The site for this home is a hill in Alibag, one which enjoys a stunning view, not only of the rolling contours surrounding it, but of the sea and the skyline of Mumbai in the distance. Conceptually, the design of the home is a departure from the "stepped terrace" typology that one would conventionally employ on a heavily contoured site. Instead, we chose to deconstruct a cuboid that is tilted and suspended over the ground and seems to simultaneously 'float' and 'flow' down the hill. The contours of the hill have been used to organize the structure over 3 levels. The 'tube' contains 2 large bedroom suites at different levels with a large interstitial void that is inhabited by floating connections. The creation of singular sensory experiences has been the primary organizing and sculpting vector. Numerous geometric inflections and articulations are designed to engage the senses in unconventional ways. A walk through the house is meant to yield unique moments of being suspended in space, of intimate enclosure, of vertiginous assaults but most importantly, of being connected to nature. The structure follows the design philosophy with concrete planes making contact with the ground, while steel floats above it. The home seems to conduct a constant dialogue with the ground on which it rests; it is informed by the earth but chooses at certain junctures to thrust over a precipice, completely oblivious of it.
A. Conventional Method
a. It would have resulted in large amount of excavation and cutting of the hill.
b. It would not have allowed seamless ingress of natural contours landscape.
B. Alternative Method
a. Splitting the blocks that make contact with the earth creates a natural courtyard in the space between where earth flows through the home.
b. The amount of cutting is drastically reduced and the natural contours of the hill remain relatively unchanged.
c. The 'Tube' that rests on the two blocks is tilted at an angle that is almost identical to the natural slope of the ground and with a single gesture, a tangible link to the hill is created. Whilst simultaneously generating a physically liberate space.
The hilltop location of this house makes its occupants privy to some spectacular views of the sea as well as of the surrounding terrain. It is the fact that every space is designed to partake of these views that renders the house unique. The transition form panoramic to framed portraits and the constant three dimensional articulation of the viewing platform is what generates an experience that transcends the pure visual and ventures into a multi-sensory realm.
The only restriction was the self imposed one with regards to retaining the integrity of the hill and maximizing the sustainability of the development.
A second home on the same site as house no. 1 was commissioned only weeks after construction began on the first house. We were now faced with the conundrum of creating a complementary foil to the distinctly extroverted structure that was perched on the apex of the hill. On the one hand we felt that the second home ought to partake of the same stunning views that presented themselves to the first house, but any significant built up mass would not only compete with but also vitiate the geometric singularity of the first home. The solution presented self in the form of an existing degraded concrete structure that was intended to be a home for the land's previous owner. By locating the second home on this footprint and by making use of the already excavated area, we were able to submerge the house beneath the ground. The only trace of development, when viewed from the first home, was a crystalline fragment emerging from the earth. The home is self effacing, a more discrete and introverted alter-ego of its hilltop sibling.
FACETED ROOF DESIGN:
The main roof of the living room and verandah is a re-interpretation of the traditional clay tiled roof, but re-designed for better performance. It has been parametrically manipulated to dip and extend to provide weather protection for the main pool deck, the entrance verandah and the car porch. In addition it sweeps upwards to allow headroom for the stair leading to the upper level. High wind speeds and heavy rains necessitated re-analysis of the traditional pitched roof which while performing well in homogenous spatial conditions, failed to meet the multiple performance criteria we required.
FLOATING INFINITY POOL WITH VERANDAH BELOW:
Part of the client's brief was the desire to have the primary living space (living room) and verandah in close proximity to the swimming pool. We used the contours of the hill to design a stilted pool that satisfied the client's requirements and also provided an auxiliary shaded verandah below it opened onto a large garden and which could be used in inclement weather. The knife edge was created to merge the pool foreground with the background of the Arabian Sea.
TUBULAR STEEL TRUSS:
The 'Tube' that rests on the two blocks is tilted at an angle that is almost identical to the natural slope of the ground and with a single gesture, a tangible link to the hill is created, whilst simultaneously generating a physically liberated space. The earth is forced into the centre of the home, whose vertical proportions complement the intrinsic horizontality of the geometry. Similar programs are linked by the volume and its skins provide weather protection to the bridge connections hovering within the courtyard. The concept of the floating tube allowed for the elevated perch which was desired to give the occupant the best possible view of the surroundings without creating large obtrusive footprints on the ground. The house functions as a tool to interpret the landscape. At numerous junctures, the object dematerializes to create a sense of floating amongst the elements, and its unique strength is the varying experiential conditions it creates at different points in space and time.
