by Pooja Suresh HollannavarJun 17, 2023
A building made entirely in stone architecture is not an entirely unique concept. In the modern world, however, it is a rare concept. In traditional Rajasthani architecture, stone has been a primary building material, with palaces made entirely of stone. The dawn of postmodern architecture slowly reduced the regal material to a cladding medium and has since been traded out for either the more convenient ‘tiles’ or the seemingly more luxurious marble.
Mumbai-based Malik Architecture, with the Stone House in Jaipur, India, had a unique opportunity to create a modern dwelling, built completely out of stone. This meant that the load-bearing construction that conventionally relied on thick walls had to be re-engineered to create a lighter but just as effective structure. This was achieved by creating a hollow and interlocking structural wall system that resulted in a potent thermal gap, creating a temperature difference of almost five degrees celsius, a tremendously desired feature in Jaipur’s polarising climate. In addition to this thermal gap, the hollow walls also reduce material consumption by 30 per cent and provide space to integrate services within. The flooring alternated between single-span stone pieces and vaults. All of the stone used in the building was either extracted from quarries for the superstructure elements or from the site for the substructure elements.
The house weaves itself around a narrow courtyard that gets narrower as it extends into slits and fissures through the house. Volumes of the house play with solids and voids to effectively detract from the effects of the sharp summer sun. The glazing at the front and rear are both protected by overhanging hand-cut stone screens that can be operated by hand and are used to manipulate privacy, light, and views. The use of glass throughout the house, such as in the staircase design, keeps the spaces from feeling too constricted and the large round windows provide an essential break in the linearity of the home. The furnishings inside the house are kept soft to offset the solid stone.
The natural texture of the stone used is retained by using traditional stone masonry tools, for ‘splitting’ the stone instead of the high-yield gangsaw extraction. Masons from surrounding villages with generations of experience in working with stone were brought on. This combination of generational knowledge and modern-day engineering assisted the head stonemason in resolving the persistent issue of identifying the most favourable size of stone—to be carried and laid, as, unlike factory-made material, no two stone slabs are the same.
This blended method of building, where traditional dry stone construction methods meet modern-day advancements halfway, is clearly reflected in the final structure, which is a home of clean and contemporary lines, built with a culturally rooted and traditional material. Even singular facets of the structure echo this blend. For example, carved stone screens or jalis have been a part of traditional architecture in Rajasthan for centuries. However, the screens in this Jaipur home, though still created out of stone, are not intricately carved, but are cut strategically to create a ‘Tetris’ of lights and shadows that creates a modern facade design with a nod to tradition. The screens maintain the visual relationships between spaces while protecting the privacy of the users.
When asked about the process of designing these stone screens, the Indian architecture firm shared, “Each individual stone panel was designed based on wind movement and solar orientation, with the desired balance between the apertures and the opacity. It was crucial to keep in mind the materiality while calculating the sizes and the distance between the square openings to optimise both craftsmanship and installation.”
In addition to the use of stone as a building material, the residential architecture roots itself in its surroundings by way of large doors and windows that visually connect the inside of the house to the outside. The colour of the stone reflects the desert state the house is set in, but the inclusion of plants by way of existing trees as well as meticulously landscaped pockets provides a much-needed visual and temporal relief.
The Stone House is an ingenious example of why architecture must always try to respond to the context of the space it occupies, because not only is the result much richer visually, but it is also a more responsible choice environmentally.
Name: Stone House
Location: Jaipur, Rajasthan, India
Site Area: 430 sq.m
Built Up Area: 740 sq.m
Year of Completion: 2019
Architect: Malik Architecture
Design Team: Kamal Malik, Arjun Malik, Ketan Chaudhary, Payal Hundiwala, Soumya Shukla, Neha Kotian
Structure Consultant: GES-Global Engineering Services
Plumbing Consultant: GES-Global Engineering Services
Electrical Consultant: GES-Global Engineering Services
HVAC Consultant: Coolair System-Daikin
Rain Water Harvesting: Mungekar and Associates
Landscape Consultant: Malik Architecture