The residence of architects Rajeev and Radhika Kathpalia in Ahmedabad is an architecture realized through clarity of thought, and is not a structure trapped in a rigid grid system with monotonous volumes.
With a creative vocabulary set by Louis Kahn and refined by BV Doshi through IIM-A and CEPT University respectively, Ahmedabad, the commercial capital of Gujarat, has created a reputation for innovations in the field of contemporary architecture. Consequently, whether it is a prominent institute or a modest residence, the city’s streets are replete with forms and facades of exposed brick and concrete. However, in the peaceful locality of Vastrapur, your eyes rest on a residence that offers a refreshing pause in this monotonous milieu. With a dynamic facade crafted from exposed concrete and warm-hued timber, this is the abode of award-winning architects Rajeev and Radhika Kathpalia.
Rajeev and Radhika, daughter of renowned architect BV Doshi, are the principle partners at Vastu Shilpa Consultants (VSC). In 2005, as Rajeev sat across the drawing board to design a dream house for his family of four, myriad ideas flooded his imagination. “I took clues from the context of the locality. The site, which is a square plot, is situated deep within the society. It lies along the main access road and abuts the common open area which also happens to be the society garden. This became the starting point of the design. Even in such a tight urban situation, there’s always an opportunity for positioning openings. Here, the house’s own garden is seen as a visual continuation of not only the society garden, but also those of the neighbours. Additionally, the openings of the house are strategically positioned to allow visual access to the neighbouring gardens. This creates an illusion of a house set amidst a large green space.” Indeed, the result of this musing would later fit VSC’s philosophy perfectly: Life celebrates when lifestyle and architecture fuse.
The construction of Radhika Villa comprises of cavity walls and an insulated roof to extenuate the city’s extremely hot and dry climate. The outer wall is made of concrete, cast with recycled wooden planks salvaged from ship pallets; the inner one is plastered brick. An air gap between the two provides thermal insulation. The roof slabs inside are a combination of the same rough wooden texture and smooth concrete which has been cast with plywood shuttering and finished in waste pieces of china obtained from a crockery factory. The recycled planks of timber, used for shuttering, render an artistic texture to the exposed concrete.
The expanse of concrete on the facade also plays with a sense of dimension and scale. The cast-in-situ concrete has a primeval aesthetic, and the house, therefore, an almost cave-like appearance, heightened by the presence of a vast cantilevered canopy. An infill of natural, warm-hued wood panels dominates the walls facing the street. Interspersed with glass, these follow differing rhythms of design, yet create a harmonious picture.
Within, the plush residence is replete with greenery and sunshine owing to the numerous skylights that puncture the ceilings. These, along with cleverly planned wall-openings, invite the sun in all areas of the house, throughout the year and in all its moods. “Even a floating cloud or a bird moving on the terrace is registered with the change of light and patterns inside!” exclaims Rajeev.
With the absence of partition bricks walls, the villa revels in a sense of openness. In areas that need privacy, smartly-positioned storage units step in to do the needful. The gaps and overlaps between the concrete structure and the plywood storage infill provide frames and ledges to hold the family’s extensive collection of paintings and sculptures of contemporary Indian artists. Adhering to the overall minimalistic and modern approach, the interiors wear an uncluttered, contemporary look.
“I usually have my morning tea at the Indian-style seating on the terrace in the company of my peacock friends,” says Rajeev, with a smile and a sparkle in his eyes. The lilies in the calm little water body and the occasional peacock call transport you to a realm of peace and tranquility. An ambience of seclusion and luxury offered in a delightful retreat are the highlights of this dream house.
When architecture emerges from rational concepts and mature judgments, it appeals for generations. Unlike most contemporary residences, Radhika Villa obviously does not believe in being stylish merely to fit in with populist design. Rather, it exudes an evergreen flavour that cannot be caged in any particular period.
The design of the villa would maximize the views to the surrounding greenery with skylights and large windows. A restrained material palette and seamless internal volumes were key to ensuring that the spaces would flow into each other.
External walls Exposed concrete Internal walls Plastered brick wall Flooring Ochre jaisalmer stone with glass marble infill Ceiling Exposed concrete Furniture Timber
Project Radhika Villa Location Ahmedabad Area Vastrapur Design team Vastu Shilpa Consultants Project duration Four years Project completion 2009
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