Rajiv Saini & Associates take inspiration from the unbridled energy of the Ganges for a house they have designed on the banks of the holy river.
You hear the river much before you catch even a glimpse of its rushing waters. It swooshes and gurgles and then swooshes some more, teasing the approaching visitor, setting the appropriate mood for the grand vista that awaits him. The river, the forest reserve beyond and the purple-blue silhouettes of the mountain ranges in the distance form the backdrop of the House at the Ganges; an idyllic setting that appears unlikely to be tampered by the hands of development.
“This project had been discussed with the clients often over the years as we worked on other projects for them, and during this time I had developed in my head some idea of how I would design this house. But my first visit to the site set me off on a design route completely different from what I had visualised initially”, says Rajiv Saini, chief designer of Rajiv Saini & Associates.
During his visit Rajiv found that the bank of the Ganges was more than just a backdrop to the site of the house. The spouting waters of the great river emanated a raw energy that followed the architect through his visit and all the way to his drawing board. “I realised that the form of the house had to borrow from this energy and be a reflection of the same.”
The house conceals the view of the river from the visitor and as one walks through the passageway between two 12-foot parallel stone walls, the suspense mounts. It is only on opening the doors of the house that the magnificent view is unravelled. The planning has ensured that all the rooms of the house enjoy a slice of the natural landscape; ceiling to floor glass windows award an obstruction-free viewing of the panorama. Thus one entire façade of the house is almost all glass.
“It was not possible to provide the inner circulation areas of the house with an access to the view of the river,” says Rajiv. Artificial courtyards have been created around these spaces which are separated from the house spaces by glass panes to create the inside-outside feel. Skylights have also been provided in some areas of the house to pull in natural light and offer an al fresco experience.
“The house is spread over 6,500 square feet and one important element of the client’s brief was that the entire house not be treated as one mass but rather each room should be conceptualised as an independent entity”, shares Rajiv. The challenge for the team was to respect the client’s brief but at the same time also ensure that the spaces are all seamlessly linked to each other. This was achieved by letting an element or two of one space, like bits of glass or the curve of a wall, intersect the adjoining space. The use of exposed concrete, locally quarried stone and timber lends a rustic feel to the structure which works well with the location of the house. Customised teak furniture and cotton and linen furnishings enhance the rustic ambience.
Speaking of his favourites in the house, Rajiv says that the rooms facing the river endear themselves to any visitor for the obvious reasons. “But, if I was to put the view aside for a minute and speak strictly architecturally, the dining-living room is one of my favourite spaces in the house because of the courtyard around it which creates an interesting interaction between the outside and the inside.” He adds, “I also like the passageway that leads to the guest rooms; it affords a view of the open courtyard without compromising on the privacy factor.”
Often when the setting is picture-perfect, design succumbs to the pressures of competition as it tries to one-up its surroundings, resulting in a structure that taints its environs instead of enhancing it. The house at the Ganges manages to create a harmonious union with its backdrop complementing and accentuating each other’s beauty and charm.