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Your home doesn't have to be your castle

It can be just about anything. Whether it involves deconstructing concrete cuboids or burrowing into ridges, contemporary Indian architects are going all out to design weekend homes you could only have dreamt of. Anjana Vaswani tracks the latest trends in architecture as seen in weekend homes


House on the ridge
Khadakvasla, Pune


Whether it involves deconstructing concrete cuboids or burrowing into ridges, contemporary Indian architects are going all out to design weekend homes you could only have dreamt of. Anjana Vaswani tracks the latest trends in architecture as seen in weekend homes

Though relatively young at just 10 years, Kalina-based Opolis Architects is already out there shaking up conventions as it carves more than just an impressive name for itself.

Although the project we have in mind as we say this, has bagged four awards, Rahul Gore, a principal of the firm who spearheads the company with partner Sonal Sancheti, barely touches on the fact as he enthusiastically shares details of the House on the Ridge.

Gore guards his client's identity with fervour befitting the CIA, before he reveals, "He is a doctor, and the house serves as a holiday home for him and his wife. Their children are grown up; they have grandkids too, and occasionally, the whole family ends up spending time here."

The doctor, we learn, owned a 2 acre stretch of land in Khadakvasla near Pune, so the idea of burrowing right into the ridge was not born because of a lack of space but was rooted in two reasons. "Firstly, the land afforded a gorgeous view, and the client was keen to enjoy it fully.
 
We wanted to find a way to offer him that view without any obstructions," Gore shares, pausing to emphasise that the house is uniquely positioned so that at one point in the day, its residents can enjoy the sight of both, the setting sun and the rising moon, at once.

Secondly, the idea of nestling the house into the ridge itself, the architects felt, was environmentally sound, allowing for the most natural flow of water and wind.

But the project which took a year-and-a-half to complete posed several challenges. Gore admits that its position was precarious.

The land afforded a gorgeous view, and the client was keen to enjoy it fully, says Gore. The architects wanted to find a way to offer him that view without any obstructions.

"We had to think of a way to ensure the house was secure and wouldn't slide down the mountain," he says matter-of-factly.

Twin giant underground water-harvesting tanks were therefore devised to serve as anchors, even as they worked to collect 1,00,000 litres of water each, sufficient for the family's domestic needs for the entire year.
 
"This was also extremely prudent given that due to the altitude of the house, water would otherwise have to be pumped from Khadakvasla Lake, two kilometres away, which would be mighty energy-consuming."

The main roof over the public spaces in the house is inclined towards the south. "This was to protect it from the fury of the rains and the breeze that sweep up the windward side of the mountain."

Having worked with leading architects both, here and in Japan, eco-sensitivity is a key element in Gore's designs, and in this one, he tells us, "We were determined to minimise cut and fill, so as to leave the mountain side undisturbed as far as possible, while retaining most of the existing natural teak wood plantation on the slopes. This, in turn, reduced soil erosion."

House of the Ridge is also designed to maximise nature's bounty. "A sunken courtyard and water bodies were incorporated to enhance ventilation and maximise on natural light.


The main roof over the public spaces in the house is
inclined  towards the south. This was to protect it from
the fury of the rains and the breeze that sweeps
up the windward side of the mountain.


"We had to think of a way to ensure the house was secure and wouldn't slide down the mountain," he says matter-of-factly.

Twin giant underground water-harvesting tanks were therefore devised to serve as anchors, even as they worked to collect 1,00,000 litres of water each, sufficient for the family's domestic needs for the entire year.
 
"This was also extremely prudent given that due to the altitude of the house, water would otherwise have to be pumped from Khadakvasla Lake, two kilometres away, which would be mighty energy-consuming."

The main roof over the public spaces in the house is inclined towards the south. "This was to protect it from the fury of the rains and the breeze that sweeps up the windward side of the mountain."

Having worked with leading architects both, here and in Japan, eco-sensitivity is a key element in Gore's designs, and in this one, he tells us, "We were determined to minimise cut and fill, so as to leave the mountain side undisturbed as far as possible, while retaining most of the existing natural teak wood plantation on the slopes. This, in turn, reduced soil erosion."

House of the Ridge is also designed to maximise nature's bounty. "A sunken courtyard and water bodies were incorporated to enhance ventilation and maximise natural light.

Floating Cuboid 
Alibaug

Built on seven acres of land on a hill in Alibaug, with 11,500 square feet of built-up area, this Malik Constructions' design was originally intended to serve as the family's full-time residence, but a change of circumstances meant that they now use it as a holiday home.

