In the ferocious summers of Surat, DWG Architects zeroed in on a large brick curtain wall as a device to deflect the heat of the sun from this bungalow. The notable architectural calisthenics superbly combine form with function.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that we cannot change climate. Cognisant of this fact, “we can only react to climate,” says Dinesh Suthar of DWG Architects. When Dinesh was asked to design a home in Surat for a gentleman whose life’s blood was social work, he realised that the house should be recognisable right from afar, since it would be visited by at least 20–50 people every day.
But simply making an empty design statement bereft of meaning is not something Dinesh subscribes to. “The plot faced southwest, but overlooked nothing significant. There simply wasn’t a view to look out onto.” So with nothing to lose but much to gain, he put his mind to a solution which would reduce the heat gain from the southwest, even while it became the very identity of the house.
“The west was exposed to the sun from 11am till sunset. The harsh sun had to be controlled,” says Dinesh. “In the south, we could create a 2.5 metre overhang to solve the problem, but for the design of the façade in the front, we did a good deal of research followed by several experiments.”
This involved studying brick architecture…the way the porous, local material functioned in traditional structures. “We conducted many studies with different sizes of bricks, to determine what was viable,” says Dinesh. “We also noticed that in Rajasthan, the jaali is used to great effect, with a variation in its depth for different results. In Jaisalmer, deep carvings provide shade to parts of the facade. What is important to remember, is that all these were responses to climate and function. Taking our cue from this, we used
“We also noticed that in Rajasthan, the jaali is used to great effect, with a variation in its depth for different results. In Jaisalmer, deep carvings provide shade to parts of the facade. What is important to remember, is that all these were responses to climate and function. Taking our cue from this, we used brick to create shade, through which 40% of the house is shaded from the sun.”
The resultant undulating brick wall is the piece de resistance of the project, with its surface in the living room reflecting the exact reverse of its concavities and convexities visible from outside. The design responds to the climate at both micro and macro levels.
“Only the area in front of the balcony and staircase does not undulate, as these are open spaces,” says Dinesh. “We used software to determine the details of the undulation. Models were made with different variations, with structural stability being a primary consideration. Two I-sections provided strength, with 25mm rods and a net adding support. It was risky to create perforations as the wall would be weakened structurally.”
At the entrance of the bungalow, a sit out provides a space in which the lady of the house can chat with her neighbour while chopping vegetables. The area is shaded all day except after 5 pm, when the sun is not so harsh. The ground floor houses the parking and the home theatre, with living spaces starting on the first floor.
The living room is an expansive space, 45 feet long and 25 feet wide, enjoying a double height ceiling of 18 feet. Light and air enters from the two shorter sides, adequately illuminating as well as ventilating the room. The balcony acts like a buffer during summer, with the sun coming in only till the edge of the living room because of its 2.5 metre overhang. But in the winter, the sun is able to come further into the room to warm it up.
“Exposed brick and concrete is often associated with cheap, cost effective work,” says Dinesh. “Unfortunately, the perception is that such work should look cheap as well…so generally, kota stone is used for the flooring in such projects. But here, we’ve tried to overcome this perception not only by using Italian marble, but also cutting it horizontally instead of vertically, so that it looks different.”
Along with the living room, the first floor accommodates the dining room, master bedroom and kitchen. Three bedrooms overlook the living room, their doors hidden from the living room by a long corridor. The centre of the bungalow also houses the lift, staircase and the washrooms, while the third floor has an office with toilet facilities.
An openable clerestory window brings in light and controls air. “Throughout the home, we avoided using hardware such as handles for the doors. It was either too expensive or not durable, requiring continuous maintenance,” says Dinesh. The result is detailing in the woodwork of the door which substitutes for a handle, while adding a sleek sophistication to the styling.
The staircase in the centre of the bungalow has a skylight at the top which coaxes light into the interior. Visually light, it has no risers but there is a grill on its side for safety, the design of which recalls a Mondrianesque aesthetic. Initially tempted to resist the client’s safety concerns, Dinesh acknowledged that form must take a back seat to function – now the grill connects all the floors from top to bottom.
“The human faces in its design are an abstract representation of Krishna’s Raas Leela,” says Dinesh. “It doubles as artwork and installation, but we were concerned about how it would interface with the undulating wall, which is the very identity of the bungalow.”
Dinesh readily states that at least half the effort in the design went towards the undulating brick wall. Marrying purpose to aesthetics with aplomb, this feature achieves exactly what the architect intended…it wards off the sun, while making a rather spectacular style statement.
Text By Devyani Jayakar
Photographs Courtesy IRA + Sebastian Zachariah