Cloud House in Kollam, India, channels adaptive reuse with a rhythmic tiled façade

NO Architects Designers and Social Artists has reused parts of an existing dilapidated structure to create a tropical weekend retreat featuring extremes in spatial vocabulary.

by Jerry ElengicalPublished on : Jul 15, 2022

Aporia - a state of internal contradiction or logical disjunction - serves as a foundational concept in a residential design venture for a weekend home in Kerala, India, by local firm NO Architects Designers and Social Artists. Nestled into one of the terraces of a hill on Ashtamudi Lake in the city of Kollam, the house's form repurposes parts of a dilapidated structure that had previously occupied the site, channelling extremes in spatial vocabulary to explore liminal states. In this vein, the designers aimed to avoid conforming to any of the binary perspectives that could apply to an architectural design problem of this nature, blending a naturalistic vocabulary and palette with drastic transitions between geometric and organic spatial volumes.

  • The weekend home repurposes sections of a dilapidated structure to craft a sustainable architectural intervention| Cloud House | NO Architects Designers and Social Artists | STIRworld
    The weekend home repurposes sections of a dilapidated structure to craft a sustainable architectural intervention Image: Harikrishnan Sasidharan
  • Located along one of the terraces of a hill near Ashtamudi Lake, the home channels extremes in spatial vocabulary to explore liminal states | Cloud House | NO Architects Designers and Social Artists | STIRworld
    Located along one of the terraces of a hill near Ashtamudi Lake, the home channels extremes in spatial vocabulary to explore liminal states Image: Harikrishnan Sasidharan

Revealing little to the outside world, the relatively introverted exterior of the building is dressed in roof tiles that were recovered from the existing structure, with a grand doorway at the centre of the front façade design. The tiles themselves have been angled to create rhythmic protrusions, flanked by columns made up of crushed concrete chips that were recycled from the floor slabs of the preceding structure. Patches of landscape design have been deftly incorporated around the building's footprint, concealing it within the foliage of tropical vegetation selected due to their ability to flourish in the local climate and allow for easy maintenance - due to the building's purpose as a weekend home. As relayed by the architects in a statement: "During the summers, tropical fruit trees produce different varieties of mangoes, jackfruit, rose apples, and many other berries, creating a food forest that invites birds and squirrels to the home."

  • A relatively introverted exterior conceals the drastic transitions between organic and geometric spatiality within the layout | Cloud House | NO Architects Designers and Social Artists | STIRworld
    A relatively introverted exterior conceals the drastic transitions between organic and geometric spatiality within the layout Image: Harikrishnan Sasidharan
  • Perforations in the assembly allow for cross-ventilation between the layers of the home’s envelope | Cloud House | NO Architects Designers and Social Artists | STIRworld
    Perforations in the assembly allow for cross-ventilation between the layers of the home’s envelope Image: Harikrishnan Sasidharan

With its unique fusion of adaptive reuse and upcycling, the 123 sqm residence intends to reflect the tropical character of its context, repurposing some of the existing structure's traditional architectural features to better embed the new building into its surroundings. "Architecture as with any other art, is torn between binary terms, which often leads to certain approaches gaining precedence over others. In this house, we are trying to create a permanently oscillating typology of spaces, without favouring one over the other,” states the design team.

Pockets of landscaping around the building screen it from the outside | Cloud House | NO Architects Designers and Social Artists | STIRworld
Pockets of landscaping around the building screen it from the outside Image: Harikrishnan Sasidharan

To this end, the project retained and extended much of the existing structural grid from the older building, demolishing and refurbishing sections and adding curved walls to conserve trees present on the site. In doing so, the design team managed to mould organic spaces that flow along a course determined by nature itself, ensuring a minimal carbon footprint that adheres to the project’s sustainable design goals. At a time when climate change is a major concern throughout the construction industry, "we strived to create permeable built spaces, through a careful understanding of the local winds, orientation and topography. The materiality and breathability of built volumes were considered as two separate entities, and dealt accordingly, with respect to sustainability,” notes the firm.

  • After extending the structural grid as well as demolishing and renovating parts of the old building, the architects built curves walls that wind around trees on site | Cloud House | NO Architects Designers and Social Artists | STIRworld
    After extending the structural grid as well as demolishing and renovating parts of the old building, the architects built curves walls that wind around trees on site Image: Harikrishnan Sasidharan
  • Clerestory windows line the spaces beneath the home’s floating roof, screened by wooden slats | Cloud House | NO Architects Designers and Social Artists | STIRworld
    Clerestory windows line the spaces beneath the home’s floating roof, screened by wooden slats Image: Harikrishnan Sasidharan
  • The curved walls enclose common areas such as the kitchen, living, and dining spaces | Cloud House | NO Architects Designers and Social Artists | STIRworld
    The curved walls enclose common areas such as the kitchen, living, and dining spaces Image: Harikrishnan Sasidharan

Winding around functional areas, the walls leave behind pockets of negative space in the building’s shell, which constitute the embodiment of the "in between" under the program. Drawing from the concept of différance, as espoused by French philosopher Jacques Derrida, the sinuous walls are replete with punctures and fenestrations that open into these intermediary spaces. Further perforations in the external envelope provided by the tile assembly, creates avenues for cross-ventilation throughout both the layers of the residence’s skin. Trees within these zones infuse life and vibrancy, transforming their nature into those of mini-courtyards littered throughout the plan.

