A modern home that is a perfect example of an eco-friendly green haven. This, would perhaps be the one-line description for Architect Jibu John's new house in Ernakulam. Once you take in the sights and sounds of this house, you will realise that it is making a statement, in it its own way.
Now let's hear it from the architect himself:
On a rectangular shaped 12 cent plot, the house is set in an elongated style. Jibu went in for the colonial style design The green vines growing over the front portion of the house make it seem like some cottage in a vineyard. At first look the pergola over the car porch seems like it is fashioned out of wood. But it is in fact steel that has been given a wood finish. Mango wood is used in between and there is glass on the top. Jibu did not want the porch to have a blank feel when the car is not in it. He picked a garden theme for the porch area. On both sides of the porch, there are pebble courts.
The positioning of the kitchen was very important. Here, it is in the front of the house. Stone clad pillars do, to some extent take away the guests' attention from the kitchen area. Apart from this, the pebble court and some green elements also take the attention away. The kitchen is an open style one attached to a dining area. The architect was of the opinion that natural lighting and air flow in the kitchen is integral. You need the air to drive away odours and sunlight makes it germ-free. The south- east wing is where you can get a surplus of light and air and this is where the kitchen is located.
The architect and owner Jibu John, however has taken utmost care to satisfy all the requirements of his family. The house has a simple living room with floor length windows that welcome the surrounding greenery into the house. The flooring is done using Jaisalmer Stone. The dining area comes on the other side of the living room wall. The door from the dining room leads to a patio and a swimming pool. You can get a view of this pool even from the living room. Though situated outside, the clever design makes the pool appear like it is a part of the interiors.
On one end of the dining room is a bedroom and adjacent to this is the family area. This family area could also be converted into a bedroom if and when the need arises. An attached bath is already in place here. The staircase leading up starts at the dining hall. Casuarina poles are used for the railings. The starting portion of the stairs do not have rails for now. There are plans to turn the attic space on the third floor into a home theatre.
'When you build a home, you should be open to experimenting a little bit. Otherwise all houses will just look the same,' says Jibu If the house owner is an architect himself, the scope for experimenting is pretty high. The ceiling of the dining area is done using wood of the coconut tree. The same type of treated wood has been used for the stairs.
The windows that open on to the poolside have some unique touch to it too. Thin planks of wood were attached to iron rods to make these. The top part of the kitchen opens into the attic space. Due to this, the kitchen will always have a breezy, pleasant feel to it. The smoke and odours rising up from the kitchen can escape through an outlet of the attic. The different looking cupboards of the kid's room has been designed by Jibu and looks like a tree!
The architect has designed both the private and common areas in the house with equal prominence. The first impression is of an unassuming, ordinary house. But once you get to know it up close, you are floored. Like a good book, a beautiful journey or a wonderful meal, you have to experience it, to know it.
The positive factors when architects build their own homes?
Freedom is the most important thing and the risk factor is minimal. Nobody is there to limit the level of experimentation. In my house I have tried to use Casuarina poles for the compound wall and the flooring is of Jaisalmer Stone. Both these are not widely preferred. When I put across a new idea and the client is doubtful about the practicality, I can always show him how it has worked in my own house.
Do you think people are ignoring architects now?
Malayalees depend on the opinions of a 100 outsiders before they get into building their homes. Or else they come up with numerous reference images cut out from magazines. Some feel this is all the information they need to go about building the home. There is a general misconception that architects are an expensive breed and when you can get designers or contractors for way less, why go for an architect? This mentality has to change. There is no doubt that houses built by architects will stand out for their uniqueness.
Are you trying to say that this should be only the business of architects?
Definitely not. This is an art form. With a little creative imagination or skill anyone can build a house. But it is pivotal to remember that the one paying for my imagination or staying in the house is another person and not me! An architect starts work only once this is taken into consideration. Others may not always follow this route.
What should we avoid while building their dream homes?
When there is just one car in the family, what is the point in building an enormous car porch to accommodate all the guest cars? Most of them live in houses like this. Those built to suit the needs of others rather than their own. The common spaces are splurged on and given all the attention, while ignoring the private spaces. A home should never be meant as a showpiece.
Do the latest building software or Prefab houses steal the limelight
Never. These are all mere tools that can help us in our professions. There is no substitute for creative thinking or imagination. To use these smartly, you need the right thinking. These were already quite popular in the west and Architecture is not dead there yet. So there is no threat as such!
Jibu John, Jibu & Thomas Architects, Panampilly Nagar, Ernakulaminfo@jibuandthomas.com
(In association with 'Veedu' magazine)