• This House with Courtyard Aligns to the Principles of Nature | ESSTEAM

    The architects set out on a beautiful journey to realise their dream in this house with courtyard on this 1500-square-metre piece of land. It is part of a gated residential society in suburban Surat, developed by fourteen acquaintances and friends. The spatial requirement for this house with courtyard included four bedrooms, one for the mother, one each for two kids, and one for themselves.

    Editor’s Note: “This expansive orthogonal residence in Surat embraces nature at every turn, weaving it seamlessly into the design. Thoughtfully planned to balance public and private spaces, it fosters harmonious interactions. The form-finished concrete walls, ceilings, floors, and Indian sandstone evoke a profound sense of minimalism and belonging.” ~Simran Khare

    This House with Courtyard Aligns to the Principles of Nature | ESSTEAM

    house with courtyard

    The Tale Of Three Courts

    Having worked on nearly 500 design projects in the last fifteen years as a principal, nothing can be more challenging than designing a villa for yourself. So many ideas, so many possibilities, and so many aspirations! All of this comes down to the vision that we as an architect couple created for our own house: ‘A dwelling that exhibits a mature restraint in cutting out all that is unnecessary and welcoming all that is right and aligned to the principles of nature’.

    house with courtyard

    The plan for this house with courtyard consists of four ‘C’ shaped walls – two facing north, and two facing south. This essentially generates two independent building blocks dividing the plot into three courtyards.

    The linear block facing the north court takes care of the public areas like the living room, hobby room, dining room and kitchen. All these spaces directly open into the north court, which is the formal lawn directly accessible from the street in case of larger gatherings.

    house with courtyard

    house with courtyard

    house with courtyard

    The other ‘C’ shaped block faces the South Court and houses four equally sized bedrooms, two on ground floor and two stacked above them.

    house with courtyard

    house with courtyard

    This makes the South Court the private court meant for family sitouts. As one enters the house, opening a giant door between the two blocks, comes a real surprise—that of the Centre Court, or, in a more traditional sense, the Chowk. This is a large, non-programmed space that holds the entire house together.

    house with courtyard

    house with courtyard

    This naturally lit space allows both the private and the public, the formal and the casual, and the outside and the inside to come together.

    house with courtyard

    house with courtyard

    house with courtyard

    Material Matters

    After having derived a very simple orthogonal plan for this house with courtyard, deciding the material palette was the next challenge to practicing restraint. We formed finished concrete walls and ceilings using a single material to create the entire shell of the house. 

    house with courtyard

    house with courtyard

    house with courtyard

    For the flooring, furniture and fit-outs, keeping the maintenance aspects in mind, we made a filter of not using materials that would last for less than twenty years.

    So out went the tiles from the floor and wall cladding, and in came the concrete floor, Indian sand stones, and granite. Out went plywood from the house in totality, and in came solid teak wood, aluminium, stones, and glass for furniture.

    We replaced the heavy flush doors with high-quality, natural-finish anodized aluminium doors and windows. So the entire house is set out with a very limited material palette. 

    Furnishing The House

    With a firm belief that wood is a truly renewable resource, all the bedrooms were designed using just one material. We used open-pore polished natural teak wood procured from a forest near Valsad, just about 100 km from the site.

    The furniture exemplifies the craft of making solid wood furniture, with a huge emphasis on interesting and intricate wood joineries.

    Authentic Work

    The bed and window dressing of each room give colour, character, and individuality, inspired by the works of four master artists: S. H. Raza, Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Klee, and Georgia O’Keeffe. The fusion of interesting Batik works adds a lot of authenticity and depth to the bed and window dressing ideas.

    The idea also extends to the cushions in the living room seating, which interpret Batik designs from the works of renowned Indian artist Jaimini Roy.

    The furniture for the entire public block, mainly the storages, consists of stone and aluminum, finished with back-painted glass.

    Welcome To The Jungle

    Now, having created a highly functional canvas, the house was ready to accept a thematic overlay of nature, which would provide further meaning and identity to the house.

    My wife, an architect, artist, and photographer, intervened with a giant banyan tree, with roots in the South Court and foliage spreading all over the Chowk and the public spaces of the house, till its branches peeped out into the North Court. This sets the visual tone of the entire house as one keeps seeing the tree in parts from almost all the spaces, hence relating to the wholeness and massiveness of the tree.

    This gesture also gave a clue for the selection of stones to be used in the house for flooring, bathrooms, furniture, and landscape. We sourced a very rare kind of brown granite for the trunk, complemented by Kota stone and a beautiful green sandstone from Rajasthan. 

    The ‘Jungle’ theme resonates in a rather subtle way through some interesting colourful artworks and photographs occupying various locations in the house. She designed most of the artworks, including the peacock and the Ganesh, and took photographs herself. Thus contributing significantly to the overall creation of the house and giving a strong sense of ownership. 

