The Net House in Ahmedabad is built as an escape from city life and is set in a series of interweaving mounds and valleys with a backdrop of trees. It’s inspired by a Machardani or an outdoor mosquito net used during hot summer nights.
Text By Gopal M.S.
Photographs Courtesy The Architect
The Net House is in essence a building rooted to its context. It is a low tech, hand fabricated building built with everyday technology that’s ubiquitous in the Indian milieu such as the simple construction used for hoardings, telecom towers, satellite dishes and temporary structures that fill up the city skylines.
If you travel to remote villages along the Kutch Coast, you will see some of the few remaining traditional homes near sand whipped beaches that have walls made out of dried, tall grass that grow in the salty marshlands of the region. They form a net that allows the strong wind to pass through but traps sand, and during the hot months, allows people to sleep a little more peacefully.
Dr Urmish Chudgar’s Net House in Ahmedabad is a modern version of a similar idea and is designed by Gurjit Singh Matharoo of the free-thinking architectural firm of Matharoo Associates. But the idea of a net house is not borrowed from the traditional homes; it came from a completely different experience.
When thinking of a suitable idea for a home, visualised in a clearing in the wilderness, the image that appeared to the architect was a common midsummer night experience. The feeling of sleeping out in the open, under the stars and with a net to keep nasty mosquitoes and other insects away – the machardani, a simple net held up by four intersecting bamboo poles, locked between the legs of a charpouy cot was the inspiration. It was this experience that formed the genesis for the Net House.
According to Matharoo, “We visualised a single open space with a defining slab hovering above, demarcating the volume and visually rooting the space whilst a series of translucent layers encircled the house to provide desired degrees
While building, the problem faced was of developing a structure that allows for a slab to shelter a 40’ x 40’ open space; without the presence of heavy beams and columns that would clutter the room. Peripheral columns could not be incorporated either as the design dictated that no heavy structures should block the 360 degree views of the landscaped surroundings.
So, a composite space frame structure was conceived as a solution. The top member of the space frame is a light, hand fabricated mild steel trellis with the bottom member becoming the concrete slab itself ensuring that the concrete ceases to function like a dead load but instead contributes significantly in supporting itself. By themselves both materials are incomplete but when they come together the structure begins to stand, which was what occurred on site with the slab being cast first and then the steel trellis which was fabricated separately locked into place to make one functioning unit.
Making the Net House completely acessible and open to the outside, to a fully closed and dark inside are the gossamer layers of sliding mosquito nets, roll up blinds and folding glass panels. Yes, the Net House living space can be modulated to suit the weather and mood.
The heart of the home is a cabinet which is nestled or enveloped, all around, by different layers that provide desired degrees of privacy, shelter and exposure to nature. As ingenious as the enveloping net, is the cabinet in the centre of the home. The cabinet is two meters high. It divides the living space and the bathing areas. It can be folded out to become a dining table with chairs inside and opens out into a kitchen with microwave, refrigerator, cooking appliances and cutlery.
Investigate further and an air conditioning unit, music system, television and speakers, storage for clothes and accessories are revealed. This cabinet has been custom designed and locally made; and to top it all, the top of the cabinet also becomes a lamp illuminating the concrete slab at night; a clever feature as reflected light attracts no insects.
The upper floor accommodates a netted space for yoga, sunbathing, a walkway on the periphery and a gazebo to look out onto the landscape.
Also, savour this – A completely shielded bathing area with two private washrooms. The plumbing, drainage and storage are all inside the same cabinet. The washrooms then open out into a secluded private area, netted again and including a Jacuzzi, steam bath, and sun deck.
But the most interesting feature is the vast lily pond. It makes the 2m x 7m washroom seems to extend to infinity.
In a world cluttered with the ordinary and repetitive living spaces, a simple idea and careful execution can make any home a dream home. And who knows where you will get the next idea or dream from?