by Anmol AhujaAug 31, 2021
Away from a dynamic, nearly all-dictating urban context that outlines the modern metropolis, and in turn the very character of modern residential design in these cities, the act of architecture in places where nature seems to be the dictatorial force subsumes very interesting dimensions. While the discussion on “second homes” and their need in a post-pandemic world picks up with respect to the landscape of Indian architecture, there can be no denying that escapes, especially in the age of remote working, are rather customary. While tourists flock to the hills in a bout of "revenge-travel" following the second wave, enforcing a counter-productive narrative, having a personal monsoon retreat atop a hillock for one’s share of the promised natural land and a lung-full of clean air is certainly something that doesn’t hurt. The Ksaraah residence, straight out of an AirBnB postcard listing, accomplishes just that for its architect duo, Shalini Chandrashekar and GS Mahaboob Basha, founders of Bengaluru-based architecture and design studio, Taliesyn.
The house presents a particularly persevering architectural statement on hermit-like living with its extremely minimalistic form, both in volume and aesthetic, and the direct connection with nature it seeks to invoke, setting up a rather open footprint on contoured land, sans boundaries and fences. Even apart from visual borders in the form of such “restraints”, plain walls are a rare occurrence in this residence. A non-invasive intervention by all means, one could almost comment that the structure was formed to be inside-out, properly blurring the boundaries between its airy, earthy interiors, and inspiring outdoors. Its strict linearity may have been imposing on the land’s superfluous contouring, but a measured restriction on the rise of the edifice and a relatively open layout ensure otherwise, providing its residents with spaces that provide “limitless opportunities to thrive”.
Ksaraah is weightlessly perched atop the site’s highest level, capturing breath-taking views of its peaceful environ, establishing its own horizon. The settlement comprises essentially three structures: the primary residence; an expansive, open pavilion designed as a multipurpose hall;, and another residential quarter with a remarkably similar architectural language as the primary residential block, segregated in the third dimension by a stone feature wall, also marking the transition between the broadly public and private zones of the house. The primary residence is an edifice that seems to interpret the grandeur of monsoon palaces to its own modernistic exposed-concrete language, resting on a pair of minimally curved, bevelled arches. Lofted to the top of its significant overhang, spanning an expansive column and wall-free layout on-ground, the space, harbouring a living, dining, and sit-out area, opens up new avenues for and invites communal interaction: the perfect spot for an evening tea, ephemeral discussions, and the seemingly simpler joys of life. The master bedroom, its ensuite bathing chamber, and a rustic, private study lounge occupy the first floor.
The upper levels of the house seek to commune in dialogue with the established language of the residential design through subtle contrasts: the arcs as opposed to the unyielding linearity of the rest of the residence, and an envelope in oak timber in the form of fenestrations that ensconce the quarters' perimeter. Tall, louvered windows run through the entire length of the raised mass of the primary and secondary residences, allowing users to not only control daylight and ventilation, but also to act on the involuntary relationship between the residents and their natural surroundings.
A swimming pool near the residence's foot is termed to be the place’s “epicentre”, harbouring a slim external staircase that connects the two levels to its right, and the stone feature wall to its left, a third intervention in the house’s almost perennial material palette. The public sphere of the house’s layout is enlivened by its very heart, the central, 80-feet long pavilion, created in almost rhythmic alterations. A supple nod to the surrounding plantations with its circular columns, the pavilion is but a dynamic space with a very peaceful character, with the space comprising as little as a flat concrete slab supported over peripheral colonnades. Designed as a “dynamic arena”, the recreational space with a rare open, inviting energy is open to all, a statement on the adaptability and multi-faceted utility of the place, intended to bring the local community together. Like a temple’s Mandapam characterised by the surrounding columns, the pavilion is democratically put to use as a venue for dance and music recitals in the evening, and as a local school and venue for the village’s annual function Jatre during the pandemic.
A living breathing entity, continually transforming with the landscape, seasons, and even the diurnal cycles, the house seems to be aware of its identity as a rejuvenating sanctum, while aspiring to more through its connections with nature and its neighbouring community. “Nature is the protagonist here,” as stated by Shalini Chandrashekar, one half of the Taliesyn duo and designer of the Ksaraah house, in conversation with STIR. The resultant spaces emerging from the design double up as blank canvases: for the residents to engage with vitality and creativity, with an added edge for responsibility in construction and material choices. Stones like Sadarahalli and Pink Magadi, sourced and cut from nearby quarries, complete the textural motifs of the residence, and a palette is created keeping in mind that they age gracefully and require minimal maintenance. The interiors too, composed of khadi beddings, soft furnishings, oak wood, down to even the selection of toiletries and Kansa crockery, become a celebration of traditional Indian craftsmanship.
“The building will essentially disappear once the surrounding vegetation grows to its full height. The concrete will also age beautifully. Daily, through the wooden louvre windows, and as seasons pass, the Ksaraah residence comes alive with the varying patterns of the sun on the ground. The residence will keep on changing through time,” states a palpably eclectic Chandrashekar on the temporal patina of Ksaraah, intended to develop over ages.
Location: Bangalore Rural
Typology: Residential retreat (Weekend Home)
Architects: Taliesyn Design and Architecture
Design Team: Shalini Chandrashekar, GS Mahaboob Basha (Principal architects), Siri, Yatheesh Kune, Vishnu Naidu
Site Area: 4.00 Acres
Built-Up Area: 487.00 sq.m. (5249.00 sq.ft.)
Structural Consultants: Sigma Consultants
Electrical, Landcsape, Plumbing, and PMC Consultants: Taliesyn
Civil Works: SS Constructions