A house adapted for its differently abled owner

by Friday , June 16 2017 11:31

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There’s a story behind every house: one of dreams, desires, despair, hope, tears and joy.

This is the story of Vivek’s house. No ordinary house this, but an extraordinary one. And its story is one of courage, conviction and commitment.

When Vivek, a photographer by profession, lost his left leg in an accident while on an assignment, he saw his life sliding into gloom. It was the end of his life and his dreams. Or so he thought. He had to sell the land he owned to clear medical bills. But his never-say-die perseverance and the doctors who stood by him, paved the way for his life-changing encounter with architect Dr Manoj Kini.

Each project undertaken by the architect has his indelible stamp on it. For him, structures are not just a heap of bricks and cement. On the contrary, it’s a mission, a life-defining endeavor. And one such mission stands in Thirumoola, Thiruvananthapuram, the house where Vivek now lives in.

When Dr Kini got to know of Vivek’s positive outlook and the fight he put up against his cruel fate, Dr Kini was determined to get for Vivek not just a house, but a place, which would generate some source of income for him as well. So he set out to build the house on a plot, which many designers had given up. The plot identified lay well below road level. It was actually in a pit. Hence, an ordinary run-of-the-mill structure would not be possible there.

The first task was to the re-structure the plot. A retaining wall was erected around the plot, which lay in two elevations. It was then filled and readied before the foundation was laid. The car porch was designed atop water tanks structured underground. The porch was then built over the slabs covering the tanks. The porch can hold two cars at a time. A small patch of green and an inbuilt seating make up the frontage. The house can be accessed from either side of the two roads running alongside. The floor up is where the family lives and what lies below is Vivek’s studio. The drawing room, the dining room and the kitchen are set close to each other on the top floor and seamlessly blend with one another. Walls have been avoided to facilitate Vivek’s movement. Step down, and you go straight into Vivek’s studio. The 1,100 sq ft studio has complete light fittings.

The ventilation provided inside the house is another highlight of the structure. A big and vast jaali is what defines the drawing room. It’s a treat to see the golden rays of the rising sun streaming in through the jaali of the east-facing house. The hues inside the room shift with the changes in light outside. Despite its open look, the house has its privacy. The exposed bricks lend charm to the outside. The unplastered ceilings have been given a good coat of paint which heightens the color of the interiors. Ceiling designs have been added to break the monotony of plainness. Terracotta tiles in matching shades cover the floor.

The bedrooms and bathrooms enjoy sufficient space and have been designed to let in Vivek’s wheel chair. The windows here are special in that they are “pivoted” and “hanging” in architectural parlance. When one half of the window bars are inside, the other juts out. Windows thus designed let in ample air, while keeping the dust away. All windows have seating ledges below them.

Apart from the studio, Vivek had no demands. Manoj Kini was pretty much aware of Vivek’s budget and his special needs. So each sq ft was designed with this reality in mind. Others who wholeheartedly chipped in with expertise and supervision were Pramod, Vidya and Jaseem.

Vivek is happy today. He has a wonderful home and his career too is on an upward spiral.

Dr Manoj Kini

Dr Manoj Kini heads the Urban Design Programme of the College of Engineering in Thiruvananthapuram, from where he graduated in BArch. His Master’s was from the Delhi School of Planning and Design and doctorate from CEPT, Ahmedabad.

Houses built to strict budgets and other constraints call for well experienced architects willing to take up challenges head-on. Once the architect is identified, it’s in the fitness of things that he be trusted completely. Avoid seeking guidance and advice from sources right and left. Apart from the planning, an excellent technical team would complement the structural finish.

When houses are designed for the physically challenged, a lot of parameters have to be fulfilled.

Ramps, instead of stairs are the norm. This makes walking less strenuous and wheelchairs more maneuverable.

Doors without bars at the bottom and needless walls are best avoided. Walls need be given only for private quarters.

As far as possible, refrain from multi-level or split-level plans.

Doors are to be wider for wheel chairs (if required), to pass through.

A door width of 1.2 metres is best where wheel chairs are in use.

A bedroom and an attached bathroom with this door width could be incorporated if a need were to arise in future.

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