Shahjehan by Ar.yatin pandya

  • BUILD AREA:800
  • SITE AREA:2023
  • PHOTOGRAPHY:Ar. Yatin Pandya, Sachin Ubbarada

Architecture is sum total of culture, climate and construction. In other words, it’s the summation of the context, function, environment, technology, economy and even legal context. Shahjehan – a home for the Shah family in Vadodara is alchemy of paradoxical demands of places and people, climate and construction, utility and legislation, user and designer resolving to unique solutions.

Even though a well knit extended family of three generations would be cohabiting merrily, the brief for the new home demanded two separately functioning clearly discernable living quarters with independent set of paraphernalia for each home, yet with intertwined seamless spaces to feel and function as singular structure.  Image of home to be contemporary yet classic, big yet small, one yet two, sober yet with glamour, IT savvy yet blending with nature, environmentally controlled yet energy efficient and so on were enough of paradoxical programmatic demands to reckon with and yet legal contradictions were not to be spared either. As a residence it would not demand common open space yet as combined plot for two residences it attracted the provision of group open space with direct access.

Thus, the residence got conceived as attached unit of two adjunct homes. This formed contiguity and connectivity to intersperse common areas such as living spaces, verandah and entrance vestibule and yet their staggered alignment in plan offered identity and individuality to each unit. The staggered massing also integrated the unbuilt with the built respectively in north east and southwest corners blurring the sense of front or back. Each side opened positively to nature.  Verandah located in the southwest was conceived as the pivot as active living spaces of both homes opened into this sheltered node. This verandah in turn opened and extended into the garden in the south. Thus with sliding folding doors providing least barrier to the interior spaces they visually and physically extended into garden and vegetated nature. Nature is also integrated within through courtyard on ground floor, while terraces and terrace garden on the upper floor. Sleeping alcoves, protruding externally like zarokha, also helped interspersing them with outdoors with expanding vignettes across the bed and landscape engulfing them. Even verandah has large cut out to sky with temple tree piercing through void connecting both the floors visually and spatially.

The House has been built with brick masonry and reinforced concrete wall construction. Not only remaining as structure these materials were also expressed truthfully with their un rendered natural tones and textures that created the aesthetic grammar of the house. Material and the implied technology were conceived as the metaphor of time. Parent’s part of home is expressed with larger portions of brick masonry in exposed double Flemish bond pattern symbolic of classical times, while the part of home for the younger generation is largely expressed through exposed concrete surfaces. Technological sophistication to connote contemporary times is further enhanced through three dimensionally curved concrete wall planes, creating flowing spaces within, for kitchen and dining. Sense of being wrapped around by this tapering plane is further pronounced by a ribbon of skylight washing off the wall from top. Taper and curve also became orienting and welcoming gesture spatially to guide up to the entry without feeling claustrophobic. The entry sequence also provides the sense of gradual transition from outside to inside, through gradual convergence in plan as well as volume. Vegetation, floor modulation as ramp and floating steps over water also provide for the transition. Brick walls provide earthy feel while zarokha like projecting masses in exposed concrete humanised and scaled down the vertical surfaces with their rhythmetic  protrusions and sculptural forms. Curving external wall planes, cubical volumes of spaces within, projecting masses of alcoves and tapering tall outcrops of stair and tank provide for truly three dimensional sculpting of form through massing. 

Living environment is rendered sustainable through multi prong strategies employed consistently from design to detailing. Large thickly vegetated garden, Water body and deep verandah in the southwest direction offer cooling to prevailing breeze. Sleeping alcoves extending beyond room space provide for cross ventilation over the bed at night. Internal courtyard makes the interior space cheerful with daylight illumination without ingress of heat and direct sun and also helps ventilate warm air out through convective principles.
Roof insulation is provided through an external layer of china mosaic characterised by the non conductive clay and white and glossy surface reflecting sun. The curvilinear roofs are thin shells of ferrocement optimising on material consumption. Skylights in Kitchen, dining and some toilets provide for glare free illumination as well as natural ventilation. Slab cutouts in the form of flying birds not only illuminate within through daylight but also animate space with ever changing reflection with moving position of Sun. Geo thermal tube, solar water heater, LED light fixtures are some of the other features supporting the idea of energy and environmental optimisation. Roof water from selected areas is harvested in the underground cistern below the courtyard. 
The embellishments also represent the bipolarity of handycraft with machine precision.  Hand crafted floor inlays, warli art and tearrcotta mural walls, insitu mosaic patterns in terrace floors are juxtaposed with state of the art laser profiled doors, table tops and panelling.An abode named ‘Shahjehan’ by the young-third generation shah- claims not to be the monumental Taj to immortalize emotions but certainly an humble attempt in creating habitat which evokes, engages as well as nourishes its inhabitants spatially, environmentally and emotionally.
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