With a stream running through the house, this retreat in Alibag is delicately woven into the landscape, alternately opening up and closing itself to the different characteristics of the site. Though seasonal, the streambed allows for an interesting landscape feature throughout the year. A multitude of medicinal and fruit bearing trees provide for an intimate ambiance and comfortable microclimate. A short walk along the stream before entering the house domain builds up a sense of anticipation.
The house consists of two parts: the day areas of the house such as the dining, kitchen, the living room and entrance verandah are separated from the master bedroom by a bridge that spans across the stream. Like an organism trying to make most use of its resources and surroundings, the house with its several limbs reaches out into the landscape making full use of the views within the site and dramatizes special moments: a beautiful tree or the cascading stream during the monsoon rains.
Since the owners are enthusiastic cooks, the kitchen is made the heart of the house, a large, inviting volume with a high ceiling. Around this centre, three 'wings' span across into the landscape and anchor the house into the location. The living room 'wing' is lifted of the ground to have a panoramic view of the mountain range in the distance. The guest room wing embraces an existing tree to create a courtyard and just peeks across the dining room to have a view over the length of the stream. The swimming pool is aligned along the stream acting as a substitute for it during the dry season, and as an extension of it during the monsoons. (Photography by Sebastian Zachariah)
New building project
Vijay K. Patil & Associates
Born in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, Robert Verrijt's passion is traveling. Much of his summer holidays were spent exploring Mediterranean villages and cities. After being awarded 2nd place at the Dutch Archiprix for his masters thesis in Architecture at the TUDelft he moved to Sri Lanka where he joined the office of Channa Daswatte, one of Geoffrey Bawa's protégés. His work here included renovations, houses, high end condominiums, boutique resorts and hotels. In Mumbai he has taught part time at the KRVIA school of Architecture, and the Balwant Sheth School of Architecture.
Born in Mumbai, India, Shefali Balwani studied at the renowned School of Architecture C.E.P.T in Ahmedabad. After completing here thesis on the Architecture of contemporary mosques she moved back to Mumbai to work with Rahul Mehrotra. In 2004 she joined the office of Channa Daswatte in Sri Lanka where she was responsible for a variety of projects such as the part refurbishment of Geoffrey Bawa's Lighthouse Hotel.
This city has a tropical climate. The summers here have a good deal of rainfall, while the winters have very little. The average annual temperature is 26.4 °C in Alibag. The rainfall here averages 2345 mm.The water in the stream becomes very violent. Imagine three days of continuous rain at a time – there’s about a 1.5 meter level increase in water. We had to account for that difference – from the soil becoming suddenly wet from very dry and vice versa. When we designed it we made provisions and then we made back-up provisions just in case those failed. We did worry if it would all work or would areas like the master pavilion flood, being so close to the water. We set back the foundations from the façade as one solution.The experience of the house in the monsoon is very different. The rains leads to lots of complications, but also have a certain charm about it. The temperature suddenly drops and the landscape turns lush and bright green. It’s a great feeling to sit on the verandah, the rain pouring outside and the stream gushing below you.
With a stream running through the house, this retreat in Alibag is delicately woven into the landscape, alternately opening up and closing itself to the different characteristics of the site. A multitude of medicinal and fruit bearing trees provide for an intimate ambiance and comfortable microclimate. Though seasonal, the streambed allows for an interesting landscape feature throughout the year. The house is placed on the banks of the stream where it makes a sudden S-curve. A short walk along the stream before entering the house builds up an element of anticipation.
Like an organism trying to make most use of its resources and surroundings, the house with its several limbs reaches out into the landscape making full use of the views within the site and dramatizes special moments: a beautiful tree, a view of the mountains beyond or the cascading stream during the monsoon rains. What started out as a Cartesian response to the site became deformed, stretched and pushed in.
The orientation of the program is based on climatic considerations. The bedrooms are mostly west facing with large verandahs and get the evening sun.
The living rooms faces east once again with a large verandah. The kitchen, dining, and pool areas all look towards the north and are shaded by large trees. The south façade of the house is predominately closed and more solid with the exception of a picture window that frames the view out from the pantry to the fields beyond.
The house consists of two parts: the day areas of the house such as the dining/kitchen, the living room and entrance verandah are separated from the master bedroom by a bridge that spans across the stream.
Since the owners are passionate about cooking, the kitchen is made the heart and center of the house, a large, inviting volume with a high ceiling and a skylight that floods the space with light.
This space forms the anchor of the house from where its various limbs branch out into the landscape around existing components of the site. The living room on the left is lifted off the ground to have a panoramic view of the mountain range in the distance. The guest room embraces an existing tree to create a courtyard and just peeks across the dining room to have a view over the length of the stream. The pool is aligned along the stream acting as a celebration of it during the monsoons, and a memory of it during the dry season.
While the external structural concrete shell contracts and expands in plan in section it does so as well. The external form of the house responds to site and its orientation and flows from high to low in accordance with the monolithic fluidity of its form. Internally, however, it responds to the creation of space, and directs the eye to frame a particular view.
The outside and inside are therefore apart and internal spaces are defined with volumes created by the changing thickness of the internal ceiling.
The heaviness of this mass however is reversed by the lightness of the white washed walls and ceilings. A central skylight and large sliding doors, which span from floor to ceiling and wall to wall bring in the outside into the interiors. The cantilevered ‘limbs’ of the living room and two bedrooms defy the heaviness of the concrete volumes. By not resting it on the ground the relationship with the landscape paradoxically is strengthened.
A series a-symmetrical axi create a path of discovery through the house. The arrival path is aligned with the axis of the pergola, which embracing the pool enters the dining room on the left side. One corner of the dining room overlaps with the conically shaped volume of the kitchen. By shifting the axis of the dining room off the axis of the kitchen and raising the level of the living room, this becomes a more secluded space. Furthermore it allows a glazed door in the kitchen to open up to the outside and view along the external living room wall. At strategic positions in the house steel framed box windows protrude through the concrete walls. Placed symmetrically on the interior walls they highlight specific elements of the site, such as the bark of a tree, or peek from the master pavilion to the main house.
The large windows and openings on all sides illuminates the entire house during the day. Use of fins enables the the indirect
The site is located on a seasonal stream. A neighbouring plot has a large water body which acts as a percolation tank to recharge the ground water table of the site during the monsoon rains. For a house like this the water requirement for landscaping is usually the largest. The landscaping is therefore done keeping in mind the scarcity of water during the dry season. Plants which consume a lot of water are avoided, and lawns are kept to a minimum. The contrast between the landscape during the monsoon and the dry season is encouraged to be experienced in the plot as well
The windows are oriented in East- West direction enabling cross ventilation of air. The sky lights are oriented in the North direction avoiding the harsh sun. The roof is insulated and painted in a light shade to reflect sunlight keeping the space cool.
simple and basic finishes but rich texture. concrete. The house is cast in plank-finished concrete with a vertical grain. The homogenous materialization emphasizes the sculptural quality of the house that is moulding itself about the site. Concrete being left exposed in the humid Indian climate, attracts a patina that becomes more rich and alive over time.
More so the grey textured surface provides a muted surface against the vibrant green surrounding.
Elegant timber screens further soften the greyness of the concrete. They not only form a buffer between the interior space and the exteriors, but also create an intensive play of shadow and light on the floors and walls.