by Pooja Suresh HollannavarJun 17, 2023
Hive is an intelligent, adaptable and modern family home designed by Openideas Architects in the city of Surat in Gujarat, India. The form of the house was conceptualised based on the profession of the client who is part of a successful company engaged in making machines for the diamond industry.
Located in Vesu, an upcoming locality in Surat, the site overlooks the city. The modulating, ever-changing mechanical façade of the house, designed in synchronisation with the conceptual form of the ‘honeycomb’ or ‘carbon crystals’ is the most striking feature of the project. Biomimicry in architecture has been widely talked about but can rarely be seen in projects in India. Adaptation of the organic form along with technology brings dynamism to everyday life in this house built by Ahmedabad-based firm.
Openideas Architects is led by principal architects Monarch Champaneri, Nilesh Gajera and Niralee Champaneri. Here, STIR speaks with the team to understand the process, design development, construction, and the final output of the Hive house.
Meghna Mehta (MM): Can you tell us what was the architectural design brief given by the client?
Monarch Champaneri (MC): The client was well-informed about architecture and given his core competency in mechanical engineering, was very clear about what he wanted as a ‘home’ - a smart structure rendered in metal and a ‘mono-space’ living area. Along with those primary thoughts, the client communicated an almost 90-point brief with inputs connected to diverse points — structure, landscape, planning, materials, sustainability, insulation, HVAC and plumbing, along with entire year’s sun path study.
MM: It must have been a delight to have a client with an understanding like this.
MC: Yes, absolutely! The client viewed this building like a product or machinery he deals with, which is why he insisted on ‘manufacturing’ it flawlessly. He wanted something unique in every detail, which put a lot of pressure on the design team to deliver, and not fail their expectations. Therefore, all the ideas that went into its making were backed by intensive research and prototyping.
For us, the speciality of this project lied in a client who was open-minded and intrepid, ready to experiment with ideas and who did not have many precedents. – Openideas Architects
MM: What are the significant or unique features of this project?
Nilesh Gajera (NG): The impact we wished to create was attempted, undoubtedly, by the solar sensor-based façade, which lies at an exciting intersection of art and engineering. Its geometry is inspired by the hexagonal structural patterns found in nature such as those of honeycombs and carbon crystals — giving the project its name, ‘Hive’. Analysed as per the structure, function and mechanism, its design is based on structural strength, transformability and biomimicry. The unique opening mechanism of the façade positions are derivatives of quality of light exposure and thermal comfort levels inside the house. Experientially, the modules create striking sciagraphy by casting patterns that change with the diurnal rhythm of the sun.
MM: Can you explain a bit about how the flow of spaces was planned for this house?
NG: The programme and functions of the spaces were conceived as an open and fluid organisation, both in plan and volume. Devoid of any partition walls, the spaces on the ground floor have a sensorial segregation of public, private and semi-private zones through modulations in the outer envelope along with a bespoke sculptural entrance vestibule. The upper level, accessed via a sculptural staircase, accommodates two bedrooms. The connection to the greens remains steadfast owing to the presence of a small garden attached to each bedroom.
The project has given us the confidence to think differently, think big — as well as engage in extensive research and detailing to give form to the dreams harboured during the designing phase. – Openideas Architects
MM: How did the overall architectural expression come together?
Niralee Champaneri (NC): With the prevailing presence of metal, the concepts of long span, light weight, a complex form and fast construction came on board, with the form itself being moulded by an in-depth analysis of external temperature, humidity, solar radiation, cloud cover and wind pattern. The architecture is expressed as an angular V-shaped structure oriented towards the green pockets spread around the house. The entrance creates a bridge and valley experience, with a sunken court and stepped garden, a linear arrival corridor and the walkable green roof with varying slopes. This roof technically acts as a thermal insulation, lowering the overall temperature of the interiors, while functionally doubles up as a congregational area for social gatherings.
MM: The façade has a very interesting insect-like dynamic motion. What was the inspiration for this?
NC: The inspiration for the envelope and several other elements in the house were found in small, everyday things. While the façade mechanism was inspired by doors of airport buses, the structure of the stair (which spans seven meters and has a thickness of 38 mm) was derived from the structural formation of a hexagonal diagrid popularly seen in IKEA furniture pieces. Similarly, the movement of radio antennae informs the window opening mechanisms and the ‘khadki door’ of forts (a door within a door) which was replicated at the entrance.
Location: Surat, Gujarat, India
Architecture Firm: Openideas Architects
Lead Architects: Monarch Champaneri, Nilesh Gajera, Niralee Champaneri
Design Team: Vishal Patel, Sahil Soni, Nishant Chauhan, Jainika Patel, Manasi Hathiwala, Kashyap Parshala, Zeb Saiyed
Completion Year: 2019
Gross Built Area: 600 sqm
Site Area: 1250 sqm
Mechanical engineers for façade: Ensemble
Electricals for façade: WNeuron