Andur Lake House: by Ar. Shirish Beri
The phrase ‘being one with nature’ assumes a living embodiment in the architecture of Shirish Beri, the architect who practices much of his craft in the Sahyadris, his love and reverence for these mountains, and thereby for all of mother nature, unquestionably evident in all his works. An architecture that is almost invisible in its deference of its natural setting and displays an overwhelming eagerness to blend in with it is the trademark of a Shirish Beri project. Little wonder then, when he says that he chose to start his practice by unlearning what he learnt at architecture school rather than studying further for a masters’ degree after completing his graduation from CEPT, Ahmedabad in the early ‘70s. Working earlier in his career with his father and brother under the family banner, he set up his own practice at the turn of the century going by the name of Shirish Beri and Associates. Being the multi-faceted personality that he is, he’s involved in a range of other interests like painting, sketching, photography, poetry, writing, teaching, yoga, meditation and philosophy, but what shines through everything is an unabashed love of all that is natural. His designs, being in consistent interaction with and making full use of the natural endowment around them, are consequently spontaneously sustainable.
Andur Lake House, built on a hillock overlooking the lake, was purposed as a rejuvenating natural retreat for himself away from a crowded and hectic city life. Glancing across the lake at the structure nestling amid the foliage, one could easily miss it. Its pre-coated green metal sheet sloped roof merges perfectly into the surrounding trees in terms of colour, angle of slope and scale, fanning out just like the branches.
The structure emerges as we approach it from the front, though its presence remains subordinate to that of the foliage surrounding it, almost growing on it. As the laterite pillars step up from the lake, intercepted by bushes, they seem to draw one into their embrace, culminating in the deep, cave like recesses of the verandah below and terrace above framed by an emphatic horizontal band which is the only dominating built feature in the entire scheme.
Similar drama unfolds on the other elevations as one moves radially around this hill-top house. The plan fans out in a semi-circle from its centre at the peak, the main walls being the radial arms that stretch outward, descending finally as intermittent pillars towards the lake below. The main rooms are arranged in between these walls, each one of them being resultantly endowed with a vista of the lake opening out at its wider end.
These enormous shaded spaces opening towards the lake draw in cool breezes which blow unhindered through the house. Ample natural light and ventilation thus taken care of obviates the need for a fan - let alone an air condiitoner - even in peak summer; in most spaces, thus resulting in a drastic reduction in energy consumption.
Almost bereft of any transverse walls and all the radial walls being well punctured, the house enjoys an unhindered flow of spaces internally. The upper storey spaces like the stair landing and bridge afford views of the lower floor spaces, creating the vertical visual connect as well. This fits in well with the architect’s belief in the need, not only to constantly connect with the place one is in, but also to stay connect with the people around oneself.
The interiors at Andur Lake House are simple, basic and, like the rest of the house, non-invasive of the natural setting. Just as the walls of this load bearing structure, the seating in the living and dining areas is of built-in masonry of laterite stone sourced at the site, spontaneously adding to the sustainable quotient as does the cow-dung and mud flooring. Other than this, there is hardly any furniture as carpets and cushions serve just as well.
Charming courtyards, landscaped with the local flora, in the centre of the house as well as in the bathrooms bring the outdoors into the house yet again. The courtyard in the upper storey bath, while creating an exotic luxury, reveals how the contours have been negotiated in the design.
The panoramically wide terrace that opens out from the upper level studio also features a built in table, seated at which one can enjoy good times overlooking the lake in snug comfort with tea, snacks, family and friends, almost akin to being on a boat in the waters.
At Andur Lake House it seems impossible to track exactly where the outdoors flow indoors or vice versa as the integration between the two is constant, dynamic and seamless. The house is so rooted to the ground it stands on with every brick and stone used in its building that it’s almost as if an ancient ruin or cave in the undergrowth had suddenly been turned into an exciting , breezy and comfortable home.