A conventional design for a heavily-contoured site such as this, would have traditionally incorporated a stepped terrace. Architect Arjun Malik, whose father Kamal completed this project in two years, explains, "Instead, we chose to deconstruct a cuboid that is tilted and suspended over the ground and seems to simultaneously float and flow down the hill."


Part of the client's brief was to have the primary living
space and verandah in close proximity to the swimming
pool, and so, the architects used the contours of the hill
to design a stilted infinity pool


The alternative, Malik reveals, would have resulted in a large scale excavation and cutting up of the hill, and may not have maximised the natural contours of the landscape."

Though his brief was simple and the idea was to create a unique family home, Malik explains, "A walk through the house is meant to yield unique moments of being suspended in space, of intimate enclosure and yet, it allows one to feel closely connected to nature."

Pointing out that the hilltop location of the house afforded spectacular views of the sea and surrounding terrain, Malik shares, "But the high wind speeds and heavy rains that the location is subject to, necessitated a re-analysis of the traditional pitched roof."

Though some of us may have a hard time recognising the similarity, Malik insists that the main roof of the living room and the verandah is merely a re-interpretation of the traditional clay-tiled roof. It's simply re-designed for better performance and to provide weather protection for the main pool deck, the entrance verandah and the car porch.



Part of the client's brief was to have the primary living space and verandah in close proximity to the swimming pool, the architect shares, explaining that his company therefore used the contours of the hill to design a stilted infinity pool "that satisfied the client's requirements and provided an auxiliary shaded verandah below it, that opens onto a large garden that could be used in inclement weather."

Turkish butterfly lands in Alibaug
The hottest weekend resort is now home to a trendy outdoor furniture and decor store that stocks wares from Turkey, Indonesia, Vietnam, The Philippines and Central America

Top 3 finds at Kelebec


Wooden Garden Whale: Two feet in length, this garden ornament can be used as a showpiece indoors. It is crafted from a combination of Balau wood and teak.Price: Rs 3,995


Antalya Hanging Iron Garden Lamp: This stainless steel and iron lamp can be hung outdoors but would also dress up a balcony just as beautifully. Price: Rs 4,250


Chelsea Lace Swing: This synthetic rattan swing with its interesting bird-basket style weave was imported from Vietnam. Price: Rs 39,450

It was less than a year ago that New Yorker Nymrata Advani Bickici and husband Yunus decided to set up shop close to their holiday home in Alibaug.

But the mother of two tells us the idea had been threading through her mind for a long time. "We've been coming to Alibaug for more than eight years, so we had a good idea of what's required," she says. It was an attempt at dressing up their own home that finally helped them make up their minds.

"When we were looking around for interesting furniture to do up our home in Zirad, we realised that good quality, aesthetically-pleasing outdoor furniture was rare to find even in Mumbai. Good designs were often exorbitant."

It was in October last year that Kelebec ('butterfly' in Turkish) finally opened doors in Alibaug, and while many may have initially confused the Spanish-style construction with its white stucco and brown-tiled roof,

Decor tips from Nymrata
Focus on a few key furniture pieces that are unique, interesting, yet practical. These can be brightened up with colours. For instance, lazy loungers, day beds and big roomy armchairs in neutral colours which are used outdoors can be livened up with upholstery or cushions in eye-catching colours like reds, oranges and yellows to complement greenery or in shades of blue and aqua around a water body.

Pick one focal object for a room or outdoor space such as a stunning antique wooden showpiece or a gorgeous stone fountain, and keep everything else around it simple and minimal.

White upholstery or furniture is a wonderfully reliable fallback as it provides a classic look. It works exceptionally well, both, outdoors and indoors, especially in smaller spaces as it creates the illusion of more room.

Just like with apparel, it is imperative to accessorise your home. Beautiful lamps, art and curios can be used to lend a space a distinctive vibe. For the outdoors, I favour oversized stone and ceramic urns, old Moroccan lanterns and whimsical garden animals in metal or stone.

Try not to be too focussed on trends when it comes to decorating your home. Follow your gut, as a wonderfully eclectic mix of items that reflects the owner's personality always makes for a more interesting ambience.

its position was precarious. We had to think of a way to ensure the house was secure and wouldn't slide down the mountain.
Rahul Gore of Opalis Architects, with partner Sonal Sancheti

Rahul Gore's tips on making a house look large
Focus on inflow of light and air
Though this house is not very large just 2,000 square feet it looks much more spacious simply because it's airy, receives ample light and is clutter-free.
Another way to make something look larger that it is, is to use one material right through the house, especially on the floor.

