Nature, Uninterrupted

Nature, Uninterrupted
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First Published: Wed, Jul 01 2009. 09 23 PM IST

 (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 i
(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 i
Updated: Wed, Jul 01 2009. 09 23 PM IST
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
(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
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.
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
The west-facing dry work area opens to the backyard and gets lots of sunshine. Sanjay Ramchandran
“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 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.
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Concept Note
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.
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FACT FILE
Pinto’s display room is unembellished, the better to highlight her diaphanous creations. Sanjay Ramchandran
Location: Sarjapur Road, connecting Bangalore with Hosur
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
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CONNECT
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First Published: Wed, Jul 01 2009. 09 23 PM IST