The biggest challenge for urbanization is that trees get in the way. However, ingenious architects find ways to construct around/by them. The result is a structure that merges seamlessly with the surrounding greens. It is a perfect and beautiful fusion of nature and architecture. One of those architects who decided to find a middle ground instead of cutting down the trees is architect Arpan Shah of Modo Designs, who weaved a weekend home for a Gujarati family on the outskirts of Ahmedabad amidst the existing neem, chikoo, and amla trees. Designed as a two-bay plan, " The House by the Trees" features a linear open-to-sky courtyard with perennial foliage. Further, the architect used natural materials such as rough cuddapah, reclaimed timber to evoke a rugged feeling. SURFACES REPORTER (SR) gets more information about the project from the architect. Read on:
The initial brief was to have an open place for gathering of friends and family members, which the firm developed into places of contradictory characteristics, one is the introverted open to sky courtyard between bedrooms and the other is the cantilevered verandah opening from living, dining and master bedroom into the rear garden.
Also Read: The Red Sandstone Façade of This House in Gurugram Emerges From Within The 49 Trees | Renesa
Preserving Existing Trees During Construction
The main concern of the firm is to design the house layout with the existing trees, resulting in some trees within the house courts and some trees along its edge and thus random location of existing trees defined the extends of the house. “
One of the challenges was to mark all existing trees accurately and retain them, and allow the building around them, by them, containing them so as to have a naturally shaded ambience cutting off the harsh sunlight,” said the architect.
Use of Natural Materials
This being a place to gather and retreat, hence the character preferred was more informal and raw. The exterior accordingly had exposed RCC ceiling, the walls had rough stone cladding and rough texture, the floor was all river finished rough granite, cuddupah and brown kotah stone.
While the door windows used valsadi wood with telpani polish. The interior shades came about considering the raw grey character of the building and use of natural materials was continued within as well. For example, the valsadi wood used in door windows was taken forward in furniture as well. Use of false ceilings was avoided to keep this ambience of raw natural place.
Two-Bay Plan- Courtyard and Entry Vestibule
The house is a two-bay plan with the front bay having the semi-open entry porch and vestibule and a guest bedroom adjoining it. A linear courtyard segregates the front bay from the rear one enhancing the sense of openness from the enclosed spaces.
The rear bay has the living, dining and kitchen on one side and the master bedroom on the other side with a semi-open lounge that separates these zones in the rear bay. A 12’ cantilevered verandah hovers on the north side as an extension to the living and master bedroom and along the existing line of neem trees.
The semi-open vestibule and lounge connect the house with the courtyard and garden beyond making the house a seamless place. This connected area can transform at night when the sliding ms grill disconnects the outer area from the internal spaces making it an introverted secured place.
Also Read: Steel and Brick Farmhouse in Bharuch Woven Around Chikoo Trees | Dipen Gada and Associates
The tree trunk in the courtyard was obtained from a dried tree from the owner’s factory in Petlad town and was cut to fit.
Architect employed river-finished black granite in the entry vestibule on the right and lounge on the left while rough brown kotah stone is used in the open court. The ceiling is all exposed RCC in the entire house. The court wall on right is in rough grey stone from jodhpur.
All door windows are in valsadi wood while the wooden main door uses an old woodblock as a handle (bought from an antique shop in old Ahmedabad and earlier used for block printing in fabrics) and the band adjacent to it is in corten steel. The wood bench in the entry vestibule is customized using reclaimed old valsadi wood. The surface-mounted light fixtures in the verandah, lounge and living area are led fixtures of Changi make and wrapped with wooden beading.
The front facade of the weekend home features a grey texture while river-finished black granite is used in steps and planter. It is stark, not allowing any visibility of spaces within and enhancing a sense of privacy and security while opening up above eye level through a slit that frames the trees and sky.
Living and Lounge area
The living area is done with rough cuddapah stone and the furniture is customized with reclaimed valsadi wood and MS base. Moreover, the pink fabric in the sofa is cotton handwoven from Fab India while the grey fabric has been sourced from D Décor.
The chest in the lounge area is a 70 yr old furniture piece from the owner's ancestral home.
The three wall frames are 1970’s calendar prints of calico mills (prints of original paintings on cloth that depict religious symbols)
Also Read: Architectural and Interior Design | Wood, Concrete and Cantilevers Animate Inside Out House by Modo Designs
Kitchen and Dining Area
The dining and kitchen area gives a rustic feel with the use of rough cuddapah stone, while the kitchen platform is polished black pearl granite. The dining table is made from valsadi wood, the chairs are renovated from old existing furniture while two benches are made from reclaimed valsadi wood with ms base.
The colored cotton fabrics of the chairs are from FabIndia. The suspended light fixture above the dining table is fabricated from ms square sections and houses filament bulbs.
Guest Bedroom Along with the Courtyard
Rough cuddapah stone is used in the guest bedroom flooring. It features wooden louvers made from valsadi wood. The bed is customized from old reclaimed valsadi wood and has an MS base. The inbuilt courtyard seating on right is made from river finished black granite.
Project Nsme: The House by the Trees
Location: Aranya Farms, Pallodia (outskirts of Ahmedabad)
Built-up Area: 3600 sq ft
Architecture Firm: Modo Designs
Principal Architect: Arpan Shah
Design team: Arpan Shah, Neel Patel, Ronak Sheth, Rajvi Prajapati)
Interior design: PVDRS
Structural consultants – 912 consultants
Contractor: Suketu Shah
Photography: Monika Sathe
About the Firm
"Modo Designs' is an architecture firm set up by Architect Arpan Shah in the year 2002 in Ahmedabad, India and involved in residential, institutional and corporate projects. The firm derives its name from a latin word 'MODO' which means 'of its time'. In this sense, architectural designs are approached as progressive and appropriate. For us, design is a participatory and exploratory process, a process of research, exploration and refinement. It involves initial spontaneous response in a design, coupled by open-ended explorations.
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