Standing on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, this sprawling house designed by architect Ashish Kesurvala, successfully creates the feeling of an indulgent getaway.
Holidays are made of memories. Shared laughter, joint meals, late nights, early mornings… group therapy at its best. And what if a home had to promote all this? This was the task that a US-based businessman entrusted architect Ashish Kesurvala of SAK Designs when he felt the need to have a place to cater to his work-related/holiday trips to his hometown Ahmedabad. The client-architect relationship was an old one: Ashish had designed factories, offices and the American home for this family. So the comfort factor was already firmly established. And so was the knowledge of the client’s preferences, on the architect’s part.
The site in question is a plot of little over half an acre on the outskirts of West Ahmedabad, in an area earmarked for low-rise development. The brief specified a modern space that would suit a western lifestyle. The clients needed an open living area that would encourage interactivity and clean, spacious washrooms. Other than that, they were more than happy to leave things in the hands of the architect. “The clients were very clear from the start about what they wanted and, for us; this helped a lot in staying focused. Also they were very clear about not wanting to interfere in our design approach and let us do what we as designers thought was perfect for the project. Complete trust… this is the main reason for being able to deliver. We decided to create a resort-like look and feel; a space where family get-togethers would be a memorable experience,” says Ashish.
The 360-degree nature of the project meant that the architectural firm could take a wholistic approach to the external and internal planning. “We could chart out a course from the very initial stages when civil works were in progress,” discloses the architect. Architecturally, this meant that they could plan for steel columns for the largely RCC-frame structure to circumvent the heaviness that would be created by large beams and columns. And in the envelope design, the team could ensure green views from all corners by positioning fenestration strategically. As far as interiors were concerned, the mostly column-less expanse became the foundation for an enormous living space, with functional pockets transitioning seamlessly into one another. This freedom also meant that the designers could position the formal living space to the rear of the house, a move that is not common practice. “The ‘non-traditional’ approach that we took in planning was a big challenge right from the beginning. At different points, people doubted our ability to deliver,” reveals Ashish. “Not many projects specify living expanses that are without walls. Even now, people like to segregate the kitchen entirely. Then, there was the seemingly logic-defying decision of positioning the formal living right at the back, so that visitors would have to trek past the kitchen and the family room to enter it. But if you keep in mind that this house is reserved mostly for family and close friends, you see the rationale behind this move.”
The structure has been built as a series of interconnected blocks around a large, open-to-sky courtyard. The architecture plays with solidity and transparency; protrusions and voids. The serene white envelope features swathes of wood and exposed concrete, albeit in a restrained manner. Facades are punctuated by glassed cut-outs, in the form of clerestory windows and slim, vertical openings — which, internally, capture snapshots of the surrounding greenery. The internal planning is simple. You enter through a slatted-wood pergola into the foyer. This, in turn, opens into a passage that skirts the central courtyard. On the right, it leads to the bedroom reserved for the client’s parents (who stay in the city); and on the left, it directs you to the large expanse that is segregated into the kitchen, dining area, family ‘room’ and the staircase block, finally culminating at the entry to the formal living room at the back of the house. The latter, in turn, opens to a pergola sit-out abutting the spacious lawns. The staircase takes you to a wide passage upstairs, which grants access to four bedrooms set around the void of the central courtyard. The level above this accommodates a terrace sit-out which enjoys stunning views of the surroundings. Coming to the heart of the house, the courtyard isn’t a green-filled space that you popularly see, but an empty, meditative void featuring a lone frangipani. Here, the striking design element are the graphical cut-outs of flowers, fabricated out of digitally-cut ACPs and inset into a monolithic RCC wall. These stylistic representations symbolizing warmth, indulgence, nature and modernity all at once, can be viewed right from the entrance.
“We tried to make the house look like an international project and not one with a typical regional vocabulary,” says Ashish. “To a large extent, I’d say, we have succeeded in achieving what we set out to do. The home has an identity of its own with elements such as the wooden pergola at the entrance, the screen in the courtyard, the rich and elegant living and bedroom areas… The endeavour was to give the users a true enjoyment of living in such a space. It’s not possible to have a view of the greens from every corner of a home in a city, and we made sure that this home got just that. It keeps the environment alive and fresh inside, mainly due to light play during day, and the landscape changing from season
The interiors speak a modern, eclectic language. Only elements with artistic and design distinction passed muster for this abode. Materially speaking, marble, wood, plain exposed concrete, glass and aluminium window hardware from Reynaurs made the cut. Sophisticated Grey Sonata marble sets the stage for elegance throughout the house. The only exception to this are the master suite and the formal living room, where engineered wood creates a warm and wonderful cosiness. Most of the furniture was picked off the shelf, some from overseas and some from India. A few pieces came from a supplier who imports from Bali and Spain. China, too, features on the sourcing list, but “it’s high-end furniture meant for the European market,” Ashish quickly points out. The colour palette moves from beige to black to grey and wooden finishes. Lighting plays a backstage role, in that there are few decorative fixtures in the interior scheme. It has been used to highlight architectural and interior features; and the attempt has been to create drama using reflections from various surfaces.
“Design is everything in this house,” says Ashish. We agree. The simplicity, richness, use of elements, spatial configuration creates an environment that encourages togetherness and the joy that one derives from such intimacy. And that is exactly what a home should do.
To create an environment and an identity which could encourage enjoyment. To design a modern art piece to live in.
Flooring Grey Sonata marble (public zone) and engineered wood (private areas) Walls Paint and exposed RCC Windows Special aluminium hardware from Reynaurs Doors Veneer panelling Graphical cut-outs in courtyard Digitally-cut ACP
Location Ahmedabad Area of plot 22,000 sq ft Construction area 9,000 sq ft Design firm SAK Designs Principal architect Ashish Kesurvala Furniture contractor Shantilal and co Painting Jaiprakash and Co
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