by Jerry ElengicalSep 08, 2021
Contour sites have always offered an enticing site context for architects. There exists a possibility of working with the massing of a structure through a section as opposed to a plan. Even if an architect were to choose to not work the contours, one would still read the building with the context of the contours. In addition to facilitating a dynamic connection between the built structure and the landscape, one can also play with the idea of arrival and how the structure will reveal itself. There are a multitude of different architectural operatives that one can employ to react to the given site context.
The Weekend House at Aalloa by Indian architectural practice Studio 4000, illustrates one such example of working with contours. Located in the middle of a vast forested area along the banks of the Sabarmati River near the city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat, India, the structure enjoys an air of contemplative solitude. The natural landscape of the site is shaped by the ebb and flow of the river that has carved out an undulating slope that includes a flat plateau-like surface that is 15 meters above the water level. With an approach from the north and the flat plane along its western edge, the ground plane is the only active site context the studio uses to conceive the structure. Intending to preserve large parts of the original land form and maintain the ecology of the site, the built intervention is limited to a small footprint.
Consisting of the main house, a swimming pool and a water tower, the out of the structures are excavated along the site incline. The main house could have potentially been placed on top of the flat plane, but by placing the rectilinear mass at an angle, the relatively flat land becomes a usable outdoor space. The swimming pool and water tower are carved into an adjoining earth mound, which creates a small valley between the two structures. The water tower, which is finished in stone masonry, rises from the high point of this hill. The two blocks follow the site's organic undulations, which leads to them having a unique axis that responds first to the landscape and then to each other.
Because of its location, the main house has a basement at this southern edge as a mezzanine at the northern edge. Volumetrically the entire structure is perhaps the same as a ground-plus-one rectilinear structure. The modulation of the internal volume is reflected in the structure’s exterior materiality as well. Supported by a retaining wall facing the north-west direction and an east-facing façade designed to reveal scenic vistas. There is a duality in the porosity of the two facades. The retaining wall is dense and thick while the eastern facade is finished with glass and is transparent. The eastern façade is also oriented parallel to the river’s edge and has a large front yard that acts as a foreground to the entire structure.
Both the façade carefully integrate the interior design as well. The retaining wall features a jagged profile that accommodates the residential services such as the kitchen, toilets, storage and washing area. Featuring stone cladding the finish extends to the basement, and acts as a replacement for a plinth. The eastern façade features teakwood and glass panels as doors and windows. These fenestrations are carefully thickened in strategic locations to function as furniture. The duality continues to be present beyond the materiality of the structure and in part of the studio’s conceptual axiom. Playing with the idea of opposing conditions the residential design of the structure is spoken about through a dichotomy, such as a hillside v/s riverside view, sunset v/s moonrise, service v/s served space and so on.
Mirroring the landscape’s profile is the structure’s wrapped concrete roof. The roof is inclined along the same angle as the slope that previously existed on the land. Sitting on top of the structure as a single plane, the roof dips down at the southeast corner of the house. This creates an interesting interior vista within the living room. The roof is supported by the retaining wall on one edge and through a series of columns in the rest of the structure as if it were a continuous loggia. The roof's prolife intends to create an internal volume that allows occupants to experience not only the slope as a ground plane but also as a ceiling. This envelopes the entire house in the spatial experience of the site's natural slope.
Name: Weekend house at Aalloa
Location: Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India
Area: 3500 square meters
Year of completion: 2021
Architect: Studio 4000, Smit Vyas, Khushboo Vyas
Landscape Designer: Studio 4000