In this brutalist Surat home crafted by DOT, design wizardry and myriad challenges give way to a stellar architectural edifice
JAN 18, 2024 | By Shriti Das
Pablo Picasso said, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” When realised successfully, the outtake is delightfully audacious. Krishna Mistry and Anand Jariwala, co-founders of DOT, had their vendors, consultants alongside the clients and their friends at the edge of their seat for most part of designing and executing this unconventional 6,700 sq ft penthouse in Surat. “During the execution, we were faced with questions like, where are the rooms! Are there any rooms?” laughs Krishna. The home for a diamantaire’s family is spread across two floors with common areas like the living, dining and kitchen alongside the master bedroom, kids room and a guest room. But here’s the catch, it features only four walls. That too only reinforced cement concrete (RCC) walls, and not brick.
But Krishna and Anand were not playing rebels without a cause. “Our idea of space is always filled with a thrill of bringing synergy, simplicity and repose. The entire house showcases how the bare essentials for living — ample light and ventilation is always a constant,” says Krishna. Taking the opportunities offered by the uppermost floors of the building, they recalibrated the structure to create its own dialogue with the desired interiors. Slab cut-outs, cast-in-place RCC walls, staircases, an inserted deck floor and varying floor levels allow flow of light and ventilation and give the interiors an architectural demeanour.
The layout is linear, spanning in the east-west direction. Eight ft wooden doors mark the entrance into the living room that is awash in natural light overlooking a landscaped balcony. Three curved concrete walls tuck the living room, the first wraps an existing shear wall while the second and third cup the parent’s bath and kitchen store respectively. The southern side accommodates the dining area which is shielded from the harsh sun with curtains. But a skylight and green pocket maintain equilibrium. To the north is the double heighted RCC staircase, a structural insert which holds a place of worship in its well, lit by the terrace above. A cosy reading corner transpires between the underside of the stairs and the entrance wall. The couple and their sons’ bedrooms are located at the west, with a view of the Tapi River. A sunken multipurpose space used for leisure and television time connects both rooms with bi-synchronised pivot doors.
Rendering architectural sorcery with curved walls, wood plays a major role in bringing warmth and defining function. “While the concrete walls curve and guide, the solid wooden walls store everything in the house from hand-wash to crockery cabinets to wardrobes to the bedrooms,” explains Krishna. Teak wood partitions, doors and enclosures accommodate private spaces. But the role of wood is also critical to bring in colour and congeniality. She continues, “The colour palette is majorly monochromatic, right from RCC, cement finish, IPS, Terrazzo softly interjected with teak wood and clear glass. The furniture and the art work along with ample daylight brings the required play to balance out the bareness.”
On the upper floor, the polished interiors give way to a rustic terrace. Smooth fine black terrazzo is replaced by black limestone. A glass gazebo opens on three sides to the terrace with a large planter box with a Spathodea tree, a screening wall, stepped seating and a dense plantation edge; all with a view of the cityscape.
While the home is arguably brutalist in character, the clients’ primary prerequisite was of a home with no raw finishes. Krishna reveals, “They stated during the first meeting that they don’t like the rustic and raw aesthetic. However, post their next trip to the US, they showed a mild interest in the same which eventually became the core palette of the house.” But convincing the homeowners was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to challenges.
“There was uncertainty, disbelief and diffidence about what they were building and how. The concept as a whole had challenges in regards to the overall construction — from the services to cutting slabs to casting freestanding stairs to raising levels on the lower and terrace floors. At every instance we faced a ‘no’ either from the contractors, vendors, consultants and so on. It made execution extremely taxing but at the same time it was an experience in expanding each other’s body of knowledge,” she adds, underlining the constant tug of war between all stakeholders which can either ship or sink the project at hand. But here, Krishna is prompt to add, “Eventually they were all happy to find what they were always looking for!”