Displaying a lyrical connection with nature, Saahil Parikh and Nupur Shah of We Design Studio revive the elegance of form and function in this exceptionally well-laid out Mango Orchard House in Karamsad, Gujarat
JAN 25, 2023 | By Ankita Rathod
Nestled amidst 400 mango trees, the Mango orchard mansion in Gujarat’s Karamsad city spans an impressive 14,000 sq ft of built up space. The entryway to the residence is led by a 150 ft cobble stoned driveway that ends in a cul-de-sac and leads to a mild steel entrance canopy that connects to the main structure of the house. “The intention was to respond to the natural context to the best of our ability. You’re looking at a house in the middle of a lush, mature mango orchard. The goal was to create visual links between indoors and outdoors, blurring the line between them,” explains Saahil Parikh and Nupur Shah, Principal Architects at We Design Studio.
As you enter the residence through a steel canopy permeated by white bougainvillaea, the interplay between the permanent building and the ephemeral landscape becomes defined. The ground floor features the living, dining, kitchen and guest bedroom, while the upper floor houses the three primary bedrooms. A freestanding staircase made of mild steel connects the two floors. The living room, which features double-height ceilings and access to the verandah, serves as a visible and physical link between the ground and upper floors.
The clients approached the award-winning architects with the original request to renovate a home built by the owners’ parents approximately three decades ago. Upon closer investigation, however, it became apparent that the property did not match the splendour of its surroundings, which included hundreds of luscious mango trees. Therefore, “We decided to demolish the existing structure and build anew, sparing the surrounding trees,” explained Saahil. The new building’s footprint was limited to equal that of the old one, and the road was planned to wind its way through the existing forest to help accomplish this goal.
The home is perched precariously above its surroundings due to the careful sizing of its apertures, which optimises the mass to void ratio. Floor-to-ceiling glass windows maximise the visual connection between the interior rooms and the exterior landscape. Moreover, as a direct response to the region’s severe temperatures, the house was constructed exclusively from locally produced cavity brick walls. “The cavities work as an effective insulator and shield the covered spaces from the harsh Gujarat climate,” shares Saahil, an alumni of the prestigious AA School of Architecture in London. The five courtyards allow for cross-ventilation and natural light, and the double-height living room serves as the home’s centrepiece by providing a panoramic view of the trees all around.
What’s endearing is the sparse use of material finishes, which creates a neutral palette and sets the stage for the homeowner’s priceless art collection, which hangs on the walls with grace. “We wanted the mango trees to be the protagonist here. The brilliance of the green needed to be experienced,” articulates Nupur about the design moodboard. This inspired the material selection; limiting the colours to white, grey and black. “A light grey slate runs across the floor and bathrooms of the home. The walls are finished in a textured white paint. The doors are made in recycled Burma teak stained black. The windows are from Schueco and finished in a textured black powder coating,” says Nupur about the home lit up using state-of-the-art decorative pieces from all over Europe and is a significant value add to the spatial experience.
When asked to name a feature that represents elegance, workmanship, and sustainability, Saahil cites the “locally made mild steel free-standing staircase” as a highlight. This staircase serves to connect the two levels. The staircase serves as a focus point and can be seen from many rooms thanks to its sleek black finish. The stairs, in an interesting twist, were built in three distinct pieces: the upper and lower flights, and the intermediate landing. These were then painstakingly assembled on-site with the assistance of a compact crane and welded together. As Nupur summarises, “it needed substantial preparation and resources.”
Evidently, the Mango Orchard home, according to Saahil’s description, is an attempt at harmony between indoors and outdoor. Unusual seating configurations, interactive lighting fixtures, and last but not least, the iconic artworks ranging from commissioned works by Yashwant Deshmukh and Vrindavan Solanki to pieces from Japan and the client’s private collection are a visual feast for all! A variety of spatial gestures create visual passages between rooms and through interior spaces to the trees and the landscape beyond, despite the house’s initially monolithic façade.