Architect: Open to Sky Architects
Location: Mazbat, Upper Banks of Brahmaputra River, Bodoland, Lower Assam
Design Team: Animesh Nayak, Asim Mandal and Kaustav Khan
The opportunity and practice of architecture in locations as pristine as this, in the midst of raw and pure nature, comes with the ideal of relating the context with the design and ensuring a climate responsive structure, which is exemplified by the project in this scenario.
The client brief for the project remained a concise ideal, which stated that the house was to be designed and created within a budget. The challenge lay in the fact that the client wished the house to appear larger as well as more luxurious than it actuality was, with the feel of a resort, which then attract qualified youth from various urban areas to come and work in this very tea estate.
Most fundamentally, the design attempts to borrow from the archetypical tea planter’s bungalow, reminiscent of the various historical buildings that dot the estate. While the design intends to reflect certain timeless ideas of the traditional bungalow, economic realities ensured that it differs in scale, size and height from its early predecessors. The new building also allows in more natural light and views of the outside through the use of strategically located light wells and courtyards across the plan. Other specific design elements of the project include generous ceiling height within the rooms, created by the employment of sloping roofs, which aids in bringing in more natural light and ventilation into the interior.
The design as well as the execution of the same was carried out after an extensive investigation into the skills as well as the materials which were available locally. This culminated in the use of indigenously sourced and hand split, round Himalayan river boulders, along with concrete form work which was made from locally woven bamboo matting. Other materials used for construction include walls made of locally fired brick, washed concrete composed of smooth, rounded river aggregate, fences as well as boundary walls which were made of locally fabricated steel frames interlaced with locally woven bamboo. Large slabs of Jaisalmer stone are used for the box windows, and washed concrete has been used for the outdoor paving. The picture presented by the usage of the materials resembles serenity, as the characteristics of all the materials harmoniously intermingle with each other.
A vital measure taken in presenting the perception of the scale of the house, keeping in tandem with the objective of following the paradox of luxurious and comfortably compact, is the enclosure of a central, entrance courtyard, which acts as a breezeway and understandably makes the house appear smaller as it allows one to look through the entire depth of the site, right to the back.
The project is an ideal reflection of its surroundings. In the tranquil confines of nature, with the indigenous flora and fauna, the structure situates itself with unanimity. Due to the usage of indigenous materials as well as the inclusion of traditional architectural elements, such as courtyard planning, lights wells and similar measures employed to bring in natural light and ventilation, the structure does not mar the landscape, but enhances it and fulfills its purpose of being a serene dwelling. The light wells, the courtyards, the central breezeway with the oculus highlight, as well as the two large stone walls framing the central entrance space are some of the elements the designer mentions as reflections of their design language and those are truly testimonial to the vitality of the design.
About the designer:
As they spoke about their design elements, such as courtyard planning and integration of natural light through light wells, the designers asserted that their focus remains on creating buildings which are modern, and have clean lines as well as spatial flow and continuity. Open to Sky Architects prefer the use of locally sourced materials for their projects, along with local craft skills.