Architecture Brio designs a house on the water's edge rising over the ghats
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Architecture Brio designs a house on the water's edge rising over the ghats

The Riparian house by Architecture Brio in Karjat, nestled within the Western Ghats, celebrates and becomes the very landscape that it is built on.

by Ronitaa Italia Jun 27, 2019

The Oxford dictionary succinctly defines riparian as (adj.) "of or on the bank of a river". And so this stunning home in Karjat got its name.

Not a long drive away from Mumbai, the Riparian House is perched somewhere along a mountainous landscape rising up from the Western Ghats. From this UNESCO world heritage area, numerous rivers and streams find their way down through an undulating landscape eventually feeding into the Mumbai bay. 

To be more precise, it is located just below the top of a hillock at the foothills of the ghats. The top of its vegetated roof merges with the top of the hillock, hiding the house from sight as you approach it from the east side. Once you are inside the house, you will be able to enjoy the view spreading along the north of the Irshalgad hill fortress all the way towards the sunset in the west, as the river winds its way across the agricultural fields.

The view from the living room Image Credit: Ariel Huber

Since most of the site sits along a steep slope, with a 1:4 gradient, the vegetated roof gives the house an additional usable area. When seen from the top, it appears to be an extension of the natural landscape, enhancing the understated-ness of the house. Apart from being a stunning camouflage, the green cover also serves a larger purpose of keeping the space below cool, due to its insulative properties. 

The front veranda in the evening Image Credit: Ariel Huber

Along the central axis, a coarse stone wall and landscaped steps lead you to towards the pool deck. A second set of steps connects to the main level where the axis culminates via the dining room and kitchen into a light-filled courtyard. Being here gives you a sense of standing inside the earth, an experience enhanced through the placement of stone boulders, which were discovered during the excavation process.

The master bedroom Image Credit: Ariel Huber

The kitchen occupies a central position in the layout of the house, along with the open-to-sky courtyard, and is flanked on either side by two bedrooms at the two far ends. Again, these spaces are embedded in the earth with windows bringing in ample light from above and along the river side.

The kitchen, opening into the courtyard Image Credit: Ariel Huber

A master bedroom, bathroom, dining and living area fit in on the front side of the structure, which is also a more open face. Both the living room in the western corner of the house and the master bedroom in the northern corner enjoy panoramic views of the river. 

Galvanized steel mullioned windows break down the scale of the front façade. A rhythmic row of bamboo poles is placed at close intervals here  to create a layer of privacy without obstructing or even slightly taking away from the spectacular view of the river and the mountains beyond. This bamboo enclosure creates a dialogue between the spartan interiors and the dramatically-changing, naturally endowed landscape outside. The view changes from a dense, bright green-coloured jungle-like scene during the monsoon months to a pale brown shrubby wasteland during the dry, hot summers. The plantation of drought-tolerant fountain grasses mitigates this transition to a dry landscape, while also relating to the riparian landscape that exists along the river. The building needed to respond to these extreme conditions by allowing enough shade and breeze during the summer and providing a waterproof indoor environment during the stormy monsoon. The screen of bamboos creates an ever-changing pattern of light and shadow throughout the seasons and at various times of the day, making the building appear like a ‘sensor’ of light.

The kitchen courtyard with its green roof Image Credit: Ariel Huber

The walls are built in Indian limestone and retain a coarse pattern, which make the structure look like it is rising out of the ground, giving it a solid base. This visual weight is instantly contrasted by the lightness of a suspended timber deck veranda, which surrounds the house on three sides. The covered verandas allow for comfortably ventilated and shaded semi-indoor spaces. Internally, the timber floor continues as a border around patterned natural stone flooring. In front of the living room, the deck extends to form a large outdoor landing, celebrating the panoramic view of the surrounding landscape.

The bamboo-covered veranda Image Credit: Ariel Huber

Project Details

Name of the project: Riparian House
Location: Karjat, Maharashtra, India
Area: 330 sq.m.
Architects: Architecture BRIO
Design team: Robert Verrijt, Shefali Balwani, Sahil Deshpande, Shuba Shekar, Prajakta Gawde
Structural design: Girish Wadhwa, Vijay K. Patil
Landscape design: Architecture BRIO
Contractor: Raj Construction

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About Author

Ronitaa Italia

Ronitaa Italia

A prolific writer and journalist with 20 years of experience, Ronitaa has helmed premier magazines - ELLE DECOR India, GoodHomes, Home & Design TRENDS. She is known for her engaging content, piquant ideas, and reportage of design trends.

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