Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Palmyra House

Nandgaon, Maharashtra, India
completed 2007

Located outside of Mumbai on the Arabian Sea, Palmyra House was built as a refuge from the bustle of the busy city. The 3000 sq ft. house consists of two wooden louvered structures separated by a courtyard and pool, set inside of a functioning coconut plantation. Anchored to stone platforms, the structures overlook a network of wells and aqueducts that weave the site into an inhabitable whole. Living room, study and master bedroom are contained in the north volume, while the south volume contains the kitchen, dining, and guest bedrooms. Set in the plaza between the buildings, the pool provides a channel for swimming towards endless vistas of palm trees to the east and the sea to the west.

Structural framing for the house was built of ain wood, a local hardwood, and was constructed using traditional interlocking joinery. The extensive louvres were handcrafted from the outer part of the palmyra trunk [a local palm species]. Exteriors are detailed with hand-worked copper flashing and standing seam aluminum roofs; interior surfaces are finished with teakwood and India Patent Stone, a refined pigmented plaster. Locally quarried black basalt was used to construct the aqueduct walls and pool courtyard.

Leiti 360 Resort

Leiti, Uttaranchal, India
completed 2007

Located at 8,000 feet above sea level in the foothills of the north Indian Himalayan range, the project is perched on a promontory overlooking the picturesque Ramganga Valley. The site is a two hour walk from the nearest motorable road and is accessed by a narrow walking trail carved into the steep mountain face above stepped terraces of rice paddies and wheat fields.

Clustered around a central dining and lounge structure, a series of guest units are built into the contours of the terraced hilltop. Half-meter thick stone retaining walls define the interior of each bedroom and wrap around the bathroom and private courtyard. Marked by the details of an age-perfected craft, the handworked stone has a tactile richness that accentuates the beauty of the simple structures. The stone walls firmly anchor each structure and provide enough thermal mass to passively heat and cool the unit. Large wood framed windows run the length of the bedroom, orienting the room outwards and bringing in natural light. Each unit is positioned to enhance the experience of peace and solitude in the mountain landscape, with outdoor patios and open stone firepits that look out onto views of plunging valleys and glacial peaks.

The dry stacked masonry walls were built by local masons using stone quarried nearby and carried to site by porters and mules. All other materials, such as timber, metal sheeting, canvas, plumbing fixtures, solar panels, and glazing – including the 9 x 4 foot single sheet of glass for the main entrance – were carried to the site by hand. Water for the resort is sourced from a nearby rain catchment basin and is heated directly by the sun. Stored solar energy powers the main kitchen and charges portable solar lanterns for guests.

The site is connected to neighboring villages through a network of foot trails along which daily supplies are transported. Local farming continues on the terraces between the dwellings, and migrant herds of sheep, goats and cattle forage on the grassy landscape. The project is envisioned as a temporary settlement designed to be dismantled in ten years, leaving a minimal impact on its natural surroundings.

Tara Baoli

Kashid, Maharashtra, India
completed 2006

Surrounded by mountains, forests, and the turquoise waters of the Arabian Sea, the house is configured around a tropical scent garden filled with Plumeria, ferns, grasses, bamboo and jasmine. Open louvred corridors wrap the living areas, orienting the house inwards to the central courtyard. Beneath the courtyard lies a secret room filled with water from a subterranean aquifer. Light diminishes as one descends the stairs through a stone corridor, intensifying a sense of passage into the earth. The pool has a comforting silence, as water enters the building without ripples or sound. The subterranean room is a refuge from the hot Indian sun, piercing the ground through circular air holes casting shafts of light across the stone walls into water. Inside the stone-lined cavity, ocean sounds reverberate from above and water fluctuates freely, responsive to the seasons and tides. When it rains, water from the roof of the house percolates into the well, recharging the aquifer. The artesian well provides water for the house and gardens through the year.

all photos copyright Studio Mumbai / Prabuddha Das Gupta 2007