View of the kitchen | Cloud House | NO Architects Designers and Social Artists | STIRworld
View of the kitchen Image: Harikrishnan Sasidharan

The disparity in geometry between the inner and outer shells is a defining aspect of this investigation into the “in between", where dramatic movements from linear to curved volumes serve to reinforce this idea. A floating roof crowns the curved wall layout, settled atop rows of clerestory windows that are supported by I-sections. The billowing profile of the roof forms the essence of the home’s name, resembling a cloud when viewed from above. Wooden slats screen the internal surfaces of the clerestories, complementing the light, earthy palette of the interior design. In order to eschew the use of tiles or stone for flooring in the common spaces, the architects resorted to polishing the base floor layer, resulting in a matte textured finish that harmoniously fits into the composition of the interior scheme.

  • The common areas flow into a deck overlooking the backwaters | Cloud House | NO Architects Designers and Social Artists | STIRworld
    The common areas flow into a deck overlooking the backwaters Image: Harikrishnan Sasidharan
  • Most of the trees on site were conserved by making the trajectories of the curved walls wind around them, enclosed by the rectilinear envelope which produces negative spaces | Cloud House | NO Architects Designers and Social Artists | STIRworld
    Most of the trees on site were conserved by making the trajectories of the curved walls wind around them, enclosed by the rectilinear envelope which produces negative spaces Image: Harikrishnan Sasidharan

On the first floor, the layout accommodates a car porch linked by a ramp that flows into the main road along the rear, forging a new route of entry. The structural frame of the car porch was assembled with the assistance of upcycled material sourced from a local scrap dealer. Inside the home, communal sections of the program such as the kitchen, living, and dining areas are laid out along the curved sections of the plan, connected to a deck overlooking the neighbouring backwaters. While the larger of the home's two bedrooms - which also contains a home theatre - has a rectilinear plan as per the layout of the older structure, the other one has been realised as a circular volume leading into another deck along the water’s edge.

The home’s two bedrooms embody the contrasts in spatiality explored throughout the design, featuring rectilinear and curved layouts respectively | Cloud House | NO Architects Designers and Social Artists | STIRworld
The home’s two bedrooms embody the contrasts in spatiality explored throughout the design, featuring rectilinear and curved layouts respectively Image: Harikrishnan Sasidharan

Built using structural members recovered from the stairs of the demolished building, the residence’s spiral staircase design has been placed within the plan to act as a ventilation shaft, to collect hot air from the interior and expel it through a lift system. Furthermore, the role of this section is inverted during the colder monsoon months, where it plays the role of a wind scoop. The sinuous trajectories of the enclosing walls also aid in smooth air movement, representing another vital aspect of this sustainable architectural intervention.

Diagrams of the intervention’s stages | Cloud House | NO Architects Designers and Social Artists | STIRworld
Diagrams of the intervention’s stages Image: Courtesy of NO Architects Designers and Social Artist

The design team reflects: “We believe that society is transitioning from binary extremities, to a more mature narration of the ‘in betweens', and our architecture represents this cultural shift and reinterpretation of existing structure. This experimental house has widened our understanding of residential typologies to include a multitude of possibilities, often questioning the established while being in a constant state of aporia.”

  • Floor Plans | Cloud House | NO Architects Designers and Social Artists | STIRworld
    Floor Plans Image: Courtesy of NO Architects Designers and Social Artist
  • Sections | Cloud House | NO Architects Designers and Social Artists | STIRworld
    Sections Image: Courtesy of NO Architects Designers and Social Artist

Project Details

Name: Cloud House
Location: Kollam, Kerala, India
Year of Completion: 2021
Area: 123 sqm
Architect: NO Architects Designers and Social Artists
Partners: Harikrishnan Sasidharan, Neenu Elizabeth
Design Team: Harikrishnan Sasidharan, Neenu Elizabeth, Anson.S.Watson, Babin Babu, Mayuresh Muley, Jasmin Khatun, Sonali Nath, Robin Joseph, Aagam Mundhava, Abhishek Madhu, Abhina.A, Vijesh Kumar, Dravid. D,
PHE & Electrical Engineering: Educe Consultants Pvt Ltd
Structural Design: Urban Hive
Landscape Design: Neenu Elizabeth, NO Landscapes
Visualisation: Flex Tangles

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