Restoration done right






A derelict old heritage wooden haveli in the old walled city of Ahmedabad is lovingly restored using traditional skills and knowledge by the City Heritage Centre, Ahmedabad. While the interior design was conceptualized by Deepali Patel; architect Hardik Patel brings in his design and technical knowledge to make the haveli’s interiors fit for contemporary use. The result is heartening and awe-inspiring!

 

India is renowned for its grand monuments and rich ethnic architecture across the world. We’ve managed to maintain the pace of modern developments and simultaneously preserve our rich heritage by reviving age-old construction techniques and infusing light into depleting traditional architecture. The featured project, a decaying wooden heritage haveli in the old walled city of Ahmedabad, has been lovingly restored to its original splendour by a new owner. It’s now been converted into a heritage apartment. Today, it is like stepping into a chapter of history as we walk past the intricately carved wooden door towards the wall niches and cupboards painted to contrast the yellow walls which seem to whisper the long-kept secrets in hushed tones.

The entrance lounge is adorned with quirky photographs of the original derelict haveli that narrate its transformation.  The warm colours and alluring patterns of the centrally placed Chakado (traditional Gujarati handmade woven painting on cloth), completes the look.

The entrance lounge is adorned with quirky photographs of the original derelict haveli that narrate its transformation. The warm colours and alluring patterns of the centrally placed Chakado (traditional Gujarati handmade woven painting on cloth), completes the look.

When first approached by the team, this 180-year-old structure was a run-down haveli located in the heart of Doshiwadani Pol in Ahmedabad. The original intricately carved wooden facade, a characteristic feature of Pol havelis, was sadly hidden behind the layers of paint. The first floor was completely damaged and the second one had a half attic with a sloping tin roof. There were no useable bathrooms, however there was an underground water tank for rain water harvesting.

Originally belonging to a Jain owner, with the expansion of the family, the house was divided into two individual properties. Owing to the dilapidated state, the owner of the frontal property approached the City Heritage Centre of Ahmedabad, a community-based resource centre involved in preserving, sustaining and promoting the architectural and cultural heritage of the city, despite scarce resources coupled with complex grass root situations. “Usually, such properties are sold to a local developer who would pull it down and construct an out-of-context building adding to the concrete jungle. Our quest for an investor who would be sensitive towards heritage eventually ceased when Chandrakant Dhodia from Kenya agreed to put his faith and investments into this project. His vision was to make a cosy two-bedroom studio apartment that would fit the ambiance of this heritage city,” informs Rajiv Patel, trustee, City Heritage Centre, Ahmedabad.

Every bracket, cornice, column, railing, door and window of the original wooden facade has been painstakingly restored by scrapping off the layers of oil paint to unveil the original wooden elements which is now protected with a layer of linseed oil.

Every bracket, cornice, column, railing, door and window of the original wooden facade has been painstakingly restored by scrapping off the layers of oil paint to unveil the original wooden elements which is now protected with a layer of linseed oil.

The core concept was to preserve the heritage structure as a reference to the traditional Gujarati architecture for future generations while infusing a new dimension to make it functional for a modern lifestyle. Deepali Patel, wife of Rajiv Patel, conceptualized the interiors as per the client’s guidelines. Architect Hardik Patel of H+N Design Partners was roped in to materialize this dream. A team of engineers and artisans skilled in traditional construction techniques were also brought on board to ensure the meticulous execution.

Years of the regions’ challenging climatic conditions had resulted in intense damage and decay of the original wooden facade of the haveli. All the traditional elements like brackets, cornices, columns, railings, doors and windows had to be painstakingly restored. The layers of paint had to be carefully scrapped off to unveil the beautiful wooden elements which have now been varnished with linseed oil for protection from pests and weather. The rest of the stone facade has been painted in neutral tones to accentuate the intricacy of the wooden architecture. The end-result bears witness to the exquisite traditional regional architecture.

Adorned with patterns of auspicious lotus in china mosaic, the courtyard accommodates a cosy dining space coupled with a well-equipped kitchen featuring handmade royal green ceramic tiles and antique ceramic knobs.

Adorned with patterns of auspicious lotus in china mosaic, the courtyard accommodates a cosy dining space coupled with a well-equipped kitchen featuring handmade royal green ceramic tiles and antique ceramic knobs.

As the house was devoid of any designated living room, a lounge has been designed at the entrance porch which would serve to welcome guests. “Turmeric yellow, an auspicious colour, has been used on a wall against the subtle polished Kota stone flooring, creating a warm and welcoming zone. The space is livened up with a quirky display of photographs, composed in decorative wooden frames, of the original haveli to narrate the story of the striking transformation,” says Deepali. The warm colours and alluring patterns of Chakado, traditional Gujarati handmade woven painting on cloth, completes the look.

As this was a divided property, there were many connecting walls and elements. For instance, the ventilation, seen on the yellow wall in the lounge, actually opens in the adjoining property. To maintain its purpose, the unit’s opening is retained but covered with a wooden jaali painted with antique gold finish. The Pol houses have central open-to-sky courtyards that allow natural light and ventilation as per the ancient principles of Vastu. Adjacent to the courtyard is the opening, of an underground water tank for rainwater harvesting, which is covered with toughened glass lid fixed in wooden frame to view the water level from ground floor.

