Building a country side residence- Ranjeet Mukherjee

This is in continuation of our previous feature on Ranjeet Mukherjee, of ‘The Vrindavan Projects’. Based out of Gurgaon The Vrindavan Project is a vehicle for his artistic expression where it tries to create beautiful buildings. In this feature, Ranjeet shares with Gallopper, his first project of building a country side residence – Bhatia Farm Residence.
Picture1While most of the people have changed their mentalities with modern times, there are still a few who like to invest in old-school home décor. So here we bring you the design of an Indian home that makes use of old village style architecture and layout. It has possibly incorporated all traditional patterns that constantly remind the owner of bygone eras.

This building is a private residence at an organic farm owner located in rural Maharashtra, near Mumbai. Cared for by the Bhatia family over the years, now this erstwhile barren land is a thriving oasis of greens with hundreds of fruit trees and rich biodiversity. Ranjeet says, “The client who commissioned this home is an avid ecologist and advocate of urban composting, in his neighbourhood at Marine Drive. We are an architectural design and construction firm, working exclusively with ecologically appropriate materials and sustainable technologies. When approached to build this countryside house, it was evident from the onset that our client’s vision resonated perfectly with our own.

Picture4“The farmhouse thus sculpted exudes a raw, natural beauty. It boasts of green energies that intelligently complement the standing structure, which rests solely on load bearing rammed earth walls. This unique technology, where earth is prepared and compressed by hand on site has been used in this region, in this format, for the first time. For the roof, we decided to use inverted terracotta pots as hollow fillers for concrete slabs. The pots create hollow fillers in a normal slab thickness, minimizing concrete content. This method creates a waffle effect in the slab which is aesthetically unique, and drastically reduces the dead load of the structure. Recycled wood for doors, windows and columns was also sourced from demolished mansions in Tamil Nadu”.

hhhhhThe lack of locally available skilled masons in the area posed quite a challenge. The team responded to these circumstances by taking on the contractor’s role themselves, working directly with villagers from the nearest settlement primarily farmers with little experience in construction. Harvest seasons had to be factored into project scheduling, over and above the necessity to teach every aspect of building from scratch. To their delight the enthusiasm displayed by the locals was extraordinary. “As we commenced with demonstrating a method of creating stable foundations using only compressed earth, their interest in the work was locked. Our approach was cost effective as compared to other strategies employed in the region thus far”, expresses Ranjeet.

Picture3Having saved on the need to purchase volumes of brick for the main structure, the workers welcomed the knowledge of this technology, and were visibly proud to be the first ones in this region to succeed in creating modern rammed earth walls. Owing to proper technique and carful execution, the surface of these earth walls is aesthetically pleasing, and did not need to be plastered; thereby further saving costs, time and effort.

It is noteworthy that all doors, windows and load bearing columns were sourced as recycled materials, salvaged from demolished mansions at the Karaikkudi town of Tamil Nadu. Timber can be considered as one of the few truly renewable construction materials available. Therefore the incorporation re-used timber was a double bonus in terms of sustainability quotients and embodied energy efficiency of the building.

Integrated with other landscape elements, the designers decided to attempt an innovation of the region’s traditional roof form as well, using locally acquired timber with standard Mangalore tiles. Taking the form of a self supporting gazebo, designed as five interlocking pyramid structures, this well ventilated outdoor space is open on all four sides. Providing ample recreation area, the feature serves as an extension of the home while providing much needed shade for the swimming pool.

fgffA swimming pool made primarily of local stone has been built with buttress walls, retaining water just as in vernacular step wells. The large surface area of the tank harvests vast amounts of rainfall, while serving as a farming water reservoir for dry spells. Overflow of this pool fills the house moat, and feeds plantations thereafter, using only gravity for circulation.The designers have created a beautiful seating outside this house that overlooks the green landscapes. This place has an Indian baithak designed beautifully along wooden pillars and wooden details on the ceiling. This area represents a typical Indian village setting.

Picture15As one enters the bungalow, there is no lavish living room to welcome you. Instead, one is greeted with a small seating area in one corner that is embellished by contrasting cushions and a wooden coffee table. Adhering to the demands of the discerning client, the designers have not incorporated any luxurious feature even in the interiors of this house. This corner is well lit with the help of a single bright bulb.Even the bathroom could not escape the rustic charm. It is well-designed using brick interiors and stone flooring that takes you back in those conventional Indian villages. Equipped with modern sanitary ware and glass demarcations, the bathroom tries to mingle past with the present. It has provisions for both eras and even has an additional bathing space just like the olden times.One may also notice the antique switchboards that are rare. We would really like to compliment the detailed research of the designers.

The kitchen has a modern twist to the old rustic space. The inclusion of colored wall tiles brings agility and brightness in the area, which is further accentuated by the green cushioned cane bar stools that surround the breakfast counter. The kitchen has been designed with the same rustic theme, but includes all modern fittings, devices and appliances.

The exteriors of this farmhouse display an unconventional seating area that basically lends a futuristic appeal to the whole farmhouse. This zone has a star shaped roof designed out of cane for an organic and earthy feel. The inside is designed with Indian style baithaks on both sides. These are further embellished with soft, comfortable and bright cushions to enjoy a light chat with your friends and family.

rrRanjeet signs off saying that, “The product has to be an authentic contextually appropriate modern prototype, for a region now subject to urban sprawl”.