The Fort House in Hyderabad has been designed by the Mumbai-based firm sP+a (Sameep Padora & Associates), as an innovative and minimalist take on the traditional ideas of spatial alignment found in forts like the Golconda.
This project came with the simplest of client briefs attached to it – build a home that is warm and private, and still ideal for entertaining friends and acquaintances. In short, realise an abode that relates to everyone involved.
It is to the credit of the design team from Mumbai-based firm sP+a that to this fairly austere premise was added an imaginative cover and core, worked with an innovative hand that infused the elements of comfort and luxury without falling into any stereotypical design trap entirely. Thus what has materialised is a 1,300 sq. m. swathe that is minimal and accessible, welcoming of the natural elements but still not averse to closed-off spaces, and of course, eminently modern in its aura.
While it would have been easy to follow a strait-laced script that stuck close to the demands of the family, the team chose to instead question established styles and approaches, and to conjure up a plan that would embrace a vision that broke away from the usual.
“Various ideas emerged from conversations with the client where we perused issues that ranged from a critique of the stylistic clichés that the ‘air conditioned’ tropical house becomes or the courtyard house bereft of the lifestyle that instigated it historically. We were in a sense questioning the notion of the archetype,” attests Sameep Padora of sP+a.
The courtyard indeed is a prime example of the healthy scrambling of old styles that transpired here. The team decided to give the traditionally established rigid placement of courtyards a freewheeling character, letting it dance across three different levels, both inside and outside, and letting it morph into terrace-like spaces in certain segments.
“Why must a courtyard be structured the same way as it has been through the ages, what happens to it given the lifestyles that we lead or its operative potential as a climatic device if there are thin floor plates that are cross ventilated,” says Padora.
This re-imagination of unsaid spatial norms is also what essentially makes this home ‘Fort House’. Like the solid fortresses of yore, this home’s main idea dreamt up a sweep of airy spaces that stand in a slightly impetuous array, but bordered by tough, impenetrable walls.
Once the core question of privacy was answered, the wand of whimsy was waved over the interiors, a space absolutely delightful in its commitment to the unconventional. The public areas like the home office and kitchen are stationed towards the outside world, while the bedrooms have been allowed to retreat to the back, away from the street front.
The dancing courtyard creates a shell at the middle and encompasses the dining room, upper family section with a view of the foyer, and the overall entertainment den. Three sheer parallel walls, reinforced with PT beams and slabs, keep the whole scheme united in “a sort of performative minimalism”.
Sitting between these walls are skylights that let loose sheets of the famed Hyderabad sun across some sections of the house. The interiors are clad in locally-sourced limestone and are in parts serenaded by dreamy azure lighting at night.
Stylistic innovation is the clear winner here, but the Fort House’s scheme also includes some not immediately apparent green credentials. Natural cross-ventilation was one of the important factors that decided the layout of spaces, and the solid covering walls have openings on the western and south-western sides for more natural air-flow.
The south-facing side of the wall also helps reduce heat gain; plus there are provisions in place for rain harvesting and green roofs. This is a home as solid in its substance as in its style.
Text By Shruti Nambiar
Photographs By Edmund Sumner