The space beneath the stairs is now a comfortable study area with a delicate Chakado featuring intricate pearl work.

The space beneath the stairs is now a comfortable study area with a delicate Chakado featuring intricate pearl work.

Adorned with patterns of auspicious lotus in china mosaic, the courtyard accommodates a cosy dining space coupled with a well-equipped kitchen at the adjoining wall. The cooking space’s walls are adorned with handmade royal green ceramic tiles and antique ceramic floral knobs. “The wall behind the dining table, shared by the adjoining property, has AC ducts which could not be removed due to ownership debates. This is cleverly camouflaged with a huge eye-catching painting of Pachhedi traditional art done on canvas with natural colours,” asserts Hardik.

The timber stairs leading to the first floor was incredibly dilapidated due to moisture and pests. Many of the wooden beams and columns have been recycled by levelling and redoing the joinery. The load of entire old structure was transferred onto an accessory framework and the traditional 12-inch thick, heavy ‘fuska’ floor. A modern technique of laying new floor by anchoring the wooden structure with concrete pouring has been executed.

For the bedroom on the first floor, a custom-designed bed is configured from the residual timber columns and beams with the headboard and footboard made from discarded wooden railings.

For the bedroom on the first floor, a custom-designed bed is configured from the residual timber columns and beams with the headboard and footboard made from discarded wooden railings.

Flanked between the street and courtyard, the new bedroom on the first floor is drenched in natural light pouring in through the coloured glass framed wooden windows. The client’s desire for a classic four-poster bed with a flowing mosquito net was addressed with a beautiful canopy bed that has been configured from the residual timber columns and beams. Its headboard and footboard were crafted from discarded wooden railings. A painting of Lord Mahavir, belonging to the previous Jain owner, is retained above the side table. The ambient light from the traditional glass ‘handi lamps’ flushes the room with a soothing glow.

The auxiliary space beneath the staircase is transformed into a comfortable study area embellished with delicate Chakado traditional motifs done in intricate pearl work. Furnished with comfortable chairs, a linear balcony overlooking the courtyard is ideal for morning tea and evening conversations. As one climbs the staircase leading to the second floor, a Chakado in earthy tones is displayed as an element of interest on the blank solid wall. The solid mass created by the continuous vertical blank wall of the courtyard is disguised by the traditional Pachhedi painting of tree. The adjoining wooden jaali acts as a partition between the terrace and courtyard. “The client like a true Amdavadi is an ardent kite flyer. To address his passion, the sloping tin roof of the second floor was replaced with a flat terrace. The new roof is constructed from RCC and has 18mm-thick cement sheets on steel girders covered with Chill wood which is finished with linseed oil for a rustic look,” explains Hardik.

The plain solid mass created by the continuous vertical blank wall of the courtyard is embellished with the traditional Pachhedi painting depicting a tree and birds as viewed from the second floor balcony facing the courtyard.

The plain solid mass created by the continuous vertical blank wall of the courtyard is embellished with the traditional Pachhedi painting depicting a tree and birds as viewed from the second floor balcony facing the courtyard.

In contrast to the subtle decor and neutral tones of the first floor bedroom, the one on the second storey is decorated with antique furniture done in vibrant youthful colours like blue, yellow and green. The green vintage wooden bed, decorated with handmade pictorial ceramic tiles in combination with the yellow wall and warmly tinted windows, creates a dramatic setup. The wooden vanity table in the meticulously laid bathroom is cleaned with caustic soda for protection from pests and rubbed with wax over the yellow oil paint to achieve a faded effect.

Careful planning and restoration has turned the old into gold in case of this vintage home. The exuberant restoration of the old decaying haveli into a contemporary yet heritage studio apartment is the testimony of the flexibility of Indian traditional architecture.

 

CONCEPT
To preserve the heritage structure for the future generations while infusing a new life into the ruins of heritage haveli to make it functional and comfortable for the modern lifestyle of the new client.

 

MATERIALS
Walls: Brick masonry in lime and cement mortar (structural), handmade ceramic tiles (kitchen)
Floors: Baswada marble (bedrooms), China mosaic (courtyard), polished kota stone (entrance lounge)
Roof: RCC and 18mm thick cement sheet on steel girders covered with chill wood which is finished with linseed oil
Wall finishes: Lime and cement plaster
FACT FILE
Project: Heritage House
Location: Kalupur, Ahmedabad
Site area: 50 sq mt
Built up area: 150 sq mt
Restoration expertise: City Heritage Centre Technical Cell, supported by Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation
Architect: Hardik Patel
Interior design: Deepali Patel 
Furniture design:
Rajan Jain of Ajanta Handicraft
Site engineer: Vijay Pandya
Master craftsman: Jethabhai Solaki and Sombhai
Site supervisor: Nileshbhai Solanki.
Artisans: Mohanbhai, Tribhovanbhai, Ratilalbhai and Gaya Prasad
Measure drawings: Hiren Patel Architects
Contributors: Deep Builders

 

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