Uru Consulting’s Box House in Kerala weds Scandinavian minimalism with Indian craft

‘Function’ forms the crux of Box House, an ecological Indian home with open, handsome interiors, its white volume flanked by fragrant, local trees and a century-old stepped pond.

by Jincy Iype Published on : Nov 06, 2020

Uru Consulting commits itself to the ‘paradigm of sustainability’ with the unembellished Box House, described as a “clean, well-lighted place,” borrowing from the title of a short story by Hemingway. Located near Calicut International Airport, in the Malappuram district of the tropical, south Indian state of Kerala, Box House makes local breeze, sunlight, and native, sweet-smelling trees central characters in the design. The dwelling marries Scandinavian minimalism with earthy craft and colour sensibilities of south India, formed as a ‘plain canvas’ open to interpretation and future improvisations of the client. 

Mud path leading to the minimal Box House | Box House designed by Uru Consulting | STIRworld
Mud path leading to the minimal Box House Image: Prasath Mohan, Insaf Palayil

A chalk white geometric volume sits among fresh green landscaping with lanky, towering palm trees for company, manifesting itself as “a rare blend of aesthetic refinement and mundanity. We believe that the residence stands out for its harmonious geometric, Bauhaus shapes, deep-rooted in ‘function’ - this is the crux of the Box House,” informs Safder Machilakath, CEO and Managing Partner, Uru Consulting.

White geometric volume sits among palm trees | Box House designed by Uru Consulting | STIRworld
White geometric volume sits among palm trees Image: Prasath Mohan, Insaf Palayil

The residential architecture portrays a lesson in sustainability, by embracing the phrase Going Local is the New Global. Uru places the two-storeyed Box House amid a lush green rice field with tall coconut trees flanking its form, bringing to life a picture perfect, verdant village in Kerala. The materials used for construction are sourced and manufactured locally – terracotta coloured clay tiles of Feroke are used to construct latticed screens (jaali), while Indian white marble covers the floors. Coal black, polished laterite stones act as the entrance steps that face a buffalo grass landscaping.

  • Laterite stone and buffalo grass landscaping at the entry | Box House designed by Uru Consulting | STIRworld
    Laterite stone and buffalo grass landscaping at the entry Image: Prasath Mohan, Insaf Palayil
  • White marbled verandah looks out to the calming greenery | Box House designed by Uru Consulting | STIRworld
    White marbled verandah looks out to the calming greenery Image: Prasath Mohan, Insaf Palayil

Naturally fragrant, native flowering trees and plants such as Elanji, Parijatham, and Mandaram are planted in the plot, calming the eyes and promoting a sense of well-being. During the design and construction of the Box House, great care was taken to leave the existing coconut trees on the site undisturbed, planning the house around and with it. The plot also contained a more than century-old water body, which the design team reserved and reconstructed into a stepped pond framed with orange brick, maintaining its original function and placement, as a poetic, ecological feature.

The renovated, stepped water body | Box House designed by Uru Consulting | STIRworld
The renovated, stepped water body Image: Prasath Mohan, Insaf Palayil

“The colour palette of the Box House belongs to the hues and scents of mother earth, and the typical scenic Kerala topography. Shades of mud, foliage, brick and stone give rise to the natural colours of green, white, black, and laterite used to refresh the residence, outlining it as a demure, earthy beauty,” shares Muhammed Siyad, CTO and Partner, Uru Consulting.

  • Living room | Box House designed by Uru Consulting | STIRworld
    Living room Image: Prasath Mohan, Insaf Palayil
  • Bedroom | Box House designed by Uru Consulting | STIRworld
    Bedroom Image: Prasath Mohan, Insaf Palayil

The architects also describe the space as “a home of unreserved happiness”, owing to its feel good, roomy aesthetic, guarded and open at the same time. The client wanted an interior design that manifested plenty of light and ventilation, with lesser walls and screening elements. Every area within the handsome Box House is privy to the calming views of the rice field from various levels, from the expansive, sunken living room, through each step of the timber stairs, the mezzanine floor, to the recreational balcony space. The centre of the house becomes the focal point of connection, giving unhindered views throughout, and extending family interaction by linking the stairs, courtyard and dining area. The space further propagates connections with other areas of the house like the porch outside, the kitchen and two roomy bedrooms on the ground floor with the places upstairs.

  • Inside the Box House | Box House designed by Uru Consulting | STIRworld
    Inside the Box House Image: Prasath Mohan, Insaf Palayil
  • The connecting central area | Box House designed by Uru Consulting | STIRworld
    The connecting central area Image: Prasath Mohan, Insaf Palayil

Uru team stitched into their design a vision for the future – vernacular and smart energy saving for the generations to come. By empowering the Box House with solar panels, the home hardly needs electricity for light or fan usage during the day as the design ensures enough and above inflow of natural light and ventilation. A sturdy rain water harvesting system is also set in place, including the water body outside and the laterite tiles on the porch that do not hinder the abundant rain that Kerala receives, from being absorbed into the soil. A smart waste management tool in the form of a biogas plant is also included, subscribing to their commitment to preserving energy and clean living.

  • The overhang acts as a shade from the sun and rain | Box House designed by Uru Consulting | STIRworld
    The overhang acts as a shade from the sun and rain Image: Prasath Mohan, Insaf Palayil
  • The colour palette marries Scandinavian minimalism and colours of earth | Box House designed by Uru Consulting | STIRworld
    The colour palette marries Scandinavian minimalism and colours of earth Image: Prasath Mohan, Insaf Palayil

The Box House is designed to resist, channel and reduce the impact of the intense wind, monsoon rain and heat received on its south west side, along with presenting lovely views to the outside greenery. The overhangs formulate into broader sunshades, shielding the house from the scorching sun and heavy downpour. Uru also inserted cavity walls (double layered wall with a hollow in between) whose two brick skins give better insulation than solid walls, as the air between them reduces the transmission of heat, along with acting as a good form of sound insulation.

  • Pocket windows present views of the rice field | Box House designed by Uru Consulting | STIRworld
    Pocket windows present views of the rice field Image: Prasath Mohan, Insaf Palayil
  • Home theatre | Box House designed by Uru Consulting | STIRworld
    Home theatre Image: Prasath Mohan, Insaf Palayil

Uru Consuting also shares that the new criterion for choosing to build or buy a house in Kerala is that its architecture must be able to survive natural calamities – this Indian state has seen monstrous floods devastating it the last few years during monsoon, leading to loss of life and property. “During its construction, Kerala had faced and survived two floods, consecutively in 2018 and 2019, which forced us to plan a more scientifically guarded landscaping in the plot. We can proudly claim now that the landscaping and other architectural elements have protected the Box House from the second flood as well,” concludes Uru Consulting.

Box House as seen at night | Box House designed by Uru Consulting | STIRworld
Box House as seen at night Image: Prasath Mohan, Insaf Palayil

Project Details

Name: The Box House
Location: Near Calicut Airport, Malappuram, Kerala, India
Gross Built Area:  5400 sq ft
Architect: Uru Consulting
Lead Architects: Safder Machilakath
Design Team: Mohamed Shabeeb P, Muhammed Siyad MC, Safwan PM
Clients: Mustafa Moidu Palayil
Engineering: Zeros and Ones Constructions, Ramanatkara, Kozhikode
Landscape: Unique Garden, Thrissur
Consultants: Design Spectrum, Kozhikode ( structural) & Green Spark, Kozhikode ( MEP)
Collaborators: Jaseel Abdul Kareem (albatross)

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