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Minimalist design works here
Source : The Hindu Property Plus Published On : 2009-01-31 City : Thiruvandrum

A narrow plot, a tough client and grand ideas. These were what an architect faced when he started work on his own house. SANGEETHA UNNITHAN visits an award

It was one of the most challenging projects that A. Dharma Keerthi, architect, and worked on in his 14-year-long career. There was a narrow 3,050-sq-ft (seven-cent) plot, a tough client and grand ideas for a dream home. The toughest thing about the project, however, was that Mr. Keerthi not only had to design the house but also finance it. For, this time, it was his own home in the making.

Mr. Keerthi’s house on Easwaravilasom Road that he designed with inputs from his wife, Bhavana, also an architect, won the second prize in the residence category of the Indian Institute of Architects Kerala Chapter award for excellence in architecture. A simple, white box-like structure from outside, this house amalgamates all the features necessary to make a typical minimalist design look aesthetically rich.

“I have designed nearly 1,100 homes. And I have had some really challenging experiences trying to meet the ideas of my clients who come with recorded videos of television shows and design magazines. But after this project, I realized that there is nothing more difficult that realizing your own dreams. It was like a surgeon doing a surgery on him,” Mr. Keerthi says.

To begin with, the site layout posed challenges. With an apartment block at the rear and houses close by on either side, the layout of the site posed restrictions for proper lighting and ventilation. This was overcome with a skylight over the courtyard. Strips of glass placed on top and on either side of the blank stonewall in the drawing room offer an interesting play of light and shade on the wall.

“We have used toughened glass as the roof of the courtyard as well as for the strips on the blank wall of the drawing room. During dawn and dusk, the space is flooded with natural light. We also extended all the windows up to the roof for better lighting and ventilation,” Mr. Keerthi said.

To combine his wife’s requirements and his own obsessions was yet another challenge. “My wife insisted on four bedrooms, while I wanted a water body within the house with fishes and turtles. To aesthetically incorporate all this on a seven-cent land was quite a task,” he said.

Judicious planning   

However, these demands were fulfilled with judicious planning. The water body at the center of the courtyard formed the focal point of the house. It also gives a floating effect to the adjacent cantilever staircase. The staircase railing bordering the first- floor living room has been converted into a bookshelf.

“Although it was my husband’s suggestion at first, now we are quite happy with the water body which gives a cooling effect to the whole of the ground floor,” Ms. Bhavana says.

What could not be materialized, however, was Mr. Keerthi’s craving for a lawn in front of the house.

With the car porch taking a sizeable portion of the frontage, there was little space left. A patch of pebbles, a small pond and a few plants at the end of the car porch and a small patch of greenery surrounding the well is only what could be managed in the form of a garden.

But the architecture couple had a remedy for this as well. They simply took the lawn upstairs, right on top of the car porch. This first-floor lawn extends from the balcony to the open terrace bordered with plain glass railings.

“Creating a lawn upstairs involves extra effort and expense. You need to use thick slabs and the base needs to be waterproofed,” Mr. Keerthi points out.

His dream home was also one of the simplest projects that Mr. Keerthi had worked on so far. “It is a typical minimalist design. The color pattern is monochromatic, with pale white in the exteriors and shades of yellow in the interiors,” Mr. Keerthi said.

The 2,750-sq.ft house was completed in 13 months. However, even after seven months, the family has not yet reached a consensus on the name of the house.

“For now, it is just called house number 377,” Ms. Bhavana says.

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