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Three-Tree House Lounge, Ahmedabad


The client, a single, multi-generational family, lives on an estate used as a residence and for the family’s farming at the periphery of Ahmedabad. This project – a lounge and service structure – is part of a larger one. The brief given by the client was to renovate the family’s main house. The lounge and service structure was meant to be a freestanding structure, while the renovation of the main house was an interior design project with extensive structural changes within the house.

The Thought Process
Because the architects wanted to connect the activities of the original house to the new structure, and to give privacy to the clients in moving between both structures, they chose to locate the new structure quite close to the original house. The architects wanted the new built lounge to be strongly connected to its environment – a flat dense grove filled with trees, and organized its plan so as to eliminate as few trees as possible. The idea was to leave the area around the two structures as open and green as possible. Since they were working in a scenario where the new building needed to closely engage with the existing while also setting itself apart as new, fresh and innovative, it was felt that whatever this building added, it must not take away from the original house.

The Architectural Features
The lifted plane of new lounge’s roof recreates ground at the level of the leaves, with a heavy concrete slab and recycled teakwood ceiling to shelter the space and resonate its music. From it is suspended a balcony that overlooks the pool, part of a series of water bodies that move along a glass facade and into the garden. Three skylights puncture the roof, in memory of the three trees lost for the sake of the space. The composite structure uses steel to create the frame of the lounge and merges it with the concrete and brick of the service area by embedding the members in walls while allowing the steel to emerge when the space opens into water and trees.

To give a warm atmosphere to the lounge interior, and to develop a language that responded to the pitched roof house, the architects used a palette of warm wood mainly recycled from old industrial parts. In the lounge, slate flooring fills the majority of the area, with a dance floor of tel paani polished teakwood, supported on a wood frame to improve the cushioning of the surface on dancers’ knees. The mezzanine is constructed from teakwood slats fixed on the mild steel structure. The bar counter is mahogany while the footrest in front of it is cast aluminium. The clustered centre-side tables are tel paani polished teakwood slabs on stainless steel legs. The ceiling is tel paani polished teakwood slats mounted on a frame and spaced apart to resonate.

The Geometrics
The geometrics of the project respond to the primary will to closely engage both, the existing and the new structures. The slope of the roof as well as the double height of the mezzanine gives the feeling of a widely open facade towards the swimming pool and the in-between space. A heavy southern wall – meant to climatically protect the space – brings intimacy to the place, while the orientation of the ceiling’s teakwood cladding highlights the large facade openings.

The Design Challenges
One of the major design challenges in the project was to integrate the exposed steel structure, with its industrial detailing, with the sleek and warm finish a lounge interior requires. This meant that wherever possible it let the steel structure float, and either created wall outside or inside it, using a fat infill wall of fly ash brick at the periphery. Along with that, another challenge was how to hide the wires, pipes and conduits for a surround sound speaker system, projectors, air conditioning and lights so that the view from inside would extend, uninterrupted, out into the foliage (or pool) on the north, east and west sides of the building.

On the south side, because the sun is strong and on this particular location, the trees open up into a lawn, a heavy wall is kept to climatically protect the space. For the remaining walls, which are all operable glass, the solution coalesced in a ‘magic box.’ Through this box run all pipes and wires, and on it air conditioning units and speakers are mounted, from it indoor curtains rise to separate the mezzanine, and outdoor curtains unroll to hide the pool. It also serves as a seat, a bookshelf, and a railing.

The architect’s quest to elegantly solve the curtains didn’t stop at the ‘magic box.’ On the east façade, where there is a long counter, a series of sliding shutters with plywood infill was crated, in front of the glass, which both blocks light and also improves interior sound quality by adding a resonating material to protect the glass. On the north façade, the placement of the mullions for the glass frame was determined by the length of curtain rod that could be hidden in the angle of the teakwood ceiling. The skylights are surrounded by a box sized for motorized oblique curtains, with an operable teakwood strip adjacent for installation and repair.

Finally, because the building sits at the edge of the pool, it was important that the glass slide completely away, for unhindered access to the pool. For that, large sized glass door panels slide open onto a blank wall, not only at the ground level, but, also at the edge of the cantilevered mezzanine. At the upper level, a structure was created on the surface of the façade, which holds the glass, and when open, it disappears entirely from view.

The Structural Uniqueness
Two structural features in the project are unique: the cantilevered mezzanine above the swimming pool; and the suspended spiral staircase. Its treads, made out of glass, are supported by MS boxes and mounted on a 100mm diameter mild steel pipe that allows the staircase not to touch the ground.

The Steel Selection
The steel structure allowed to bring light by widely opening the facade, and to support a heavy protective roof that gives a feeling of floating among the trees above. Steel was also a major part of the building material because of its simplicity, which was warmed with wooden cladding and furniture in the lounge. The total weight of steel used for the project was approximately 8000 kgs.

The designers used a range of steel sections. For the shed over lounge and balcony, ISHB 300 and ISMC 150 were used. The balcony itself had ISMC 200 as main beams and both ISMC 150 and 80 as secondary ones. For the DJ platform, ISMC 200 was used as column ties, and ISA 75x75x6 and boxes fabricated from 2 ISMC 150-50 channels as secondary ties. These were also used for the cantilevered brackets. Finally, 100 mm diameter stainless steel tubes were used for the stairs. The steel used was from Tata Steel, and aside from the box created from 2 ISMC 100-50 channels, the sections were readily available. The architects mainly used AutoCAD and Rhinoceros for the designing and detailing of the project.

The Project Timeline
Koteshwar House’s timeline was divided in 3 phases between 2011 and 2014 – when the project was completed. Phase 1 of project was construction of lounge and service structure as a freestanding structure, while phases 2 and 3 were renovation of main house.

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