by Meghna MehtaJun 12, 2020
Literally translating to “roots” from its native Bangla, Shikor, designed by Dhaka-based Spatial Architects, is a celebration, an evocation of what ties one to land. Built in the Bangladeshi rural countryside close to the financial capital of the region, Chattogram, Shikor is an inconspicuous architectural intervention that celebrates its simplicity: in form, material, and style. In a quest to find its roots, and to revere those of the Khan family, owners of the ancestral land on which Shikor stands, the house adopts an architectural language that is at once perceivably timeless, but also one that is bound to ‘age’ and not ‘decay’.
"The intention was to create a space for children and grandchildren in such a way that they would spend their time during the holidays, as well as to pass a witness on to the new generations,” states the Khan family on their intention of building the farmhouse. Khan’s ancestors came from a long line of farmers, akin to a lot of natives from Bangladesh. However, similar to successive generations moving to nearby cities for better opportunities, Khan too left his family home to teach in the city, staying in the quarters of school campuses. Currently the couple, both teachers, enjoy retirement in the city. Their strong ties to his “roots” and native land, coupled with the existing rural home falling into disarray and disuse, brought upon the decision to rebuild the family house as a rural retreat for themselves and their future generations. Through foresight and hindsight, inheriting and leaving behind, a rich narrative guides the design, material choices, and construction of Shikor.
The house is spread over 440 sqm of vast farmland, rife with natural features including vegetation and water, and draws succinctly from them. Shikor showcases the handcrafted workmanship of local artisans, making the most of all the natural resources granted by its landscape. Its latticed, layered brickwork is reminiscent of a bamboo hand fan, and despite being composed of visually stationary volumes, the outlying perforated walls add visual as well as literal lightness. Coupled with the skylights lighting various spaces of the house through narrow overhead orifices, each corner is converted into “a living museum of light and shadow”, as stated to Naimul Ahsan Khan, founder and principal architect at Spatial Architects, on his conscious effort for the place to provide differential, ever changing experiences from sunrise to sunset, and from summer to winter.
The mass of the house is punctured in the middle through a partially shaded court, a transitional volume that separates the distinct frontal and backside of the house, each with its own appealing elevational properties. The house’s ‘solidity’ too, composed of various iterations in terracotta bricks, follows a degressive curve from south to the south-east, to allow breezes to percolate into the “netted” retreat-residence from all three open directions.
Spatially, Shikor’s habitable spaces are generously divided among two floors, and borrow from native Bangla typologies. The ground floor is principally divided between the “kachari”, the formal living room with an isolated garden front, and the dining hall that finds a quasi-continuation into the outside through its rear tip projecting into the “poschati” verandah. The layout of the upper floor, housing the bedrooms, the “gudam”, is also partially inspired by a resort in an effort to balance privacy and conviviality. What is stated to be the “fulcrum” of the project, its most striking feature, is its “cavaedium” that recreates the atmosphere of a traditional “jolghat”, a screened pond with stairs for females to bathe. The ‘ghat’ is lined on one side with a rustic open staircase comprising cast-in-concrete steps, suspended at one end from the brick wall abutting the water body, and held at the other by steel cables and anchors.
The narrative of memory and lineage is also kept alive through a series of ingenious interior design choices that effortlessly meld with the bare structure of the house. The result is a unified entity of fondness that never quite makes it seem like an armchair was placed at a corner of the house, but like it has always been there. Most of the furniture in the house is built from recycled wood, salvaged from old houses. A number of light fixtures in the house are lovingly formed from metal pots, conventionally in brass, and used for carrying or holding water. Within the house’s own “jolghat”, the metal pot lamps perched on the walls, along with the suspended bamboo fixtures light up the aquamarine coloured pool of water, a series of cost saving decisions that are also evocative of a timeworn memory of rural living.
Name: Shikor, a country house
Location: Puichari, Banskhali, Chattogram, Bangladesh
Site Area: 2488 sq.m. (26784 sq. ft.)
Total Floor Area: 446.09 sq.m. (4800 sq.ft.)
Architect: Spatial Architects
Principal Architects: Mohammad Naimul Ahsan Khan, Farzana Rahman
Associate Architects: Nusrat Azim Mithila
Structural Engineer: Md. Saidur Rahman