H for Home

Adhering to their fundamental philosophy of creating meaningful environments, Co.lab Design Studio and its principals Hansika Jain and Vikram Bhatt realise a vision for a green-filled Surat-based home through meticulously conceptualised spaces, selection of appropriate materials and a clean execution of the overall design.

Text: Rupali Sebastian 
Photographs: Photographix India, courtesy Co.lab Design Studio

Architect Vikram Bhatt
Architect Hansika Jain

Imagine a typical neighbourhood in a Tier 2 Indian city. With buildings almost huddling cheek by jowl, you couldn’t be faulted for dreaming of a home ensconced within a garden, an abode that would provide a soothing green salve for city-frayed nerves. Such was the desire of a Surat-based family, and they communicated it to their architects, Hansika Jain and Vikram Bhatt of Co.lab Design Studio. Given the density of the urban fabric and the proximity of neighbouring structures, “the need to create an inward looking house came as a reflex,” notes Hansika. “In order to create a luxurious and spacious home where the owners feel constantly connected to the outdoors, the design inverts the concept of a bungalow set in a garden by infusing gardens into the bungalow and encapsulating the natural green space within the house. These gardens give presence and meaning to the spaces which are organised as a series of courtyards designed to set up dramatic views of the immediate greenery throughout the house,” she explains, adding that the design response itself posed the challenge in this assignment. “Also due to the clients religious way of living, the connection of the outdoors to the indoors directly could not be made possible physically every time — thus arose the need of connecting it visually.”

The 20,000-square-foot programme was moulded to suit the daily routine of the family, with a broad public v/s private space segregation. Architecturally, this took shape as two bays deployed parallelly to the main driveway and connected by a circulation pathway — resulting in a two-storeyed H-shaped form that gives the residence its name: H-house. On the ground floor, the frontal wing accommodates a foyer with a small waiting lounge; a formal living room, a home office, a library, a powder room and a guest room with its ensuite bathroom. The connector of the H is occupied by a spacious formal dining room with a 12-seater table. Beyond this begins the private zone comprising the family lounge, a family dining room, the show and working kitchens and a master suite. On the level above, accessed via a sculptural wooden spiral staircase or (for those not inclined to physical activity) an elevator, lie two master suites (in the front wing) and two children’s rooms (at the rear), deployed as near mirror images across the two wings, with an entertainment lounge nestled in the connecting bridge. Other facilities such as gym and spa are planned on the second floor towards the back, such that the extended floor is not visible to the passerby or the people using the front garden.

As an architectural presence, the building creates a strong statement in the precinct, especially owing to the inclusion of a solid mass that dramatically cantilevers over the underlying spaces. The upper volume is clad in black granite, and presents a telling counterpoint to the lower, delicate, glazed volume, “creating the illusion of floating,” points out Vikram. “The extensive glazing on the ground floor lightens up the massive structure,” he goes on to say, “and the black granite mass on the top acts as an interface with the surrounding neighbourhood, making the spaces introvert in character.” This play of opacity and transparency continues throughout the house with the efficient use of materials. For instance, the brutalist, monolithic presence of the granite of the upper volume is tempered by movable aluminium screens which look like wood. “The screen allows dappled light to animate the private bedroom spaces and the centralised courtyard,” says Vikram. “The visual relationship of the building components add a certain significance and atmosphere and manifest an out-of-the-box built experiment.”

In H-house’s form, greenery was sensitively infused in the form of double-height courtyards, orchestrated such that the verdure within became a constant companion to the rest of the interior environment. “The house has a free flowing plan that allows a connection with the two courtyards incorporated in the front and the rear,” say the architects. “The courtyards acts as in-between dynamic spaces that allow micro-climate to be experienced daily, blurring the lines of indoor-outdoor living. With greater transparency in the public areas and lesser in the private areas, each space enjoys views and ventilation from the outer expanses. The captivating courtyard design provides this home with a special sense of serenity and acts as a personalised nature retreat that feed into adjacent interior spaces.”

Given the scale of the house, material expression was driven by pragmatism so that the structure could remain maintenance-free for years. The palette itself is minimal: black granite, travertine, Burberry Beige Italian stone, glass and wood. Travertine, as a neutral stone, runs throughout the house from the exterior to the interior spaces. The upper volume is externally clad in dark granite, while the lower ones see the use of glass. Internally, the common spaces feature stone on the vertical surfaces and wood on the ceiling. “The house has been executed keeping in mind the effect of architecture on interior spaces and vice versa. The interior spaces though designed in contemporary style, adhere to the needs and roots of the users. The material palette used in the interior justifies the purpose along with the clever mix of texture and patterns and a variety of furniture layouts to make the spaces comfortable,” elucidates the duo.

For the architects, the lessons learnt from this project centre around managing work in a more organised way. ”The process of completing the full architecture and interiors of a 20,000-square-foot house in roughly 18-20 months seemed impossible before this,” they exult. They also treasure the sense of connectivity and connectedness engendered by the sequencing, hierarchy and layering of volumes. “You are never in one single space when in the house. You are always connected to another space which came as a design decision as the huge house had only five permanent users,” they tell us.

Keeping the user firmly in their design proposal, team Co.lab Design Studio have successfully delivered a home that is focused on creating experiences, where meaning and substance take precedence over gratuitous form.

To create a luxurious and spacious home where the owner feels constantly connected to the outdoors.

Flooring: Burberry Beige Italian stone
Wall cladding: Silver travertine
Ceiling: Wood
Partitioning: Glass
Facade Tarvertine, granite and aluminium louvres

Project H-house
Location Surat
Plot area 2,000 sq m
Built-up area 1,800 sq m
Principal architects Hansika Jain and Vikram Bhatt
Design team Dhaval Shah