grain. Both Pinto and Vishwanath rue the speed with which clumsily stacked flats are taking over the local landscape. Pinto complains that the local lake has never quite recovered from being drained by a builder. The groundwater has been depleted too.
Pinto planted 20 fruit trees and started a kitchen garden. “I don’t use chemicals to nourish plants or kill the bugs. There is a little ecosystem right here. The fish and water snakes in the pond take care of the mosquitoes. The spiders and ants do their thing. The cats go after the rodents. And the strays keep intruders out. I don’t go after too many weeds either,” Pinto says.
Spacious, and private
“In terms of design, we kept to the basic tenets,” Vishwanath says, “(We) kept the services in the rear and the workspace connected to the outside and in front. So the dry studio is connected to the front as well as the garden. Since it is a workspace, it required a good flow. The space was aligned in a linear manner: cooking area, beater room, paper storage, wet studio and dry studio, with storage space accessible to all areas. The accommodation is recessed on one side, where the staff get a little private space.”
The west-facing dry work area opens to the backyard and gets lots of sunshine. Sanjay Ramchandran
The courtyard in the middle of the house has a bed of rubble and luxuriant greens. It was designed for privacy, even if mushrooming apartments began to overlook the adjoining open garden.
What has emerged is a spacious studio that feels like home but is an efficient place for Pinto to cook paper pulp, dry and press it into swathes of paper, which she fashions into lamps or art installations.
The final design is an outcome of extensive discussions. The original brief was to accommodate a wet studio, a beater room, a dry studio (all the various work areas for Pinto to ply her trade), along with accommodation for staff and visitors; the last has morphed into a display area.
Pinto wanted a space she could convert into a home if she desired. The studio has four rooms on the ground floor, two upstairs, two kitchens and two baths. Large verandah spaces were also incorporated for working in and holding sculpting meetings; a courtyard serves as space for outdoor activities.
Rainwater harvested from the terraces and sloping roofs is directed into an underground storage tank and the overflow connected to the bore well. The water used in the toilets and wet studio passes through baffles and a reed bed, which work at reducing the organic content, and are then directed into a “polishing pond”. The pond is filled with water lilies and lotuses. Thus, no polluted water is sent out of the premises—a simple idea that can be easily replicated anywhere.
Vishwanath regards Pinto as a model client: She provided a detailed brief for the spaces she needed and discussed at length the connection between them. The embossing of leaf imprints in the concrete of the ceiling and floor was her idea.
Location: Sarjapur Road, connecting Bangalore with Hosur
Pinto’s display room is unembellished, the better to highlight her diaphanous creations. Sanjay Ramchandran
Area: 5,000 sq. ft (approx)
Principal architect: Chitra Vishwanath (Biome Environmental Solutions Pvt. Ltd)
Interior design: Jenny Pinto and Biome
Project duration: Eight months (approx)
Facade: Untreated bare brick
Walls: Mud bricks
Flooring: Mostly cement, with leaf patterns imprinted in concrete
Ceiling: Exposed concrete with coconut palm leaf imprints and jack arches
Windows: Mild steel (MS) grilles
Doors: Honne wood, finished with linseed oil
Lighting solutions: Primarily natural light
Innovative architechture design book by Bill Bensley
‘Paradise by Design: Tropical Residences and Resorts’ (Periplus), written by Bill Bensley, features 27 resorts and homes, designed by Bensley Design Studios. The book is a delight in terms of written content and overall visual appeal. The projects, set amid resplendent tropical gardens in the Asia-Pacific region, focus on innovative ideas that are a mix of architecture, landscape design, interior design, horticulture, fine arts and crafts. A great read for professionals and house-proud non-professionals as well.
— Payal Kapoor
Pavilion made of reclaimed kitchen sinks
Built by 2012Architecten in cooperation with Jeanne van Heeswijks of Jeanneworks, the Sustainable Skybox is an incredible pavilion made of reclaimed kitchen sinks. Designed to function as a multi-purpose space for cultural activities, the stainless steel structure stands tall amid the traditional architecture of Utrecht, Vlaardingen and Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Its reclaimed kitchen sink facade is held together with scaffolding, wire and waterproof multiplex boards. The airy structure opens up to the sky and even has a rainwater harvesting tank that takes care of gardening needs.
Eco-friendly material for home use
3form, an award-winning eco-friendly material from the house of Hunter Douglas, is now available in India for use as walls, dividers, doors, tabletops and more. It comes in three variants:
• Varia, the most flexible, has woven fabrics, hand-dyed shells, dried leaves and flowers encapsulated in resin panels 40 times lighter than glass. The 3form resin base is a blend of polyethylene terepthalate glycol, or PETG, with 40% recycled content.
• Chroma offers 10,000 colour options in cast acrylic, good for horizontal surfaces. It can be resurfaced and recoloured.
• Glass has sequins, natural bubbles, willow or other flora suspended in a chemical resistant, non-combustible base .
3form India, C-102, Mangalya, Marol Maroshi Road, Andheri (E), Mumbai-59 (022- 67617500); www3-form.com
Free zone dubbed Food City in Dubai
In February, the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry authorized the development of a “free zone” dubbed Food City. GCLA, a green landscape architecture firm, proposed a master plan to turn it into an off-the-grid, self-sufficient metropolis. The plan includes vertically stacked landscape surfaces, artificial roof landscapes, renewable energy systems, aquatic farms and thermal conditioning. Aids to decrease energy needs include concentrated solar collectors, towers covered in thin-film photovoltaic cells, piezoelectric pads in pedestrian areas and methane harvesting through sewage percolation tanks. GCLA also proposes water conservation measures—critical in thirsty Dubai.
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