The client being the owner of a nursery horticulturist the President of the Rose Association of India the brief called for a house for short stays at his nursery, abutting the Varasgaon Dam backwaters to suit his lifestyle family entertainment.
The design evolved as a response to the surrounding nursery unobstructed view of the scenic backwater, rolling hills, blue skies. Hence the highest plateau was selected, within the nursery where there was sparse plantation, so as not to disturb any of the plant varieties. The roof scape of the house viewed from the village strongly resembles the massing of the hamlets, which are seen sprinkled around the site. The roofs come down to human scale, thus framing taking one's vision towards the view of the water sheet. The dominating roof slopes down to embrace the structure with the surrounding landscape.
Though modern in it's massing, the house has various vernacular elements incorporated throughout the layout. Elements like paar, devli (which also acts as a light source depicting a lantern illuminating a Konada i.e niche), courtyard with a lotus pond, flooring with rangoli patterns (which are permanent inlays for easy maintenance.), chattai finish roof panels, sloping roof with manglore tiles, with rafter-wall plate construction, tulsi vrindavan, all make the house humane, by touching the roots of culture & traditions. The spacious feeling from the outdoor open natural landscape is successfully continued into the house by having green indoor landscape pockets, an apt manifestation of the owner's (a nurseryman) portrait. The form evolved as the manifestation of the requirement for each habitable space. The minimalistic furniture in each room & bare uncarpeted floors enhances the experience of simple living on the farm. The interior space is not trapped between walls. Screens made up of sliding full-length windows provide a perfect transition to the inner sanctum.
Due to minimum walls large volumes, the space appears to be constantly moving & flowing. The courtyard at once unifies visually separates the entrance lobby to the rest of the house. The court holds all the five elements of nature- wind, water, light [fire], earth & space. Ethereal moonlight floods the court after sunset giving it an almost surreal existence. Natural light floods the house at all times of the day through the glass panels and carefully placed skylights in the lobbies, toilets & kitchen. The courtyard is a light well for the living & dining areas. The house has three distinguished zones the public zone, comprising of the living space, dining with a small kitchenette, lobby toilet & linen store, all revolving around a courtyard which is flanked by the private zone on east, having the study room & bedroom with attached toilets verandah on the west. The house has three entry points, each one having its own character. The entrance on North portrays the main guest entrance, the one from dining , connecting the house with the nursery as a typical vernacular house entrance & the third is in the study which doubles up as the nursery office which has a paar for informal meetings with the staff. The foot baths at each entry point were a must as the house sits in the nursery.
Elderly people can enter the house through the dining entrance with the vernacular residential character thus avoiding the steps at the main guest entrance. Considering the age of the owners, the entire house is at one level even though the site is sloping. The benefit of the raised plinth on the North side was taken to keep the driveway low, which follows the natural contours & also to capture the unobstructed scenic view of the backwaters from the house. The living room is tilted to an angle so that more than one face faces the backwater, to get a wider view. The study room block is aligned perfectly on the cardinal axis & captures the rising sun through the slit window facing east. The requirement of support spaces was left to the evolution of the design & thus the traditional spaces like lobbies, open but defined spaces of courtyards & extended spaces of decks Evolved from the brief in conjunction with the location & views.The colour scheme followed in the entire house is in harmony with the surrounding bountiful nature. A large blue wall in the living room reflects the waterbody and the rest of the house is a warm blend of earthen colours adding to the vernacular vocabulary.
The bedrooms have low silled windows to allow viewing of the watersheet even from the bed. The bathrooms are placed behind tall circular walls, which have elaborate exposed decorative brickwork on one side, which break the monotony of stone. The bathrooms are washed with beautiful natural diffused sunlight throughout the day because of its carefully designed unusual roof detail. The common toilet has an open to sky court on one of its side providing ample natural light & ventilation. One can even enjoy a natural shower when it rains! Light fittings are suspended from the purlins, which give the roof a floating effect in the night. The walls have niches with bright coloured ceramic tiled background to hold artifacts & concealed light in the sill gives reflected light in the night.
Being a step towards sustainability, using passive methods to achieve human comforts, the building was oriented East West. Large glazed walls on the Northern side give diffused light to the house.The floor reflects the day light due to low sills giving diffused light to the space. Use of natural light through courtyard & skylights is predominant throughout the house. Exposed stone masonary in handcut basalt quarried from the site itself gives good thermal insulation acting as a thermal mass & also a sense of anchorage to the otherwise almost floating effect.It helped in cost saving and also reduced the load on fossil energy. A spacious square verandah between the bedrooms acts as a buffer helps the cross ventilation. The use of traditional rafter & wall plate construction in steel with precast ferrocrete panels & manglore tiles fixed on mortar lumps create a cavity for thermal insulation. Beacause of properly designed slopes mangalore tiles also act as a waterproofing membrane reducing the cost of extra waterproofing layer thus reduce the dead-load on the strucutre. The construction of walls & roof in precast elements simultaneously took place addressing the issue of time management and quality control due to remote location. Permanent finishes reduce the maintenance cost.Exposed brick for curved walls & twin pillars break the monotony of the stone.
Construction Details The technology used for construction, was applied considering the remoteness of the site. The traditional rafter, wall plate construction technique in steel sections is used for the roofs with composite load bearing walls in exposed black basalt & brick masonry. The roof is made up of prefabricated components like steel sections & precast Ferro Crete panels with chattai finish, which were manually placed over the steel rafters.
The electrical conduits run through the hollow box sections of the rafters. Joints of the ferrocrete panels are sealed with Hygaurd chemical. Mangalore tiles were cladded on the roof on leveling screed. The living room roof is supported by double brick piers inspired from traditional architecture , hold light fittings acting as a light source. Dry brick paving in the court helps in draining out the water. The flooring of the house is non-skid terracotta finish ceramic tiles decorated with inlay patterns at entrances. The toilets are provided with concealed plumbing in the semi circular brick wall.