by Zohra KhanSep 23, 2022
Delving on its unique, overwhelming site conditions: that of a burgeoning multi-storey apartment building to its north, and of a neighbouring residence to its east, the Plain Ties House by Matharoo Associates in Surat, Gujarat, attempts to look inward in search of that morsel of peace and privacy that becomes an increasingly priced possession in today’s urban living. It is located within a gated community, albeit with no intermediate compound walls, and a generous, shared community garden. Located towards the residence’s south side, the residential design and its internal planning is then geared towards finding the desired privacy inward, “turning its back” on the structures in its vicinity. This is manifested in the form of a circular core, the heart and hearth of the residence, with the other spaces occurring concentrically at first, to more linear, block-like in form as the on-ground footprint pans out from its almost cosmic, fixed-in-space central point. The choice of exposed concrete in this case to adorn the house’s exteriors and interiors, its very identity, not only helps in imparting the private residence an ageless yet metamorphic quality as the concrete weathers, but also accentuates this inward-looking, coiled philosophy that the house adapts.
With its unyielding, and on instance, a bare, near-monolithic form closed off on three sides, the available landscape to the building, at least visually, is magnified toward the southern community garden. The central, circular volume of the house appears to be “scooped out” as opposed to an additive agglomeration of space in its layout, serving as the centre-stage for the architects’ intention to revive and retain multigenerational living under a single roof. This family living area is cocooned in by swirling concrete walls positioned along arcs of varying radii to facilitate different levels of enclosure for this sanctum of a space, further animated by a skylight on top. The space comes alive with the light patches created on ground by the sun travelling across the horizon, through the day and across seasons, casting shadows along this monolith. The circular space’s innermost walls “slide” along the core’s circumference to either connect or bifurcate the inner and outer, the private and the public.
The spatial planning of the rest of the house is followed in an orbital manner along this central core. The need for passages and corridors is impressively eliminated by the helical staircase arising from and circling along the curved wall, leading to the upper floors of the house and doubling up as an overlooking library. Through its minimal landings providing direct access to each of the sleeping quarters for the family members, the house’s volumes come together seamlessly in the third dimension through deliberately interlocked masses, apart from being held by the core at the planar, two-dimensional level. In essence, the house is tied together by this staircase, according to the team at Matharoo Associates that is led by veteran Indian architect Gurjeet Singh Matharoo and Komal Matharoo, principal at the firm.
The Plain Ties House stands on deep foundations owing to the region’s predominant black cotton soil footing the house’s roots, accommodating a number of additional, ancillary functions – including a clinic, meditation space, temple, gym, activity room, and stores along with staff quarters, underground, in a large basement. This also helps in considerably reducing the on-ground footprint and overall mass of the structure, thus responding to the client’s brief in totality with a scale that is closer to and more tangible for a human. Springing from the same foundations, the concrete walls on the outside assume the appearance of freestanding planes, almost sculptural in visual and tactile quality. While these walls are tied together by thin horizontal weather shades, hand-laid terrazzo flooring is poured over the projecting sills and lintels, and is described as “flowing out” from these projections. The use of terrazzo as a material highlight, softer, muter in appearance when contrasted with the boldness of the generously used concrete, works toward enhancing the visual separation between the concrete planes, and serving as an additional bridge between the materiality of the inside of the house and the outside.
Likewise, the interior design of the house too adopts a scheme that contrasts with the more stable nature of concrete. Pop colours and bright hues fill the interior spaces through the upholstery it hosts and the art that adorns it, imparting a lively effervescence to the house, especially when staged in front of the greys of the concrete. The central core particularly comes under notice here, with its amber hued circular seating, designed to mimic the profile of the walls circumscribing it. The three generations of the family must find themselves at this activated core of the house by default, providing immense opportunities for familial living and communal activities. “In a time when the age-old tradition of joint family living is disintegrating, the house attempts to retain closely knit family ties”, states the design team at Matharoo Associates on the genesis of Plain Ties.
Name: Plain Ties House
Location: Surat, Gujarat
Architects: Matharoo Associates
Gross Built Area: 9,130 sq. ft.
Structural design: Rushabh Consultants
Interior design: Matharoo Associates
Landscape design: Matharoo Associates