In this residence, designed by the Dhaka based firm, Shatotto Architecture, Mother Nature is invited into the abode and allowed to reign supreme; floor no bar.
Set amidst large expanses of verdant green, the Ashraf Kaiser residence, designed by Dhaka based Shatotto Architecture, is an open invitation to Mother Nature. The 3-storied family retreat is located in Savar, Bangladesh and is etched out in simple, essential strokes that marry contemporary design with traditional spaces.
The setting of the house, with adjoining forest lands and green turfs as surrounding, has been a dominant factor in the design and aesthetics of the built mass. From afar, the bare cement façade of the house stands out in the green expanse, but as we approach it, it is easy to see how the open architecture of the house allows it to blend gracefully into the surroundings. Principal architect Rafiq Azam has considered the vast expanses of greens skirting the boundaries as “both a challenge and opportunity at the same time.”
Designer Rafiq Azam is known for his contemporary aesthetics that derive inspiration from the lush, riverine landscapes of Bangladesh and its ancient architectural heritage. And this interlacing of the traditional and the modern is observed right at the entrance, in the form of ‘dawa’ or an initial plinth, an integral element of traditional village houses. Also paying tribute to Bangladesh’s deep connection with water is a small aqua node along an open tunnel walkway that takes us towards the main part of the house.
The brilliance of Rafiq Azam’s works lies in how the architecture respects the natural setting, with spatial solutions responding to the local conditions. In this residence, the Shatotto team chose to downplay the facade using bare concrete and brick surfaces for the entire home, exteriors and the interiors alike; the abundant glazing lets the lush green vicinity become the visual focus.
Palpable as we saunter through the rooms, is the direct and distinct connection with nature that architect Azam has provided in every space. It is not just the ground floor, but the upper floors too, that have their own green spaces, lush with foliage. If the wooden deck overlooking a sea of green, extending from the ground floor living room manages to awe us, the upper floors holding all the bedrooms and family areas, terraces, green courts and water bodies leave us mesmerised.
Along with the strong connect with the green outside spaces, another design element lending a sustainable factor to the house is the strategic spatial zoning. “South westerly wind flows into the cross ventilated dining space and is joined by the south easterly wind flowing in from the open staircase court,” the design team points out as they describe the intelligent, passive ventilation scheme.
Architect Rafiq Azam further expounds, “The south facing opening is relatively small, keeping in mind the sun path. Also, we have tried to retain the breathing quality of the concrete, by keeping the building surfaces bare. Thus, a soothing effect is evolved to match the regional climate and keep the indoor environmental quality comfortable.” Large picture windows, glazed surfaces, verandahs and decks ensure filtered light, constant air circulation and shaded spaces that are a requisite in the local sub-tropical climate.
A green courtyard on the first floor straddled between the master bedroom and library becomes a common relaxation point for the family. Water elements are a familiar feature in architect Azam’s designs; a beautiful pond with steps around it leads us to the guest bedroom.
But by far, the best of this deep connect with nature is seen in the second floor terrace that opens onto a green lawn on one side and a music hall on the other, and has verdant forest zone lands spread on its either side.
The Shatotto team goes beyond the built mass to outline the inside-outside relation; as architect Azam points out, “the surrounding spaces are military farmland and forest areas, and hence to maintain a visual connection, the western perimeter has been flanked by a metal net boundary wall.”
There is nothing in this residence that would term it traditional, yet the spaces pack within its design the ancient wisdom of vernacular architecture in a vocabulary that matches the current contemporary style and green demands. Architect Azam, as always, has taken full advantage of the beautiful location intertwining nature and the built mass with utmost ease aided by a natural aesthetic.
Text By K Parvathy Menon
Photographs By Daniele Domenicali