A balance between the articulated and controlled and the plain, a space that is filled with light and air and the everyday lives of its owners, a refuge and celebration that is warm and tactile, welcoming and peaceful.
Studio Name: HFOA – Henri Fanthome Office for Architecture
Design Team: Henri Fanthome, Ayooshi Goel
Area: 1200 soft
Location: Asian Games Village, New Delhi
Photography Credits: Andre J Fanthome
Other Credits: Contractor: Mohd Raes
Period: July 2012 to March 2013
Project Area: 1500 sqft
About two years ago we were asked to redesign a ground floor duplex in the celebrated Asian games village designed by Raj Rewal. Over the years these houses have developed a reputation for dampness, dark and gloomy interiors and room sizes that feel cramped and are too small for comfortable living in. House no. 540 sits at the far end of the village, in Hawa Singh block facing a small park and large open field used by the kids for cricket matches, was exactly like that.
Given the gloomy darkness of most of the Games Village houses, the insertion of natural light became the chief idea of the design – and so how it plays off a very carefully selected palate of material became the central theme. This idea was then translated through varying degrees of craftsmanship and making – of components in ways that stretched their function and allowed them to achieve a defining role and at the same time increased the space of experience.
The entire design process revolved around making openings, removing the unnecessary and forming connection between spaces and functions. Thus establishing a visual unity and continuity, and at the same time giving the illusion of more space than actually exists.
The Duplex was stripped to its bones and re-imagined. An exercise of restraint, where we tried to do as little as possible to the formal arrangement of spaces. And a carefully selected palate of materials, colour and textures, was assembled for the design to act as a thread that tied the many parts that were now a continuous experience. This enabled us to deliver a series of spaces, that seamlessly flow into one another, each unique in their own right and yet linked by a very carefully crafted narrative of space, and texture. colour and light.
The design relies chiefly on a careful and studied usage of flooring, extensive yet minimalistic woodwork and visual continuities to open up and spatially enlarge the living experience in what is actually a fairly small space. The spaces are strung together by deliberate variations in material and pattern that take you from formal to private and from ground floor to upper level.
Attention to detail, and material use, and a very finely controlled texturing, in each space provides excitement and interest, as you mover from space to space, effortlessly guiding the eye through in journey of discovery and surprise. The patterns are simple, yet very carefully executed to ensure a balance of large canvas and fine grain that is slowly becoming a telling feature of our work. We enjoy that juxtaposition and how it renews and brings meaning to the revisits.
INSIDE-OUT and LIGHT
The Ground floor Duplex sits facing east, and over looks a lushly wooded patch of park on the edge of the Asian Games village. As originally built a thick and five foot high stone wall, and very badly planned entrance door-window assembly completely negated this advantage. Somehow the house never looked like it had space or light. So that is where we began – the front had to go, the wall of the front yard was removed and slight grill in mild steel replaced it. The front wall was removed till the beam soffit, and replaced with floor to ceiling collapsible doors in laminated safety glass and rich teak wood.
Another key point of intervention was the kitchen, a level up from the living room was treated as a hinge, taken from being a cold and dark and damp corner of the house and opened – to both the living room and the dining space with a transparent connections that allow one to look out through the living space, into the yard and further out to the trees in the eastside park.
We did away with all that was extraneous – like balustrades and unwieldy sliding partitions. On the staircase a neat lattice in engineered wood, weightlessly provides safety, disguising itself as display, while a solid wood handrail is pinned onto the wall.
MATERIAL AND PROCESS
Design decisions for the project were based on a clear tactile understanding of materials and surfaces of human contact. A pallete of wood, white, offwhite, black and grey permeate the entire scheme enhancing a spatial continuity.
The Flooring was a great triumph, designed to tie the entire scheme together all of which is done in black kadappah and white marble tiles of 4.5” x 9”, each space is a variation from a formal herringbone to a much more playful gradation on the upper floor.
At the upper level, which is the pad for the young Graphic Designer – Psychologist Couple we became more playful. The flooring that gradually changes from all black to all white much like tetras, avoiding any space defining geometry and the teak strip covered wardrobes as walls helped enlarge and reimagine this space.
The size was chosen to effect an economy both of material sourcing and cost, allowing the stone for the entire project to be sourced in a single shipment, and was precut to ensure accuracy as well as affecting a huge economy in terms of material choice, procurement, and execution. The size and twin colour thus forced a linking thread through the spaces, and added that certain playfulness that that found its way into the rest of the spaces, adding that one special touch to each space that takes it from ordinary to suddenly perfect and special.
CONNECTIONS and CONTINUITIES
Where ever possible between spaces, connections were created, either as physical opening or glass panel partitions that allowed access when needed.
From the Gate and grill of the yard, to the yard flooring, to the flooring of the inner spaces there is clear continuity of design and pattern. A simple but articulate progression that defines each space as distinct and yet knits them into one narrative. The connections from inside to out and outside to in determined the openings and their control of both light and view.
UNCLUTTER and SIMPLIFY
The unnecessary was removed adding precious inches to already small space. And even where necessary such as wardrobes or railings they were visioned to perform a visual and stylistic functions that only added to the character of each space. Thus layering onto and adding interest within an otherwise fairly straight forward layout. In some ways the project is representative of our process of design that addresses each site as unique and a custom design is evolved to fit its specific requirements, while at the same time allowing space for those who will live in it, letting them blend their personalities into the space and own it while we try our best to create spaces that are truly fulfilling.
We like to keep things to the bare essentials that define the experience. UNCLUTTER and SIMPLIFY, and then RE- IMAGINE!
HFOA – Firm Profile
Henri Fanthome Office for Architecture, was started in 2009, more to take part in the SPA New Campus Masterplan Competition than anything else. And since has stuck to its agenda for Architectural Design. 12 years on we are working in Delhi, Uttarakhand, Haryana, UP and still doing a lot of competitions, from exhibition design to furniture and architecture and everything in-between.
HFOA is a small firm, that believes in design research, discipline and pragmatic thinking. We vision architecture that reflects and celebrates the balance between humanity and the planet we inhabit, both in the built and un-built environment.
Space, to us, can be smelt, heard, felt, and absorbed just as much as it can be seen. Spaces we believe are meant to be lived in, walked through, played in, and enjoyed. We believe each project is a challenge and a unique opportunity for discovery and new thinking, and enabling possibility. At every scale, there is an opportunity to design, and add value to life. As architects we continually look for avenues that that bring such challenge to us. No project is too large and no budget too small!
Out of our studio that overlooks the Mehrauli Archaeological Park we create and deliver architecture that reflects good design, innovative problem solving, and economy of both means and materials, with an underlying environmental responsibility.
At HFOA sustainability is exciting, it is the future, and the way we have always designed.
At present the firm has a number of projects – from individual residences, to large scale masterplans in the hills of North India.