Issue 19 & 20 - Pages 88-91

Villa Radhika

Dr. Balkrishna V. Doshi

Professor Balkrishna V. Doshi is an Indian architect, educator, and academician. After initial study in Bombay, he worked with Le Corbusier in Paris (1951-1954) as senior designer, and then in India to supervise Corbusier's projects in Ahmedabad and Chandigarh. Professor Doshi established the Vastu-Shilpa Foundation for Studies and Research in Environmental Design in 1955, known for pioneering work in low-cost housing and city planning. Today, his internationally renowned projects are designed under the name of Vastu-Shilpa Consultants, with offices in Ahmedabad. As an academician, Professor Doshi has been visiting the U.S.A. and Europe since 1958, and has held important chairs in American universities. He has received numerous international awards and honours, including Padma Shri from the Government of India, and an honorary doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania, U.S.A. Professor Doshi served a member of the 1992 Award Master Jury, and was presented a 1995 Aga Khan Award for Architecture for the Aranya Community Housing in Indore, India.

A home is about ‘family’; it’s relationships and values. How do the family members relate to each other and to the world? Does the architecture help mediate between privacy & repose of the individual members on the one hand and their interactions with each other & the outside world on the other? Is it possible to make a ‘container’, which holds diverse domains, which allow the individual family members choices to behave and move at their own pace of differing ages and moods and yet allow peace, togetherness and security as a family? Villa Radhika at Kairavi bungalows at Vastrapur in Ahmedabad attempts to do this for a family of four and their frequent live-in guests.

The site is a square plot in a small private housing society consisting of much larger bungalows. It is situated deep within the society along the main access road abutting the common open area which is also the society garden. This becomes the starting point of the design. Even in such tight urban situations, there lies the opportunity of positioning the openings. Here, the house’s own garden is seen a visual continuation of not only the society garden, but also those of the neighbour’s! Hence, not only are the open spaces of the plot located alongside the existing neighbouring open spaces, but the openings of the house itself are strategically located to allow visual access to all the neighbouring gardens, and also avoid views of the houses that are with the gardens, hence giving the feeling of a house in a large garden.

The house is built of cavity walls and an insulated roof to mitigate the extremely hot climate. The outer wall is concrete cast with recycled wooden planks salvaged from a ship’s pallets. There is an air gap between the rough outer concrete wall and the plastered inner brick wall to provide insulation. The roof slabs inside are a combination of the same rough wooden texture and smooth concrete cast with plywood shuttering, finished in broken pieces of china from waste obtained from a crockery factory. There are numerous protruding skylights on the roof that not only capture a view of the magnificent trees around but also allow gently filtered natural light within. They enable the house to breathe, by sucking in the cool evening breeze and venting out hot air during the day. The skylights are positioned to capture different moods of the sun and the varied seasons. Even a floating cloud or a bird moving on the terrace is registered with the change of light and patterns inside!

The expanse of concrete on two facades also plays with the sense of dimension and scale. The cast-in-situ concrete has a primeval aesthetic, an almost cave-like in appearance, heightened by a vast cantilevered canopy. An infill of natural, warm hued, wood panels dominates the side facing the street, where interspersed with glass, they seem to follow differing rhythms of shadows filtered through the foliage of the trees. The roughness of the concrete is contrasted by a highly polished Jaisalmer stone floor. The stone slabs are left uncut with the joints being filled in with waste stone and glass marbles. The stone setters have used their innate sense of craft to fill in these gaps.

There are no inner walls within the house. Instead, there are only storage cupboards which separate the inside spaces. These are located to offer privacy yet allow sufficient views from one end of the house to the other without losing the sense of one large space with many sub-spaces. The gaps and overlaps between the concrete structure and the plywood storage infill provide the frames & ledges to contain the extensive collection of paintings and sculptures of contemporary Indian artists.

A solar hot water system is installed for all the hot water needs and the design also plans for the provision of Photo voltaic panels to generate 1.3kw of electricity in the future, sufficient for all the lighting and ventilation needs of the house. During the daytime no artificial lighting is required. Even though room level air- conditioning has been integrated; despite 42 degree centigrade ambient external temperatures, it is sparingly used.

The roof with its myriad skylights is like a floating landscape in the sky. It is a place for the visiting peacocks, to fly kites during Uttarayan, or simply gaze at the stars or view the sunrise and sunset. Importantly, the roof also is designed to capture and harvest the monsoon rains into a large underground tank to fulfil the annual drinking water needs of the family. Interestingly, both kite-flying and rain water harvesting are a continuation of a hallowed tradition of the old ‘Pol’ houses of Ahmedabad.

The floor, the walls, the roof – fashioning these primary elements with different materials into different situations of inside & outside, whilst integrating the rich arts, crafts & traditions of our land into a contemporary building, is the tapestry that this architecture tries to weave.

Project title: Radhika villa
Location: 9, Kairvi Bungalow, Vastrapur, Ahmedabad – 380 052
230 02’ 29.5” N 720 31’14.48”E
Design year(s): from 2005 to 2007
Construction year(s): from 2007 to 2009
Architect(s) or architectural firm(s): VĀSTUSHILPĀ CONSULTANTS
Principal(s) in charge: RAJEEV KATHPALIA

Structural engineer(s): N. K. SHAH
Mechanical engineer(s): Sheth Techno Consultants Pvt. Ltd Interior designer(s): VSC
Landscape architect(s): VSC
Others: SERVICES –

General contractor: S. R. Shah
Program: 4 Bed Room, Living, Dinning, Kitchen, Study, Servant Room Structural system: Composite Structure
Major materials: R.C.C., Shear walls & Brick wall for cavity
Site area: 448.35
Building area: 413.00
Total floor area:
Cost of construction: 70 Lacs
Photo Credit : All Photos taken by Rajeev Kathpalia