Project Name: Nilambur House
Design Team: Harsh Patel (Principal Architect) and Ar. Bhavan Hameed (Principal Architect)
Location: Nilambur, Kerala
Year of completion: 2011
“More than architecture, it was a lesson to discover myself; thrashing out beliefs to their extremes and gaining the courage to express it.” – Ar. Harsh Patel
It was the permanence of architecture and the immense responsibility on a personal creative endeavor that fascinated Harsh Patel to pursue architecture. Even after graduating from CEPT University, his architectural education didn’t stop there. He strongly believes that every project he undertakes never ceases to teach him more about architecture.
The design studio believes in developing an architectural language through a detailed understanding of the determining factors that define a space. It derives a critical balance between the self-imposed rules and the variations afforded so as to generate a play within the structure. The practice refrains from providing technologically advanced solutions but rather strives to achieve innovative economical methods through the use of simple existing prevalent techniques of construction. The aim of the team is to design with relevance to the Indian context, thereby creating a much larger factor of adaptability within the society.
Kerala being a melting pot of cultures is home to some of the greatest architectural marvels that India is proud to behold. The characteristic regional expression of architecture in Kerala has always been of a humble scale, blending with nature. With a belief to encapsulate the serene cultural beauty of Kerala, Architect Harsh Patel redefines the spatial character of a two-storeyed household into a traditional haven.
Situated at the foothills of the Western Ghats, amidst the rubber and tea plantations of Nilambur, Kerala; the brief set up was to re-build a large portion of the two-storeyed house. The design parameters for the structure were set as per the existing typology of the place and the prevailing climatic conditions. The concept adopted, was to give every room within the structure a distinct identity and independence of orientation.
The plans that were evolved on the basis of this concept, give you a diagrammatic representation of how every room is connected to each other through a series of corridors. The corridor being flanked with columns on either side generates a visual connectivity between the rooms and the outdoor ambiance.
The intersection of these varying lengths of corridors resulted in the formation of courtyards within the design configuration. Courtyards have always been an integral part of any dwelling typology. These courtyards eventually became a connecting volume between the personal spaces within the house. Certain free standing walls were later introduced so as to create a sense of privacy within the courtyards.
A number of such configurations generated through this language were explored and one of them was selected so as to create the new house. The rooms designed are simply in the form of squares. The beauty of these square components is that it lets all four sides of the room open out into an external space. In this way the rooms have been formally separated to allow maximum light and ventilation.
The land being favored by plentiful rains, the roof too had to be designed in relevance to this climatic feature. Based on the size of the respective rooms, independent pyramidal roofs have been designed accordingly with varying heights. The four-way sloping roof covered with Mangalore tiles, adds an earthy feel to the structure. In addition to this, the deep overhangs create a dramatic architectural statement and so does it prevent the ingress of water too.
The challenge posed to the design team was to reuse as far as possible the architectural elements that the dilapidated house yet bore. Each and every element which varied in size and proportion were to be accommodated so as to coherently fit within the new design language. In this way, the adaptive reuse of the existing deteriorated estate house would not only help retain the structure’s traditional significance but would also add a contemporary layer thereby providing value for the future.
The existing house revealed neatly cut granite masonry used in the foundation and good quality teak used in its flooring and joineries. Keeping all these structural elements intact, including the existing doors and windows, the new house was recomposed and transformed into a beautifully carved out architectural stroke of genius. The granite blocks existing within the structure itself were used to create a high plinth for the house to sit on. Numerous layers of paint were scraped off so as to expose the natural teak wood finish before they could be reused for the internal partitions and the roof.
The objective was to define a fresh new expression within which the clients could participate to arrive at a specific configuration depending on their individual choices for each area without compromising on the overall design concept. The aesthetic appeal developed for the house is due to its simplicity of form and functional perfection. The space designed not only speaks of the artistic capabilities of the architect, but also of the aspirations and visions of the client for whom the space becomes a medium of thematic expression.
– Rhea Fenandes ,Volume Zero.