Set in Nature

The young design studio Neogenesis+Studi0261 crafts a home in Surat with immense connect to nature by translating urban landscaping into design form, and integrating both exterior and interior spaces, through the use of natural light, a raw material palette and built form.

Text: Sanjukta Nandy
Photographs: Ishita Sitwala; courtesy Neogenesis+Studi0261

The house uses natural materials and finishes to evoke a raw informal look. The wooden door links the entrance foyer and opens into an open plan living space that occupies most of the ground floor. The floor is finished in kota stone and the rectangular wall puncture allows for generous natural light to stream in from the courtyard. This sunlight, which streams in from the south-west during the day, helps fuel the vertical green vegetation planned in this area.

When one visualizes an agriculturist’s semi urban home, constructed in modest plot size, in the outskirts of Surat’s city center, within a low-key budget; rarely does one expect to be surprised by an innovative urban design with an influx of generous landscaping, embedded deep in responsive environmental designing. Welcome to the lovely home of agriculturist Prakash Bhai Gohil, which is christened Jungalow by its creators.

The inception of this design story germinated six years ago when the client had visited his friend’s house in the neighbourhood which happened to be the first project done by the young team at Neogenesis+Studi0261. That house was built in a tight plot — 18ft wide and 56ft long — with abundant natural light. Gohil was impressed by the honest approach to design, which was true to the nature of the occupants. So, a couple of years later, when he was ready to build his own dream home, he approached the young firm. The simple man of the soil had a straightforward requirement: A house with six bedrooms, a living room, dining area and kitchen and a mandir for his father. He wanted a space he could identify with, executed within a modest budget.

Cantilevered stairs, finished in red Agra stone, ascend from the dining area to a family room that occupies the first-floor landing. Keeping in mind budget and aesthetics, 25mm cotton ropes, which are often used to draw buckets of water from wells in villages, have been used in a geometrical pattern as a railing and double as wall art.

The creators, architects Chinmay Laiwala, Jigar Asarawala and Tarika Asarawala — three friends who forged ties as students at SCET Surat and formed two individual firms, Neogenesis and Studi0261, came together in 2012, founding Neogenesis+Studi0261 — believe that successful design celebrates the living pattern of the end user and guides them towards a better lifestyle. Their approach to Gohil’s 6,000-square-foot bungalow was no different.

“The first thing that we noted was that our client and his family were active agriculturists, so plants and nature were a part of their being. We wanted their living space to be an extension of themselves, which is why we introduced a bounty of landscape features and open to sky courtyards to draw in natural light and make them feel at home. Our primary concern was to stick to an economically modest design and arrive at a solution that would incorporate urban elements with traditional functions, complemented by plentiful landscaping. Hence, we hinged our design ethos on the concept of a jungle in a bungalow, and thus, we created the Jungalow,” explains Chinmay. After studying materials, landscaping, wind directions and natural light, when the team presented their designs, it was instantly approved by the client.

The voluminous open living area is flanked by two courtyards. The transparency and seamless flow of the living, dining and kitchen areas establishes a sightline that connect various functional pockets and facilitates cross-ventilation through the two courtyards, thus eliminating the need for air-conditioning.

Located on the fringes of the city and surrounded by units of semi-urban row houses, the bungalow has entry access to the south, while the longer two sides are flanked by adjoining structures. The southern facade harbours the main entrance and comprises a series of balconies and stepped terraces on each floor. Activities are distributed on various levels with semi-private areas on the ground floor and private spaces on the upper ones. At the heart of the structure are the two double height courtyards. The one at the entrance is embellished with creepers and climbers and the other above the temple area acts as a wind tunnel for the circulation of fresh air. The green curtain on the former filters the entry of sunlight from the west and creates a buffer to harsh light and heat. Windows of all rooms of the bungalow open into either of the courtyards to draw in natural light and ventilation.

The spatial layout is uncomplicated. A set of steps leads from a foyer to the entrance lined with a trellis that opens into an open plan living space, which occupies most of the ground floor alongside the dining space, kitchen and guest bedroom. These are all arranged around the double-height courtyard. The lounge is connected by a set of louvered wooden doors to a large enclosed terrace with built-in concrete planters. Stairs ascend from the dining area to a family room on the first-floor landing, which is surrounded by three en-suite bedrooms.

The double heighted courtyard in the south-west is embellished with creepers and climbers. Seen here is Alamanda, a creeper that grows rapidly over six months and bears beautiful yellow flowers. The green curtain cuts the direct entry of western light into the house and creates a buffer from heat.

The first floor hosts the family room, the master bedroom, the parent’s bedroom and the brother’s bedroom, which are all articulated around the internal courtyards. The stairs continue from the family area to the second floor which accommodates two additional bedrooms for the client’s sons. The entire home is connected by a raw design aesthetic with elements such as fitted timber joinery, stone flooring and rough plastered walls. Indoors, you’ll find the judicious use of a basic material palette while the courtyards exhibit urban farming.

Chinmay says, “Our aim was to keep the design minimal, interactive and sensitive to the environment and the client’s lifestyle. Today when we visit the site and see that the occupants have made nearly no changes to adapt their lifestyle around our design, we feel that our efforts have been rewarded.”

From carefully selecting all the building products to minimize the project cost, to maintaining a sensitive and sensible balance of innovation and tradition, the architects have made this project stand apart in its neighbourhood. It delightfully blurs the boundaries of the inside and outside with natural aesthetics that are reflective of its occupants’ sensibilities.

To create a home for an agriculturist and his family that bore a contemporary flavour yet integrated the traditional rural lifestyle, within a modest budget.

Flooring: Leather and mirror polish kota stone
Elevation cladding: Comb plaster, putty
Windows: Drain pipe for casting circular lintel, anodized aluminium windows
Lighting: T5 lights in wooden profile
Finishing: Red Agra stone, exposed concrete slab, finished wood, comb plaster

Project: Jungalow
Client: Prakash Bhai Gohil
Location: Godadara, Surat, Gujarat
Area: 6,000 sq ft
Principal architects: Chinmay Laiwala, Jigar Asarawala, Tarika Jigar Asarawala
Design team: Gopal Suthar, Umesh Anghan
Structural engineer: Mahendrasinh Solanki
Contractor: Munnabhai