Instead, we chose to deconstruct a cuboid that is tilted and suspended over the ground and seems to simultaneously float and flow down the hill.
Arjun Malik of Malik Constructions

Kamal Malik's three building commandments light is crucial
Maximise natural light.
We've provided large openings and skylights to minimise dependence on artificial light in the
Jumbled home.
Do your bit for sustainability
Cross ventilation is essential to ensure energy conservation. You may not need to run the fan at top speed all through the year if you have paid heed to air flow.
Get fond of green
We've incorporated green spaces within the Jumbled home to give occupants a feeling of being close to nature.
Turkish butterfly

For just another fancy villa, its unique products have quickly drawn the attention of affluent neighbours.
"We travel a lot," she says, sharing that as much as 90 per cent of their products are imported from Turkey, Morocco, Indonesia, Vietnam, The Philippines, Central America and Mexico.
 
"We are an outdoor lifestyle store and our furniture is either made from synthetic poly rattan or treated teak wood, suited to all kinds of weather conditions."

The entrepreneur is keen to stress that you are unlikely to find more than a few pieces of each design at the shop since their philosophy is to offer unique, hand-picked pieces, "not a hundred Chinese imports."

In fact, what she is most proud of are the handmade candles she sources from a senior citizen in Delhi.

"We've also just launched a little gourmet pantry at the store. Most items here are from The Stonewall Kitchen from Maine, which is well-known for its artisan quality gourmet products like truffle oil, handmade pastas and champagne jams."

Though the ex-investment-banker still spends five months of the year in New York, she believes there's scope for her venture here, with curious customers braving the rains and driving up to their weekend homes regularly.

The couple have already been approached by neighbours eager to rent the garden with a cafe-style setting, to host their events. "I'm toying with the idea," she says, admitting that it would keep overheads low.



Melbourne 
Australia

Origami blends with concrete in bottle home

House Winner at the World Architecture Festival 2009, Donna and Mark Howlett's multi-award winning holiday home, designed by McBride Charles Ryan, an architectural firm based in the suburb of Prahan, is situated on the Mornington Peninsula, about an hour and a half from Melbourne.

With a floor area of 258 square metres or 2,778 square feet, the design was inspired by the Klein Bottle, which, the architects explain is "a unique surface developed by topological mathematicians like M bius strips and boy surfaces while they may be distorted they remain the same topologically.

A donut will remain topologically a donut even if you twist and distort it; it will only change topologically if it is cut."

The architects had wanted a building that nestled within the tree line, right from the outset, they tell us in an email interview, explaining, "What began as a spiral or shell-like building developed into a more complex spiral, the Klein bottle.

We were keen to be topologically true to the Klein bottle but it had to function as a home. We thought an origami version of the bottle would be achievable and hold some ironic fascination."



Qualicum Bay 
Canada
Bobbing in a rainforest


The objective of this project was to enable people to move into the rainforest and experience it and yet keep the carbon footprint as light as possible," explains Tom Chudleigh, who set up these spherical tree houses near Qualicum Bay in Canada, the design for which was inspired by pagan tradition.

"Pagan rituals are carried out inside a sacred circle, and during such a ritual, it is normal to imagine being inside a sphere of altered space. The idea is to feel connected to all things and the circle is symbolic as it has no beginning and no end."

The design is rooted in the principles of bio-mimicry and incorporates the tensile strength of spider-webs, says Chudleigh. "When the wind blows, the treetops move a lot, but the sphere movement is a muted average of the treetop movement."

A spiral double-helix staircase suspended from the tree provides access and a short suspension bridge leads out of the sphere. Chudleigh, whose company, Free Spirit Spheres, manufactures wood and fibreglass spheres, hopes that these tree-houses will be a place where people can commune with nature.
tom@freespiritspheres.com



North of Sydney 
Australia
This home can spin 360 degrees

Completed in 2006, after a full decade of research, planning and designing, and powered by two 500-watt electric motors, this 24-metre-diameter octagonal house (with a three-metre verandah) in Australia can spin 360 degrees at the touch of a button.

If the idea is enough to make your head spin, you'd be relieved to know that it's neither as fast nor as stomach-churning as a theme-park ride a complete rotation of the 50-tonne structure can take between 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the setting of your choice.

"The entire cost of the Everingham Rotating House was on par with the cost of a non-rotating house of comparable size," according to its designers, who are part of the Australian company E Rotating Structures Pvt. Ltd., and who explain that the idea was born "when our neighbours were expounding the virtues of their new home and commented that if they could start again they would orient the house 15 degrees more to the north".

http://www.everinghamrotatinghouse.com.au

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