Name: Kurundu House
Location: Near Digana, Kandy, Sri Lanka
Land Extent: 132 perches
Area: 4300 square feet
Architects: Zowa Architects
Structural Engineer: Signet Consultants
Electrical Engineer: Thushara de Silva
Quantity Surveyor: Chula Jeewkaratna
Contractor: M Kalyanaratna
Photography: Eresh Weerasuriya
Date of Completion: December 2015
The Kurundu house is a beautiful haven, for a busy financial consultant and his family, its appeal intensified with its location, tucked away cozily in a remote mountain side, off the Digana golf club. The house comprises of four bedrooms within, and it situated on a 132 perch bare land, its only remarkable feature being a solitary Kohomba tree, adding to the essence of an idyllic retreat.
One glimpse at the site surroundings and vicinity relays that no habitation appears to be present, and there is a simultaneous impact resulting out of the openness of the space, and the loneliness of its locale. Moreover, the visual is further enhanced as the site gives a distinct view of the Victoria reservoir, which looks resplendent especially with a full flow during monsoon, with the Hunnsagiriya mountains in the farther background.
Due to its remote location, the house and the site can be approached from a main through a rough track, which is flanked by small sized village huts, reflecting rural rusticity, vegetable gardens showing the abundance of nature, with large Mara trees, ultimately winding into a steep and rocky lane which brings you to the site, giving the first glimpse at what one can only define as a breathtaking and awe inspiring view.
The design of the house, and the thought behind the spaces, is based within the context, a principle of architecture, which brings uniqueness into the ensemble. Therefore, at the outset, the designers introduced a grand central verandah space, which allows the enrapturing of the openness of the location, and which can prove as a facet while taking in the distant views beyond the site, along with serving as a functional entity which garners accessibility to all the further spaces of the house, based on a defined hierarchy, like the bedrooms as well as the utility spaces.
The design of the house is composed primarily in the form of a two-storied house, with staggered cuboids, and the verandah defines the essence of the house, with its position at the centre, the very heart of the home. Giving rise to site specific architecture, the space has been designed with split levels, an architectural extension of the naturally defined slopes on the site. Thereby, the top level allows one to access the bedrooms on either side, and the lower level accommodates the living area, the kitchen and the area for the staff.
Not only does the courtyard act as a central zone for navigation, it also forms into an informal seating area, naturally inviting social interacting between the members of the family, due to its placement, and its treatment. The bottom level has also been planned to comprise of open spaces, with an adjacent lawn, and a swimming pool for the members which offers views on all side. While the bottom level feels more playful and welcoming towards all, the top level exudes a sense of privacy and quiet tranquil, especially with the effect emulated by the light filtered through cinnamon sticks, giving rise to a soothing ambience.
With the variation in levels so effected that half of the structure appears ingrained within the land, the appearance from the approach road defines a single-story façade. The façade has been clad with cinnamon sticks, giving a unique appearance, and one that seems to belong right within this space, imbibing the area with its peaceful sense of natural beauty. The façade itself aids in concealing a passage, which leads to the bedrooms as well as the entrance verandah. There is a narrow cutout in the façade, shaped as a wedge, and this avails entrance to the double heighted verandah, remarkably signifying that there is no atypical front door to the house.
The verandah at the lower level allows invites entrance into a third living space. The purpose for this space is to act as a refuge in the face of dire situations like thunderstorms, or uncomfortable periods, such as the sunnier and hotter days of the year. Therefore, it can be shut and air conditioned, and yet it has a strong connect to the entirety of the ensemble as it has been glazed.
The two predominant blocks have been given simple finishing treatments, and they have been sheltered with lean to roofs, which eventually drain out a concrete slab which gathers the rain water. The walls have been treated without plaster, and the finishing applied is that of painted brick work. The flooring employed is of cut cement within the rooms, and rubble paving in the verandah. With regard to landscaping, the area which is immediately adjacent to the structure have grassed, cared for and tended to, so that there a foreground is available for the structure, allowing appreciation and relish for its composition, and the rest of the land has been allowed to attain wild growth, keeping in rhythm with the surrounding nature.
With their practice in Colombo, Zowa Architects is headed by a two-person team, husband and wife, operating from a home office, with students periodically joining for some months to gain some work experience, and they have several contractors known to them, who undertake their work. It has always been the aim to ensure that their designs be environmentally suitable, to ensure that they are eventually rendered a distinct part of architecture. Their ideology is based on their work being shaped by place, time, client and budget, and that building is a joint effort, between the various disciplines that are responsible for its successful execution, and a good understanding can be developed between all over time.
– DevashreeVyas, Volume Zero.