    North Court Lawns

    Out on the North Court lawns is an interesting installation by her, ‘Soulebration’. It is about a group of forest aborigines’ celebrating life every day. Some other creations by artist friends include the ‘dragon flies’,  ‘the three monkeys’, ‘the sunflowers’, and ‘the wild flowers’ (created from the scrap of bicycle parts).

    Aligning with the principles of nature was a very important part of the vision. The house is a serious endeavour to address the key issues of sustainability. The design profession needs to address these in all projects. 

    Passive Design Strategies

    As passive aspects of the design, the house with courtyard addresses two key issues. Interestingly, we had simulated the model of the house for natural daylighting. The shading elements impact the heat gains and wind flow through the various spaces of the house. The end result has, as an office, increased our conviction in these simulating exercises beyond any doubt.

    100 percent daylighting:

    If one doesn’t need to turn on the light anywhere in the house, practically from 8 a.m. to 5.30 p.m., all year round, it’s a wonderful experience. The best part is that most of the time, light is glare-free and diffused. Thus making it usable in the climate of Surat’s latitude.

    Natural wind flow comfort:

    All the spaces in the public block have no walls on the north or south but just a series of doors that allow a steady wind flow. Thus generating the experience of almost sitting in a semi-open space in the hot and humid climate of Surat. Even the private spaces, i.e., the bedrooms, have two large windows strategically placed. This is to ensure good wind flow through all of them.

    Sustainable Design

    We have made quite a few efforts in terms of active aspects of sustainable design. The following are the key ones: Enhanced Indoor Air Quality (IAQ): Firstly, there is practically no paint used in the entire house, and all wooden furniture is coated with low-VOC water-based PU coatings. Thus, the house has almost no VOC. To add to that, the green landscape in the Chowk has plants that enhance the oxygen levels in the internal atmosphere of the house.

    Renewable Energy: The terrace houses 10 KW-capacity solar power-generating PV panels, which take care of over 60 percent of the power needs of the house.

    Energy Efficiency:

    We achieve this through the use of highly energy-efficient air conditioners, electronic and electrical equipment, and exclusively high-power LEDs as the artificial light source. The house is at least 30 percent more energy efficient than the benchmark regular house in the regional context.

    Water Management Efficiency

    The house uses at least 35% less water than a comparable house through the use of faucets, sanitary ware with low flow rates, and a well-developed irrigation system for the landscape. We funnel all the rainwater from the plot and society into the ground for groundwater recharge. 

    Reuse of Salvaged Materials and Furniture:

    We have implemented active and effective ideas to reuse salvaged materials, construction waste, and some furniture from the old house. All the stone waste has been consumed in the paving of hardscaped areas. We also reused the seven-year-old sofa sets from the previous house in the living and hobby rooms. We carried out the white china mosaic on the terrace using third-quality and rejected tiles. 

    Climate resistant plantations

    The landscape in all three courts has been carried out using local plants that have good survival instincts to suit the climate of Surat. We grow quite a bit of vegetables and fruits, adequate for personal as well as neighbourly use.

    For its efforts, the house already got recognised with a platinum rating in the IGBC Green Homes category. However, with all our humility, we would like to accept that a lot more can be done. Also, we will improve it as our learning curve improves.

    Fact File

    Designed by: ESSTEAM

    Project Type: Residential Architecture Design

    Project Name: Svasti

    Location : Surat, Gujarat

    Year Built: 2016

    Project Size: 6995 Sq.ft

    Principal Architects: Ar. Snehal Shah & Ar. Saloni Shah

    Team Design Credits: Ar. Krishna Khatlawala, Ketna Padhar, Arjun Sharma, Bhikhu Rathod & Chirag Kansagara

    Photograph Courtesy: Ishita Sitwala

    Name of Client: Snehal Shah & Saloni Shah

    Products / Materials / Vendors: Construction Materials: Ambuja Cement, Ultratech Cement, Tata Steel Construction Chemicals: Perma, Dow Corning – Shipra Enterprise, Surat / Stone & Tiles: The Stone World, Surat / Plumbing Materials: Jaquar / Lighting Fixtures: Shobhan Interiors, Surat / HVAC Equipments: Toshiba – Winner Refrigeration, Surat / Doors: Schuco Germany – Mr Pavan Iyenger, Surat, Technofab, Surat / Partitions: Sanitaryware Vilroy & Boch – Surfaces Ahmedabad / Windows & Glazing: Schuco Germany – Mr Pavan Iyenger, Surat, Technofab, Surat / Furniture: Saga Furniture Mall, Surat / Paint: ICA – Surat Painters, Surat / Artworks: Oblique & Assemblage, Surat / Hardware: Ideal Hardware, Surat

    The Firm’s Website Link: ESSTEAM

    Firm’s Instagram Link: ESSTEAM

    Firm’s Facebook Link: ESSTEAM

    For Similar Project>>> A Climate Responsive Courtyard House In Kerala With An Earthy Palette And Natural Materials

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