BPS Architects has come up with a residential studio that defines a new vocabulary for modern sustainable architecture. The firm very simply imbibed the learning and inspiration from local traditional architecture.
Text By Kruti Choksi
Photographs Courtesy BPS Architects
On a busy road of Rajkot city, among the linearly arrayed commercial outcrops, my eyes unexpectedly encountered an odd-one-out piece of land marked by the outline of a sloping roof peeping through the crowns of fully grown lush trees. A step inside its wooden gate and the first glimpse of the structure filled my chaotic mind with the nostalgia of the visits to my grandparents’ house in a far-off village in Gujarat.
The built form primarily reflected the typical old Vadi house typology wherein the linear verandah space facing the arrival zone is known as ‘faliu’ and the enclosed rooms are known as ‘ordo’. The building occupied about one-fourth of the total site, leaving the rest for soothing green. In fact the site earlier had an outhouse whose footprint was maintained and the foundation was reused to build the new structure that was envisaged to serve as the residential studio for architects Parth Shah and Brinda Shah of BPS Architects.
“The inherited site was not habited for almost all of the last eighteen years. Resultantly a couple of trees like the ‘Umro’ and the ‘Peepal’ had grown in one of the room spaces of the old outhouse structure. Respecting these trees and their existence, two courts were made replacing the room areas, to allow for the receipt of air, light and water for their survival. This then resulted in a physical separation between the private and public spaces,” explains architect Brinda Shah.
Sustainable architecture cannot be practiced in isolation. It comes naturally if one truly believes in it in every aspect of one’s existence. It is not a style of architecture but a way of life that gets reflected in every mannerism of a person. Over years of acquaintance with this architect couple, I have noticed this attribute reflected time and again, in their every course of action.
Sustainable architecture in its simplest manifestation deals with a profound connection with Mother Nature. Every man-made structure is bound to disturb the natural ecology, all we can do is to curb the degree of intervention and use an appropriate mode. “The design for sustainable architecture should exhibit a sensibility and sensitivity at every single stage. It starts with the basic orientation of the building, system of construction, material selection, details of elements and eventually leads to the extent of the maintenance required for the built structure,” shares Brinda Shah.
“Creating spaces that would accommodate the existing trees and maintaining the old footprint were the starting points of our design, exploring local resources and skills was indeed a governing factor throughout,” elucidates architect Parth Shah.
The primarily linear structure faces the North in order to fetch natural daylight. The overall structure is derived from brick load bearing walls with a single lintel band of concrete. The sloping roof is constructed with flitch plates and covered with a traditional system of clay tiles. The light roof floats over the massive walls to allow for a circulation of hot air. The walls have a lime finish that is understood to have a positve effect on the health of the occupants.
“A lot of traditional old buildings are pulled down in this region and the timber obtained from them is of a real high quality. Reusing this timber has served the dual functions of reducing the overall cost as well as saving on the use of fresh material. Moreover Rajkot is known for the recycling of its industrial waste which extensively gets used in the making of roofs and metal doors.
Although the materials used are obtained from old traditional buildings, the way in which they are used is extremely contemporary and apt with today’s context and time,” explains Brinda. The unpolished Kota stone used for the flooring follows a mathematically derived pattern for the layout comprising of stones in varying sizes to ensure negligible wastage eventually. The pre-cast concrete frames for all the doors and windows came from the town of Gondal, just 30kms away from Rajkot. The use of twin chamber double action septic tanks ensured that the waste water gets sufficiently treated and can be used for gardening.
“The building represents an amalgamation of contemporary modern techniques with traditional methods of space making as well as construction. The house demonstrates a huge potential for using recycled building materials in a domestic building. In a way, it represents a clear thinking approach to the architectural design which generates an energy efficient, economical and comfortable structure using the technology and materials that are local and ‘of the day’, and is not based on mere ‘style’,” culminates Brinda Shah.