Small, restricted plots in cities often throw up many design challenges before an architect. For the same reason, most architects and designers succumb to simple designs for urban plots, where space is at a premium.
But there are a few like Neenu Elizabeth and Hari Krishnan of NO Architects, Designers and Social Artists, Kollam, who rise up to the challenge and create exciting designs that successfully tackle the space constraints.
Here, Onmanorama details their design for a house in a five-cent plot at Kochi. Apparently, the design was shortlisted for Indian Institute of Architects’ national award for excellence.
Although the exterior looks a bit drab, the house welcomes you to an enchanting world of beauty. The main highlight of the house is its three courtyards, which bring in a lot of natural light. According to Neenu and Hari, one need not look outside to catch a glimpse of the nature.
An open courtyard is set up between the sit-out and living area; another one is built near the stairway; and a third one right in the center of the house near the dining area. These courtyards in double heights were designed after considering the direction of the wind during different seasons.
The chants of wind
The aesthetically named spaces, viz., Court of Light, Court of Wind, and Court of Temperature, lend a positive energy to the whole structure. The Court of Wind brings in the cool winds, which blow in the north west-south east direction. It also receives the monsoon winds, which blow in the south west-north east direction.
The north east winds, which blow during the last phase of the monsoon, enters the house through the Court of Temperature. It also pushes out the hot air from the interiors of the house. The carefully designed openings on the walls and ceilings in the Court of Light bring in bright sunlight and the cool moonlight into the house.
The interiors make a bold yet beautiful statement and the concrete and building blocks project their raw charm. The availability of materials and a talented craftsmen compelled the designers to opt for an interior, which portrays the unique aesthetic qualities of bricks and concrete. The concrete floor is polished to perfection. Concrete is used in the ceiling as well. The usual routine of plastering and painting using putty were avoided.
The color theme of the house is quite attractive. The ‘nagarik’ color combination, which goes well with the fusion of concrete, wood and bricks, add to the elegance of the house. Dark shades can only be seen on the specially designed furniture, lamp shades and blinds.
The furniture of the house was custom-made in a carpenter’s workshop near the architects’ office. This not only helped to cut down on the cost of construction, it also enabled the designers to get the most suitable furniture for the structure.
The lack of space didn’t affect the scope for landscaping. Trees and plants were planted on the remaining little speck of land. Stone grids were used in the front so that the earth would absorb the rain water. A sustainable water garden has water plants and fish in it. Unlike the usual decorative ponds, this one does not require frequent cleaning or change of water as it has a self sustainable ecosystem.
‘Charms’ in wood and grass
The furniture and lamp shades of the house highlight detailing. Small wooden fragments and a grass screen, which enhance the light with shadows, give the shades a magical twist.
According to Neenu and Harikrishnan, winds play a significant role in determining and controlling Kerala’s weather. So, this has to be kept in mind while designing a house. There should be enough air passage in the house, and it should also let in a lot of natural light.
The three courtyards in the house help maintain a micro climate in the house. This entire system could be called a passive cooling system, which, according to the designers, is very much necessary in all the houses built in an arid region. The simplicity of the interiors is kept intact without crowding it with unnecessary furniture and other curios.
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