A farmhouse in Surat, Gujarat, has been designed by the firm Architecture & Beyond as a collection of semi-autonomous structures that are held together by one, simple aesthetic.
The farmhouse in Surat, Gujarat, is an archetype of the firm Architecture & Beyond’s design aesthetic. The main farmhouse stands as a calm sentinel in the sprawling plot. It has a solid, self-assured aura about it, and at first glance, one will be hard-pressed to find any flashy elements.
Even the brilliant brick wall, shaped like the quiff of a flamboyant hipster, doesn’t seem like an anomaly in an otherwise straightforward-looking expanse. But, like most of the firm’s projects, this one too is defined by details that lie beneath the skin.
The farmhouse’s real charms are not to be found in frills but in carefully planned substance created out of earthy, often colour-averse brick and concrete, and in the generosity of space allocation, both vertical and horizontal. This project breathes in and out, and is unencumbered by decorative furniture.
Admittedly, the brief asked for a basic, functional space, and the farmhouse fulfils that demand dutifully. However,the team decided to surround this utilitarian spread with a mix of the urbane and the bucolic.
In an effective display of rusticity, the entryway is paved with granite cobble stones.This leads up to the lounge area which, thanks to an encasing of wide and tall glass walls is awash with light and air and hearty views of the manicured greenery of the rest of the plot.
At the back, a sublime little lotus pond snakes about with a sweet bridge bending across it, bringing to the space another favourite design element of A&B.
The floor space at the ground floor is minimally occupied by a sofa set and a rug, and a dining area, while the rest lies basking in the sunlight that streams through in abundance from the three light wells.
This sparse interior scheme repeats throughout the structure. A single bedroom occupies the upper floor, along with an attached terrace.
The low-rising wooden bed leans against a side wall, leaving the rest of the space to again loll in the largesse of natural light and green views. Some flashes of colour pop up here.
The deep blue wall, and the glazed yellow bathroom door that lives in it, stand in slightly startling contrast to the languid simplicity of the rest of the space. Inside the bathroom is some more colour surprise in the form of some red detailing.
But between the lounge and the private upper floor is an interesting element – a winding staircase that sets up an unexpected optical illusion. The dark stone stairs are flanked by a shower curtain-like swathe made of corrugated galvanised iron sheets, giving the whole ensconce a queerly rotary motion feel.
This brief section has a deliberate rough-hewn, under-construction feel that is intended to make it look distinct and independent from the two spaces it connects.
This minor autonomy among the sub-structures in an otherwise technically homogenous building is best highlighted by the pantry. The short, stout block’s façade has been created out of slate stone, making it one of the most in-your-face rustic elements in the farmhouse.
Inside though it is a picture of more modern elegance, all deep red mosaic walls and polished counter-top that is surrounded by glass windows that open up to the facing garden’s air like giant helmet visors.
Architecture & Beyond’s success here is in making the 116 sq m of built-up area stand out as well as stay detached in the 2006 sq m of total plot area. The structures are eminently functional and at the same time aesthetically remarkable. That is a deceptively hard balance to strike in a project of any size.
Text By Shruti Nambiar
Photographs Courtesy Pankaj Anand