The first line of security has been provided by integrating inclusively with the neighboring village community. The surrounding villages exhibit a unique territorial hierarchy and by maintaining close contact with the local representatives, we have managed to engage the services of trust worthy local agencies for the execution and maintenance of various parts of the property. In addition, we convinced the client to take active part in the building of a primary school for the village. All of these steps have ensured that the community as a whole has taken on the responsibility for the safety of the property and its inhabitants.
Even though the house is located at the highest part of the plot, we have designed the approximate 300,000 sq.fts property to be easily accessible and more importantly to be an integral part of the experience of the house walkways have been used. The main access road connects the house with the security cabin while steps lead from the house to the lowest point on the site, meandering through trees and is occasionally broken by a sit-out on a water sheet that has been integrated with the rain-water harvesting system. In essence, the journey down the hill has been mediated by a transition from dense, forest like spaces to more manicured pause points.
Adequate care was taken to ensure the following principal issues:
• Enough natural light provided by the use of large openings and skylights to allow the occupants the freedom to enjoy the daylight till sunset thereby reducing the use of artificial light.
• Cross ventilation to ensure energy conservation.
• Use of green spaces within various parts of the house to bring the experience of living with nature.
• Large overhangs for verandah and operable glazed areas to counter high wind speeds that force the rains through the house.
• Reducing the footprint of the building by segregation of masses- concrete and load bearing masonry on the lower levels and structural steel on the upper levels.
• Use of structural steel provides a column free, flexible interior space.
• Structural Steel has been used in its purest form and it becomes an aesthetic element in the overall composition.
• Use of simply supported bridges interspersed in the central court makes the entire structure lighter and sleeker.
• Expression of concrete in its purest form.
• Dry cladding walls: Uses of local stones along with metal mesh forming the skin of the retaining wall.
• Water Efficient Landscaping reduces water consumption by 50%.
• Water required for irrigation purposes is met through re-cycled water / harvested rain water.
• Treated recycled water will be used for the entire irrigation purpose i.e. to meet 100% irrigation requirement.
• Landscape consultant has considered the use of efficient water management systems such as, sprinklers for irrigation, rainwater harvesting, and use of recycled water, so as to reduce or avoid use of potable water for irrigation.
• The priority for using treated grey water will be as under: 1) To divert treated water for 100% irrigation requirements 2) To use for flushing within the building
• Sufficient overhangs have been provided to ensure least amount of heat loading on the air conditioning system.
• Massing of the building itself acts as overhangs for the lower structure thereby shielding the western facade.
• The HVAC system has been designed based on the Green Building guidelines.
• The pool helps in cooling the South western breeze thereby acting as a natural air conditioner.
• Internal courts have been landscaped thereby maintaining an ambient micro climate within the house.
• Natural Light: Care has been taken to ensure adequate amount of natural light which filters in throughout the day. North and east oriented skylights have been used to maximize natural light in transition and living spaces.
• Artificial Light: Lighting scheme has been designed based on the Green Building Guide Lines. An energy efficient lighting system by use of following: T5, LED, Dimmable Ballast, CFL, Illumination and Energy based sensors.
• Light Pollution reduction Credit: Designing exterior lighting such that all exterior luminaries with more than 1000 initial lamp lumens are shielded and all luminaries with more than 3500 initial lamp lumens meet the Full Cutoff IESNA Classification. Technologies to reduce light pollution include full cutoff luminaries, low reflectance Surfaces and low-angle spotlights. Thus eliminating light trespass from the building site, improving night sky access and reducing development impact on nocturnal environments.
• Energy efficient lighting system brings down energy consumption.
• Steel used for construction is recyclable.
• The stones excavated during construction have been employed to retain earth wherever necessary and to form bund walls.
• Organic waste converter and vermilion pits have been employed on site to convert the biodegradable waste into organic manure which will be reused on site.
• Water collected from storm water drainage is filtered and is reused for flushing, car washing, gardening and all secondary purposes.
• Site Conservation: Conserving the hill in its natural form was a challenge successfully executed. Use of natural and local materials such as stones etc was undertaken in cladding as well as flooring. In the new landscape scheme, existing trees were retained thereby increasing the green area.
• Energy Conservation: Solar panes are employed to heat water for pools and daily use.