A villa in Delhi for a multi-generational family has been designed by DADA Partners, employing a minimalistic aesthetic. A centre court invites natural light into interior spaces even as it connects them and creates opportunities for interaction.
Ready landscaping. Sounds good? Yes and no.
Built on a 2.5 acre plot which was to be subdivided later, the 13,000 sq ft building and its gardens are restricted to just one acre. “But actually this meant that we had to rein ourselves in even further, since the landscaping which took up almost 30% of the area had already been done.
There were fully grown palms which were at least 18 to 20 years old,” says Sumit Arora of DADA Partners. “We were constantly checking with the gardeners and working around the trees for their safety. Eventually, it turned out to be a good thing, because there was a ready landscape the moment we were done with the architecture. It was almost as if the building had been planted amidst the greenery.”
“The clients were comfortable with a contemporary, minimalistic aesthetic,” says Sumit. “This usually means less cladding, which translates into savings in the budget.” An additional requirement was living areas which blurred the indoors and outdoors and a large entertainment space.
Minimalistic though the home may be, it is not devoid of drama. There is no shortage of surprises – all of the pleasant kind. An unusual H-shaped configuration consists of two parallel wings, above which is perched another volume, creating two courtyard spaces – one to north and the other facing south. Strategically placing the pool adjacent to the north court contains this space and forms a focal point.
The wing on the west is a private zone, occupied by bedrooms and family areas on both floors of the house. Privacy is maintained on the outside, with fewer apertures. However, large glazed windows towards the courtyard make this an inward looking house, with most rooms almost missing a wall, in lieu of the glass. This wing helps in shading and cooling the central courtyard during summers.
“Coupled with the pool, there is a cooler microclimate in the centre that further enhances natural ventilation in the house through this space,” says Sumit.
In addition to connectivity across the open courtyard, other smaller internal courts assist in flushing the interior spaces of the house with natural light. At night the effect is reversed, with the courtyard wrapped on three sides by glowing boxes, as the artificial lights in the house come on.
At the front, a cobbled driveway leads to the drop off at the entrance of the low-slung building – a cluster of rectilinear boxes of different sizes and heights. The composition is one of strong horizontal lines and sculptured rectangular forms. A long canopy lunges outwards, supported seemingly precariously, by one slim support. Beneath, a timber walkway floats over a shallow reflecting water body, providing access to the home.
“The water body extends from the prayer room on the left to the formal living room to the right. A granite-clad stone wall forms the focus at the entry court with the high volume of living room visible behind it,” says Sumit. The lower level of the villa houses the party zone, consisting of an entertainment area adjacent to the courtyard and pool. The layout is Vastu compliant, with the kitchen in the south east. Of the three master suites, two are on the upper floor and each suite enjoys a private lounge.
Since the clients own Pomegranate Art which designs sculptures, their own home showcases their talents. A 9.5 foot tall sculpture of a human figure titled To the Limit, arms reaching upwards, is visible in the home through the glazed window on the right of the entrance. Within, the foyer shares a wall with the dining room, where a sculpture of a man poised on one leg, arms thrown back and body arced is placed.
“Named Reaching Out, this arresting aluminium and fibre figure is more than seven feet in height,” says Gayatri Khanna Sekhri of Pomegranate Art. Outside the living room, a large sculpture of a Pegasus-like winged white horse on the lawn looks ready to take flight; its anatomy exquisitely detailed. Sculptures that appear in suspended animation, show up throughout the home, almost like a leitmotif.
Both floors are linked through a central double-height space containing a staircase with a low incline, gliding comfortably to the floor above. “It is typical of our treatment for farmhouses such as this one. Since there’s enough space, we don’t need to create the steep staircase, one is accustomed to seeing in smaller residences,” says Sumit. Floating steps and glass railing sides give it a visually light appearance, while full glazing on both sides offers views of both courts, making the passage a part of the landscape.
Underneath the staircase, the eight foot high Tree of Life sculpture has bicycle wheels representing clusters of leaves, with birds perched on them. A long skylight runs the length of the staircase.
Hugging the wall beneath it is a large sculpture of five human figures called Climbing Men bathed with an overhead light; symbolic of the strength that man requires overcoming obstacles in life. Spanning 14 feet, it has an arresting presence and garners much attention.
Green strategies make the house sustainable. With a series of inter-connected voids, the architectural design facilitates natural ventilation; during summers the stack effect results in cooler spaces. Wherever there are large expanses of glass, timber and aluminium louvers cut down on direct heat gain. South facing solar panels have been installed to heat water in winters, to be used in the toilets and kitchens. “The lighting is simple… automation is reserved for the HVAC and the blinds,” says Sumit.
All in all, with a central courtyard, sculptures and a minimal aesthetic, the house more than delivers.
Text By Devyani Jayakar
Photographs Courtesy Lightzone: Ranjan Sharma