by Vinu DanielApr 01, 2022
In Delhi, an old stable-farm that housed a single three bedroom volume for an Indian family, has been transformed into "a distinct experimental fusion of futuristic and traditional architecture" by Ant Studio, helmed by architect Monish Siripurapu. Connecting the farm's three existing blocks comprising living, service area, and a pool facility, the studio has created a new storey of residential space, many courtyards, and an engulfing exposed structural shell that unifies the whole complex.
The site is surrounded by large agricultural farms in a peri urban area. The family which owns the property struggled with its former condition in which the residential quarter was dissociated from the site and the context. Ant Studio were subjected to either construct an entire new development in place of the previous home, or to build another floor to house new programmes while renovating the existing residential architecture. Basing the strategy on the ethos of their trans-disciplinary research-driven practice which resorts to a hand-on approach to design and innovation that blurs the boundaries between architecture, nature and technology, the design team opted to avoid razing the house. Instead, a sustainable and largely experimental narrative was followed to unify what existed on the site and to create the desired connections.
"We firmly believe architecture should have a blend of the past and the future. With the help of computational tools, we were able to align the vernacular of Indian architecture with the new language of fluidity that seeks to break the limits of architectural achievements," says Siripurapu, the studio founder.
The new storey enclosing bedrooms and living spaces, as per Ant Studio, "is designed as a structure that starts from the ground and works its way up like a spiral to the top of the old house, connecting the different elements between each other and the site". Clad in louvered zinc panels, a choice of material that the design team attributes to responding to the extreme temperatures of North India, these panels were strategically arranged to let diffused light indoors, facilitate adequate ventilation, and to create a visual and physical barrier for the desired privacy of residents.
In the new layout, an area with three trees that previously faced the exhausts of the quarter's bathrooms has inventively been transformed into a picturesque courtyard. With an expanded core now, here the foliage of the trees makes its way to the upper floor, creating a focal point for every connecting space. “The final form, adds Siripurapu, "is both open to the environment while being private to the residents. We aimed to achieve pockets of intimacy within the open natural setting, in a building where there are tremendous opportunities to open up to the surrounding landscape.”
While the exteriors of the building evoke a robust character owing to their cutting edge materiality, once inside, people find a sense of intimacy and a nostalgic connection. On the ground floor sits a large fluid installation made of terracotta tiles that the design team retrieved from the building's former roof, an attempt to reduce as much waste as possible. Positioned between the foyer and the living room, this installation helps create the desired visual block between the two spaces in addition to becoming a distinct artefact in the living room.
The idea of the materiality within the interiors follows the simple approach to transform a house into a home. Featuring exposed surfaces that encourage a tactile experience of people inhabiting the home, walls appear in brick and lime cement while floors are paired with terrazzo and polished concrete. "This intuitive decision of providing a distinction between the outer 'form' and internal 'function' followed a strong belief in creating warm and nostalgic traditional spaces that speak of the family’s childhood homes, truly transforming this house into a home,” shares the design team.
Resounding the words of architect Laurie Baker, which says "a building should be truthful", Siripurapu and team aligned their efforts with Baker's celebrated approach to architecture in which beauty and honesty were laid bare in traditionally rooted constructions. Having projected what he calls "a futuristic volume" on the edge of a busy Indian neighbourhood, Siripurapu leaves us with an interesting inquiry saying, "Experimental architecture should look to push the boundaries of the conventional with the power of imagination, while carrying forward tried and tested principles of our heritage. Which leaves us to wonder how we can innovate with the culture and traditions we have?"