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Living in the lap of nature: ↄc House by 3dor Concepts in Kerala, India

The unassuming residence exhibits a dark naturalistic materiality that melts into the surrounding forest, allowing the context to become the protagonist of its design scheme.

by Jerry ElengicalPublished on : Feb 10, 2023

More often than not, architecture when placed in a natural setting, is imagined as the protagonist of the context it inhabits. While this way of envisioning built form is invariably the norm, there are a number of approaches that turn this outlook on its head, either blending structures into the landscapes surrounding them or more subtly, framing a building's surroundings as the focal points of the spaces they contain. In a similar vein, a residential design commission for a young client in the foothills of the Western Ghats in Thamarassery in Kerala, India, presented Kannur-based practice 3dor Concepts with a chance to frame their concept of a dwelling based on this second approach.

The home was designed for a young client on a forested plot where he spent much of his childhood | ↄc House | 3dor Concepts | STIRworld
The home was designed for a young client on a forested plot where he spent much of his childhood Image: Courtesy of Running Studios

As per the firm, the site given to them was one that was literally nestled in the lap of nature, and therefore, their perspective on developing a private residence for this context was entrenched in the idea of allowing its users to “live in the lap of nature.” Densely forested, with thickets of trees, bushes, and undergrowth lining its edges, the location had a natural buffer of its own to maintain privacy at every point along the plot. The location was also fairly close to Wayanad, a hill station and prominent tourist destination within the state, and the client, Binil Thomas, had spent a considerable portion of his childhood on the same stretch of land. The firm explains in an official release, "The client's father was a successful farmer and they had already planted different kinds of plants along the site. Hence the design had to be more justified in its relation to the site.”

An almost 'ceremonial' promenade cuts through rows of palm trees towards the residence | ↄc House | 3dor Concepts | STIRworld
An almost 'ceremonial' promenade cuts through rows of palm trees towards the residence Image: Courtesy of Running Studios

Now, returning to this spot after years spent living in and working in metropolitan cities in the field of management, the client desired a home that would be a departure from the delirious pace and stress associated with such urban environments, offering peace and respite in its place. This point of view yielded ↄc House, whose dark, unobtrusive exterior melts into the clusters of trees that frame its footprint. “In both ways, the building had to respect the site as much as possible, and also exploit the ambience of the context in its interior. Since we chose this approach, we kept the form as simple as we could but also gave it a unique feature, which we called a signature. The building's texture is generally dark which matches the tonality of the entire setting. Two asymmetric 'c' shapes in concrete mirror each other to form the main façade design, with reference to a tree sprouting between them as a focal point,” explains 3dor Concepts.

  • Asymmetrical 'c' shaped forms frame the front façade design | ↄc House | 3dor Concepts | STIRworld
    Asymmetrical 'c' shaped forms frame the front façade design Image: Courtesy of Running Studios
  • The dark concrete is complemented by rubble masonry | ↄc House | 3dor Concepts | STIRworld
    The dark concrete is complemented by rubble masonry Image: Courtesy of Running Studios

 A long promenade cuts through rows of trees towards the front of the structure, forcing a viewer’s perspective towards the built form. There is a somewhat ceremonial quality to this aspect of the design, making the act of approaching the residence seem like an event, where the structure itself takes centre stage at the start of the journey, only for this expectation to be subverted immediately afterwards. Although the front edifice may appear as if it has been sculpted from a singular material when seen from a distance, on drawing closer, the two ‘c’ shaped elements part to reveal walls of dark rubble masonry and grey stone tile flooring, which give the building an added sense of weight, without making its presence too much of an intrusion on the site. Stone masonry construction in this form was a fairly obvious choice for the architects, given how readily it could be sourced from quarries in the vicinity.

View of the structure at night | ↄc House | 3dor Concepts | STIRworld
View of the structure at night Image: Courtesy of Running Studios

Transparency, and its degrees, have been given special heed throughout the residence's architecture, where large floor-to-ceiling windows framed in wood—a prominent feature of Kerala's architecture—ensure that nature is the protagonist of each space. Where most contextual design ventures only prioritise a building's interaction with its context on a macro scale, 3dor Concepts has switched this up to create an environment that is in symbiosis with the site, entirely dependent on each minor fluctuation it undergoes.

