In the outskirts of Ahmedabad, a weekend home designed by Modo Designs and built around several existing trees, addresses security issues successfully. In this two-bay home, open living spaces seem to merge seamlessly with the surrounding landscape.
“There are no buildings visible from this home,” says Arpan Shah of Modo Designs. Located 10 kms from the outskirts of Ahmedabad, a weekend home was to be built on a plot of uncultivated land.
The client’s brief stated that they would frequently entertain groups of up to 50 people, maybe even with two couples staying overnight. Neem and chikoo trees dotted the space, which Arpan immediately decided to retain. “We opted for the feel of a traditional Indian home with a courtyard and many semi-open spaces.” Designer Megha Vadodaria of PVDRS, who was appointed when the shell of the home was coming up, was able to review positions of the doors and windows so as to serve the core concern of openness for public areas.
After the initial decision to retain all the trees was taken, it became important to map their locations accurately so as to plan a layout around them. “To contain ourselves as well as wrap around the trees, we shaped an organisation of two bays which sit parallel to each other with a courtyard running their length, separating as well as connecting them,” says Arpan.
The bay at the entrance contains a semi-open vestibule with an old neem tree, flanked by a parking space on one side and a guest bedroom on the other. The bedroom opens onto the central courtyard on one side, while a cut-out in another wall frames a chikoo tree backed by a dead wall.
The vestibule which leads to a linear courtyard which stretches on both sides and is parallel to the first bay is contained by 11 feet high MS grills for safety. This ensures that a nocturnal trip to the kitchen or dining area at night doesn’t become a security concern.Across this courtyard, the rear bay holds the living, dining and kitchen on one side and the master bedroom on the other, with a semi open lounge separating these zones.
“A 12 ft cantilevered verandah hovers on the north side as an extension to the living room and master bedroom, along the existing line of neem trees. The semi open vestibule and lounge connects the house with the courtyard and garden beyond, making the house a seamless place. This connected area can transform at night when the sliding MS grill disconnects the outer area from the internal spaces, making it an introverted, secure space,” says Arpan.
While the public spaces resemble glass boxes and employ laminated glass for safety, the bedrooms are appropriately enclosed and secure with wooden louvers for ventilation.Since there are no openings on the east or west, sun comes into the interior spaces for about 30 minutes a day and is controlled by roller blinds. “There are no doors between the living, dining and kitchen areas,” says Megha. “But as it is an Indian kitchen, the line of vision is terminated by a wall of crackled glass handmade tiles.
A secondary kitchen in which most of the cooking takes place has been located in the utility area which lies beyond, out of sight. The owners were not going to be cooking much themselves, so the open kitchen adjacent to the dining area is mostly used for garnishing the food.”
Various seating clusters have been created, with the flexibility to move them around as needed. Connections to the outside spaces are symmetrical, with doors opening onto the verandah. “The construction of the home is predominantly achieved with the use of metal columns and concrete. Taking my cue from that, I’ve used painted MS frames for the furniture which give it a visually light appearance, with a good deal of floor visible underneath. Through the commonality of the materials used, both the architecture and the interiors merge harmoniously,” says Megha.
Even the 8×4 ft dining table rests on just two frames, the chandelier above following the vocabulary of the MS pipes. Colours have been added through linens and soft cottons.
The powder room has in situ terrazzo in granite chips, covering the floor as well as the walls. “We like to employ local skills,” says Megha. Accordingly, the pink rope chair in the bedroom is an old one from Kerala which belonged to the client. The cane weaving was removed and replaced with recycled ropes woven by a charpoy weaver.
Rough cudappa makes up the floor in the main house, while river-finished black granite is used for the verandah floor and brown kotah for the courtyard one. “There are no false ceilings, and the exposed concrete is left visible. Walls have been painted over without any POP, while the valsadi wood has a simple linseed oil polish which keeps the veins open,” says Arpan.
“We procured wood from a 70 year old factory shed, belonging to the clients. Since it came in different sizes with the widest measuring just 4.5 inches, skilful joinery has been resorted to, to create all the furniture using the solid wood, with very little plywood being employed. However, having to reuse the small pieces of wood meant that creating large surfaces was a complicated exercise…so we were lucky to have a skilful carpenter who understood wood,” says Megha.
Along with an awareness of reusing materials and an eco-friendly design, all efforts have converged towards creating a space which is at once open as well as secure. “This home is one with the seasons…with the sun, the rain and the greenery,” says Arpan.
Text By Devyani Jayakar
Photographs Courtesy Monika Sathe