A 100-year-old house in Goa is renovated and transformed into this stunning 4-bedroom villa replete with mini golf-course and swimming pool. According to the architects, Casa Bliss should most likely last another hundred years.
Poonam Verma Mascarenhas – conservation architect and founder of Archinova Environs holds tight to the belief that old buildings are the greenest. She emphasises, “The underlying principle of sustainability is to make good use of existing resources before plundering anew.”
The architect’s ecological sensitivity is eloquently showcased in her restoration and transformation of a 100-year-old villa in North Goa – Casa Bliss – owned by Pradeep and Sangeeta Sancheti. Here, most of the original building was retained and extensions/renovations were carried out using locally-available building materials and traditional building techniques.
Poonam says, “First and foremost we restrained ourselves in making alterations – thus limiting the demolition which is a major component of waste generation, and made good use of all that existed, thus reducing the consumption of new materials.”
While the South and West wing of the house were structurally sound and eligible for restoration, the North wing had to be rebuilt, foundation up. Poonam shares, “We were able to contain the built-up footprint by choosing to introduce the first floor in the North end of the property to create the number of bedrooms as per the client’s brief.”
In choosing laterite for the new walls, the Archinova team tapped into locally available materials and helped keep the carbon footprint under control during construction. Lime plaster was used for all the old laterite walls, while cement plaster was used for the new walls and first floor.
The traditional final coat of lime putty and lime wash, typical of the region, was employed for its eco-friendly and air-improving qualities. To prevent dampness in the house however new PCC work had to be carried out and natural stones were selected for the flooring.
Wood salvaged from the old structure was recycled as ‘pattis’ for the roofs of both the main house and the caretaker’s house. Old iron railings were reused in the games room, and wooden pillars from a house demolished elsewhere, found a new beginning in the front porch of this house.
“While it pains to know how many old buildings are being replaced, one finds solace in reusing the generated elements. At least one is providing them a new lease of life and saving on fresh intake of material,” reasons Poonam.
Taking a cue from traditional Goan architecture, the architects wisely retained the thick walls (50-60cm) along with high ceilings that once kept the interiors of this house cool in an era of no-electricity. Huge openings in the rooms further encourage the passage of air and light and minimise dependence on electricity.
The creation of a central courtyard has helped address light and ventilation issues faced in the original house. Poonam elaborates, “This courtyard was created out of our understanding of climate-sensitive design. Now, none of the areas need to use electric bulbs during the day.”
Verandahs were added to three sides of the house to protect the walls from harsh sun and rain and thereby prolong the life of the building. An added bonus is that the verandahs also add beauty and scale to the structure and provide a welcome link to the outdoors.
Across the house, corbelling of the cornice, plaster mouldings around the windows, plinth mouldings etc. may seem decorative but actually play an important role in preserving the life of the house.
Poonam says, “The design of each element is out of deep reverence to the masters of the past who truly understood creating beauty in elements, even though many of these may appear superfluous to the untrained eye today.” Consultant Interiors-Architect Siddhart Paroolkar and team ‘The Origin’, with their sensitivity and technical expertise have ably provided for contemporary living while remaining contextual to the historic fabric- breathing new life into this old house and have made it a home.
Flanking the restored villa is a lush, mini golf-course, a private pool and native trees and plants, all of which combine to create a cool micro-climate in the surroundings as well as help perpetuate the local eco-system.
Water from a well on the property meets the requirements of the gardens while thoughtful drainage facilities and grass pavers ensure maximum percolation of rainwater and hence recharging of ground water.
Often when working with old buildings, many truths about the existing structure surface only as work progresses. Among the many surprises they encountered, Poonam reveals, “The foundation was missing in the East wing and we realised this only when we removed the plaster. The window frames looked good, but when we removed them for refurbishing we found parts had been eaten by termites.”
For a seasoned conservationist like Poonam, these are all but minor hiccups on the road to creating an eco-friendly villa that now has the bones to last another century.
Text By Christabelle Athaide
Photographs Copyright Archinova Environs; shot by Bharathram