The antipodal requirements of privacy and togetherness drove the concept and development of this villa, which was to be the home of an extended family spanning three generations. With three couples and two children forming the members of the closely-knit unit, the design had to make room for seclusion and solitude, and shared areas that would allow congregations of different sizes. Inspiration for design can come from the most unexpected of places, and this one took off from that most fundamental building block of digital imagery — the pixel. And while this may be so, its spirit is rooted in nature, as the home emerged from an intent to embrace natural conditions, taking advantage of views, orientation, and form generating a biophilic skin that positions the project at an equilibrium between the built and the natural world.
To create an understated presence and the appropriate levels of privacy and separation, the architecture was developed as a series of offset and stacked volumes to create a stepped form. The material application strategy respects this ‘geometricity’, with large areas of (seemingly overlapped) surfaces featuring natural stone, exposed concrete and paint, a palette which also helps in maintaining the thermal mass. The architectural form explores the idea of sheltered balconies, overhangs and spaces-under-spaces in a bid to allow each room to face the front (north) garden and as a response to the region’s hot, dry climate. A part of the second storey towards the north, for instance, is cantilevered to provide shelter for a terrace to the rear and provide protection to the double-height glass of the living room, the dining room and balcony of the upper floor. In addition to fulfilling its function, this overhanging element creates a sculptural contrast to the modest front facade. The result is a structure that is gently extroverted yet retains enough privacy.
The most emphatic manifestation of the pixel concept is seen at the main entrance, which is approached via a series of broad, platform-like steps. Here, the canopy above is articulated as an exposed concrete structure, perforated with a series of square cut-outs in varying sizes. The large custom-made MS lamps that are suspended within this sheltering element echo this effect. The entire composition creates a certain sense of arrival, of a grand entrance, intensified with the wonderful play of light and shadow that is enacted through the day.
The main door, which also bears a pixel design so that it is in continuum with the entire composition, is a large one — 6 ft wide and 8 ft high. Stepping within, you first encounter a vestibule/lobby, a simple, graceful space that hints at the design narrative within. The visitor is then ‘released’ into the main volume, the highlight of which is the staircase block, lined with exposed brick and crowned by a skylight. The stepped form of the architectural envelope gets mirrored here in a miniature fashion, through a series of stepped planters that lend a sense of security to the railing-less staircase. The greenery makes the upward journey a pleasant one, as the overlapping plants invite you to touch them, creating a pleasurable sensation of walking in a garden. The organic feeling of this volume is sharpened by the large exposed-brick wall, whose texture is intensified and celebrated by the sunlight that pours in through the laminated-glass skylight. The vertical circulation space is both a functional and visual feature of the home.
The spatial experience is centred around a feeling of connectedness — to the outside, and also within, through a seamless orchestration of volumes. This, simply put, is the heart of this design. While the staircase block plays a significant role in this regard, the decks, balconies and smaller skylights take the senses to a serene space. The rooms on the ground floor, of course, have the landscaped garden at their disposal — all that’s needed is a step outside the large openings. While the living room features double-height glazing, the dining room extends into a deck, sheltering under a pergola. Both the rooms are connected to the north garden.
The design team was interested in creating a connected communal space, spread across the three floors. Additionally, they were also looking for opportunities to expand the amount of garden space within the internal spaces. The terracing concept allows the spatial framework to bind these two interests together. This was achieved by creating a series of setbacks on each subsequent level. For instance, above the bedroom on the ground floor, is a setback that functions as a garden/ terrace for the bedroom on the first floor that adjoins the green space. This process is repeated for another level. This way, a series of outdoor congregational areas are built into the very fabric of the building to allow users greater flexibility when it comes to entertaining guests.
As with the architecture, material expression in the interiors, too, is minimal and aligned to the natural direction: stone, wood, and exposed brick is teamed with simple lime-plaster to render a classic envelope that is then overlaid with contemporary groupings of furniture, art and accessories to create an environment geared for modern living. All bathrooms feature skylights so that they, too, enjoy the same connection to the outdoors as the rest of the interior spaces.
Several challenges — maximizing the area of the house and optimizing the view to the north garden; creating an open concept for a more intensified spatial quality; providing opportunities; devising a construction strategy to keep the house weatherproof during its transformation; and developing a contemporary, formal appearance with minimal maintenance — were successfully tackled. Aesthetic expression went hand-in-hand with the more sensitive subject of environment-friendliness. DGU glass, rainwater harvesting, charging stations for electric cars, an inverter-based AC system, oxygen-generating local plant species (indoor and outdoor plants), lighting and HVAC components that respond to climate patterns and plantations that encourage biodiversity are worth noting under this segment.
The spatial programme has fulfilled the clients’ requests for privacy and shared spaces, articulated as an open, seamless space woven together with greens, sunlight and connections to the outside.
Project name: PIXEL HOUSE
Company name: tHE gRID Architects
Contact e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Project location: Ahmedabad
Completion Year: 28-04-2021
Building area (m²): Plot area – 10665.9 Sq feet, Built up – 640952Sq ft
Principals: Bhadri Suthar and Snehal Suthar
Photo credits: Photographix India
Video credits: inhouse