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The Bare Minimum

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February 22, 2014 at 02:33 PM

Rooted on Earth, Kissing the Water, Bracing the Wind and Reaching up to touch the Sky – seem to be lines from some lovely poetry;  phrases not usually associated with architecture… But a single glance at this serene Zen-inspired residence in Panchgani inspires all such dreamy thoughts – and more. Take a look at Architect Rajesh Patel’s stunning interior and architecture – in this really unique minimalist space – a “bungalow on a cliff”!

© Courtesy of the architect

Minimalism is a movement in music, visual arts, fashion, design and architecture that “simplifies” a concept or creation to the very basic. The Japanese aesthetic principle of Ma refers to empty or open space. In architectural space, this removes all the unnecessary internal walls and blurs the distinction between the interior and the exterior; once again influenced by the design element of the Japanese sliding door that allows the two spaces to extend and merge into each other seamlessly. The emptiness of spatial arrangement is another idea that reduces everything down to the most essential quality.

Architecture, like all arts, has an inborn element of subjectivity. The aesthetic language employed in any creation is open for analysis, interpretation and criticism. Even landmark architectural projects have their share of opposition and criticism – because subjectivity always initiates a polemic. If Design Genre, Volumetric Expression, and Internal Circulation may be regarded as serious concerns, the contempt could even arise from a Material or Colour! In this highly subjective arena, it is therefore a challenge to produce a work of architecture that transcends the boundaries of space and structure and evokes a sense of tranquility and oneness with nature – which almost no one can refute!

A house cannot become a home, till it is lived in. The architect and interior designer however, needs to put in a lot more than the statutory elements such as clients' brief, design principles, practical constraints, and budget when he designs a residential interior. Besides giving an exclusive, customized, and pragmatic solution of interior aesthetics, he must delve into the psyche of the client, and each member of the family, and then devise a cohesive theme that best suits their temperament, lifestyle, and their personal vision of a home. 

This particular residence – done as a comprehensive architecture and interior design project – goes many steps beyond the practical aspects of architecture and actually takes its expression from the landscape in which it is sited. The site of the home was stunning – a cliff-top! With marvelous views of the mountains, valleys and lake – the design intervention had to be necessarily minimal. Of course the client’s brief did have a part to play – he “dreamed to have a space without walls, closer to nature and opening into mountains and valleys”. So the site fitted the client’s aspirations, anyway and the architect had to factor them into his own vision – and create a home that he could enjoy. And minimalism was the only logical aesthetic, style or technique – which would also infuse a soulful, meditative quality in the space.

The house is strategically placed below the road-level, and as it is anchored to the sloping side of a mountain; a cut-and-fill method was used to allow the structure to merge with the landscape. Since the home was to not have any rooms, an expanse of uninterrupted space is achieved in the interior at both the levels. The levels themselves are not internally connected, though – and therefore function as independent meditative spaces. Structurally, there are no columns, walls and even window frames disturbing the panoramic view that the site affords. So the lower level connects with the earth and water through the seamless sheaths of glass; while the upper level opens out on to a terrace and engages in conversation with the mountain-tops, the wind and the sky. 

The wooden flooring, huge seamless glass front, the absence of walls/partitions – along with the bare furniture and basic amenities and minimal embellishments – creates a Zen feel. The sensory perception of the space is further heightened by the minimalist forms, simple planes, straight lines, the space adorned with nothing but nude colours and muted textures, seems to simply emerge from the ground, with a subtle continuity between the indoor and outdoor extending into infinity.

Designer : Architect Rajesh Patel
Photography :Courtesy the architect

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