Heritage is this gamut of inherited objects, ideas, culture, and traditions. Not to be confused with preserving or restoring old things, values and ideas; It is often the collective of the tangible and intangible that has been passed on over time. Chettinad in Tamil Nadu is a city known for its wealthy merchants that were once hosted to wealth from across the globe.
Project name: House in a grove
Architect’s Firm: STO.M.P ( Studio for Modernism & Practical Aesthetics )
Project location: Thiruppathur, Chettinad
Completion Year: 2018
Gross Built Area (square meters or square foot): 365 m2
Design Lead: Vignesh Sekar
(eg. collaborators, clients, consultants, etc):
Team: Sekar, Balaji Pandiyan, Shoba Sekar, Shamini Lakshmanan
Client: Suresh Veerappan
Photo credits: Prithvi M Samy, Balaji Pandiyan
Brands / Products
List of materials and brands (at least 5) used.
- MyWindows – Performance Aluminium sections
- Saint Gobain – Dual glazed laminated glass
- CenturyPly – Veneers
- Hettich, Blum – Kitchen Accessories
- Hybec – Surface mounted lighting
- Bangalore tile company – Terracotta Jaali
Materials / Special Surface Finishes
Pre and Post Treated Yellow Jaisalmer Marble – Flooring
Pre Treated Kota Stone – Flooring
Handmade Athangudi Cement Tiles – Flooring & Wall
Reclaimed Burma Teak Wood – Flooring & Finishes
Traditional Chettinad Marble Plaster – Walls & Doors
Terracotta Jaali – Screen Wall
Custom made Reinforced Brick Jaali – Screen Wall
Custom-Handmade Terracotta Pots – Roof Filler Slab
But the Great Depression of the 1920s’ led to their gradual downfall. Even the opulent homes crumbled as the inhabitants couldn’t afford its upkeep. The city today, perhaps, resembles a discolored painting. A standalone palace haunts a desolate land with impressive exteriors but disintegrating within. In the case of Chettinad and alike, what does the current time inherit?
The answers are many and multi-layered. And amidst these questions, stands a home in Chettinad that reflects a fusion of traditional cultures, some heritage, and contemporary ideas. The clients wished for a modern home steeped in the cultural essence of glorious Chettinad past. The fundamental elements entailed massing, accommodating an open plan and hierarchy of spaces connected through corridors and projected eaves to house indoor-outdoor spaces.
To combat solar radiation and facilitate cross ventilation, the architects developed a façade skin of terracotta jaalis, that thermally insulates and keeps the spaces ventilated with natural light. Two major light-wells, façade jaalis and skylights engage the interiors in a constant cavort of light and shadow. The lounge on the first-floor made of filler slab, witnesses the play of light and shadows at sunrise, accelerated by the terra-jaalis and skylights endows a fleeting and shifting quality to the interiors through time.
The light and shadow configurations are further complemented by the rustic finishes used throughout the house. Exposed concrete is used on the ceilings, marble plaster on the walls and the floors are a mix of natural wood, Jaisalmer and Kota Marbles and Athangudi tiles. Athangudi/ஆத்தங்குடி tiles are manufactured from a village that has lent its name to the handmade cement tiles, which have been a part of the Chettinad legacy, since the British era. While the decision to use Athangudi tiles is to incorporate a slice of the Chettinad heritage, but the core intent is to procure materials from within a 50-kilometer radius of the site.
Even the terracotta pots used in the filler slabs were made with soil excavated from the site. Similarly, deteriorated trees on site were cut and its wood was used for concrete shuttering.
In retrospection, the house does not imbibe the architecture of Chettinad, if one compares both entities side by side. Not in aesthetics or even the grandeur that the mansions encompassed. And the intent was perhaps never to mirror ‘heritage’ or revel in the nostalgia of the past. But the Chettinad architecture lay the seed of an idea and the architects trailed their journey from the house from thereon.
Vignesh is an architecture graduate from Thiagarajar School of Architecture. As Founder and Principal of STO.M.P, Vignesh has been in practice since 2016 and felicitated with several awards, both national and international, as He is the youngest heir to receive the YOUNG DESIGNERS AWARD by IA&B Magazine.
Vignesh has previous professional experience at WEBE DESIGN LAB Chennai, CADENCE ARCHITECTS and DOMINIC DUBE INGE RIECK ARCHITECTURE STUDIO, Bangalore. He credits a lot to Architect Dominic Dube for his guidance on timeless design ideas with the sense of Modernism and Practical Aesthetics.
Vignesh has over 3 years of experience in all phases of Architectural design, encompassing interiors, renovation projects, and ground-up construction, which has resulted in the knowledge necessary to proficiently engage projects from beginning to end. In addition to a strong design narrative and meticulous design approach, Vignesh has continuously applied techniques to question the conventional material palette. He believes sourcing local materials and using sustainable methods in every component of the building is key to a pragmatic yet efficient practice.
His Project House in a Grove has won him many accolades, as it is been Shortlisted in the Merit List 2019 for its critical relevance in the context of contemporary architecture of India.
The Project is been Shortlisted for Habitus House of the Year Award 2019 by Habitus Living, Australia, and 2A Continental Architecture Awards by 2A Magazine, Spain for being the project being Contextually Sensible in Nature.