  • Transparency is paramount to the design, with large glass windows framed in wood lining the public areas of the program | ↄc House | 3dor Concepts | STIRworld
    Transparency is paramount to the design, with large glass windows framed in wood lining the public areas of the program Image: Courtesy of Running Studios
  • Eight feet verandahs line the front of the structure on three sides | ↄc House | 3dor Concepts | STIRworld
    Eight feet verandahs line the front of the structure on three sides Image: Courtesy of Running Studios
  • The living room is enclosed by glass walls on three sides | ↄc House | 3dor Concepts | STIRworld
    The living room is enclosed by glass walls on three sides Image: Courtesy of Running Studios

Eight feet verandahs line the periphery of the more public face of the residence, with private living quarters pushed towards the rear. Slender cylindrical supports prop up the wide overhangs shading these zones, creating open colonnades along the structure’s periphery. Consequently, even in spite of the building’s transparency towards the front, there is an additional buffer between the interior and nearby plots. The common link between all the interior spaces is a central courtyard, placing nature as the gravitational centre of ↄc House, around which all the other program areas revolve. Smooth transitions from interior to the exterior have been choreographed around this space, enhancing this sense of symbiosis. The living room and dining area immediately beyond the entrance also feature extensive glass walls looking into the greenery of the site, with the former space enclosed by glass on three of its sides and the latter permitting residents to “dine in the lap of nature.”

  • The home's program is arranged around a central courtyard which is its spiritual core | ↄc House | 3dor Concepts | STIRworld
    The home's program is arranged around a central courtyard which is its spiritual core Image: Courtesy of Running Studios
  • Smooth transitions from interior to the exterior have been choreographed around the courtyard | ↄc House | 3dor Concepts | STIRworld
    Smooth transitions from interior to the exterior have been choreographed around the courtyard Image: Courtesy of Running Studios

Craft and detailing are also central to the interior design, as seen in the earthen pots and jars in the verandahs, which effectively act as sculptural elements. Further inside, this also manifests in the minimalist yet intricately moulded seating and tables in the living and dining spaces. Among them, “a thin metal bench inspired by the elevation design is one of the main attractions here. In the dining room, a dining table has been built in wood, contrasting the floor and ceiling textures which have been rendered in cement plaster. An artistic wall rack and engraved painting on the wall are two art pieces that have been placed here,” relays the practice.

View of the furniture in the living area | ↄc House | 3dor Concepts | STIRworld
View of the furniture in the living area Image: Courtesy of Running Studios

There is little to be observed in terms of clutter or over designing here, as most of the space is fairly empty save for the sculptural metal and wooden furniture. Another interesting detail in the design appears in the form of a crucifix carved into the wooden framing of the living room windows, embodying the incredible attention given to each minute element in the structure.

Craft and detailing are paramount to the design | ↄc House | 3dor Concepts | STIRworld
Craft and detailing are paramount to the design Image: Courtesy of Running Studios

Lastly, the home accommodates four bedrooms, arranged in an L-shape along the rear of the structure, with only the kitchen and its associated work area interjecting their sequence. The transparency here is more regulated, with the windows shrinking in size to better address the more private and intimate ambience of these spaces. Contrasting the darker and more stern environments of the rest of the home, the bedrooms have been finished with white plastered walls, such that there is a greater feeling of levity within their bounds.

The dining area overlooks the courtyard | ↄc House | 3dor Concepts | STIRworld
The dining area overlooks the courtyard Image: Courtesy of Running Studios

Reciprocity at a symbiotic level between building and context is seldom observed in contemporary architecture to such a degree, at least on a spiritual level if not on an ecological one. In this regard, ↄc House does not just occupy its site but also ‘feeds’ off it, and in turn, feeds the scenography of the site itself, allowing its residents to embrace the warmth and vitality of living in the lap of nature.

  • Bedrooms feature smaller windows for privacy | ↄc House | 3dor Concepts | STIRworld
    Bedrooms feature smaller windows for privacy Image: Courtesy of Running Studios
  • The dining area overlooks the courtyard | ↄc House | 3dor Concepts | STIRworld
    There is a greater sense of levity in the bedrooms Image: Courtesy of Running Studios
  • The dining area overlooks the courtyard | ↄc House | 3dor Concepts | STIRworld
    The dining area overlooks the courtyard Image: Courtesy of 3dor Concepts

Project Details

Name: ↄc House
Location: Thamarassery, Kerala, India
Year of Completion: 2022
Gross Built Area: 270 sqm
Architect: 3dor Concepts
Lead Architects: Ahmad Thaneem Abdul Majeed, Muhammed Jiyad, Muhammed Naseem

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