The clients were a mid-age gynaecologist couple who had been very adamantly clear about the location of their house. They wanted a home which was in the vicinity of their hospital and the home of their parents. Gynaecologists by profession had always been confined to small confined spaces and the main focus of the project from the start was to design spaces which not only gave the feel of ample open span spaces, but also connected with nature and greenery.

Studio Name: MODISRIVASTAVA AND ASSOCIATES
Design Team: Ar. Hitesh Modi, Ar. Nadia Unia, Ar. Rinkal Chauhan
Site Area: 1632 SQ.FT.
Built Up:  3273 SQ.FT.
Year: 2020
Location: Vadodara, Gujarat
Consultants: Sunil Shah (Structural Engineer), Dinesh Parmar (Electrical Consultant)
Photography Credits: Tejas Shah

The Cube House By Modi Srivastava & Associates - Sheet4
©Tejas Shah

The plot size was a mere 1600 SQ.FT. Of area and the foremost concern was to design a beautiful home for the family in such a compact plot size. Their set of requirements had been firm; to design for a family of four with parents who would occasionally live at their home. The daughter was 14 years of age, and the son was 16 and hence they each needed their own separate expanse of rooms.

Context:

A comparison when drawn along the plot size and the requirements which housed a formal living area, kitchen, dining, store and utility along with four separate bedrooms; proved to be our own design challenge. To design a contemporary home of an appropriate size and accommodate all the requirements within the parameters of the government by-laws was the guideline.

Though contextually the site overlooked the luscious common plot towards the south, and overlooked a striking open view from the road side; it fell in the airport zone of the city and hence we faced limitations regarding the height of the building. The overall concept derived for the project was that of vertical development inspired by stacked shipping containers.

The Cube House By Modi Srivastava & Associates - Sheet5
©Tejas Shah

Design Interventions:

The semi-basement floor was developed as a two car parking garage along with a small utility hall, a servant’s toilet, and an elevator which leads from the parking up to all the floors making for an easy accessibility of users.

The basic amenities of the house are designed at the upper ground floor level which is at a height of 8 feet. The main approach of the house is from the south side with a series of steps leading up to the porch at 8 feet level.  This made for a whole experiential journey from the road entry up till the porch with bamboo planters and flora guiding one all the way. This floor was designed as a living area, dining, kitchen with a small floating utility, and a guest bedroom/parents’ bedroom.

The upper ground floor faces the main road with the common plot and was designed as an open plan floor plate having no partitions. The whole space feels as one and the kitchen backyard was designed as a floating utility. Instead of treating the upper ground floor bedroom as a separate bedroom and door due to space restrictions, the same wall is extended to the staircase and is considered as a whole white cube inserted into the drawing dining kitchen. To conceal the entry to the bedroom, and reduce the unnecessary clutter of multiple visual elements, the door is flushed along the wall with while panelling clad onto it. The cube is a visual extension of the TV panel and the foyer wall and the entire wall is painted white to house all the activities but visually seem like a singular mass.

The size for the parents’ washroom was quite small and hence it was entirely clad in glass white slab with a pop of colour provided by aqua blue tiles. The parents’ bedroom is connected to a small balcony on the rear side bringing in the same language of connectivity with nature.

The second floor was completely dedicated to the master bedroom for the doctor couple. Being in closed confined spaces in the hospital all day long, we wanted their room to evoke a feeling of openness with maximum natural sunlight and ventilation; to bring in as much nature as possible. The client was quite fond of having their morning tea and spending their leisure holidays sitting on balconies and gazing at the life outside. This gave us a hint towards making points of connection with the outside environment from the indoor spatial space, and to design a spacious balcony for the doctor to be able to reconnect with nature. Designing the second floor with this design ideology, a bedroom spanning the whole floor with a mid-level terrace area of more than 100 SQ.FT. overlooking the front common garden was proposed. The common plot was a unique character of the locality and designing so gave the experience of that of a farmhouse; almost a treat to someone who loved even the smallest of balconies of their previous home.

The Cube House By Modi Srivastava & Associates - Sheet6
©Tejas Shah

The master bedroom was designed with a more raw and rustic feel of spaces while borrowing in nature and the outdoor feel of spaces. A jhula was hung in the terrace area while providing a possibility of an amazing view of the outside and a maximum volume of area to relax after a hectic day.

The third floor was delineated as two separate bedrooms, one for the son, and other for their daughter; each revitalising the same concept of overlooking the common plot and bringing in points of connection with nature. The son’s bedroom was visually directly connected to the plot whereas a small terrace area was built for the daughter’s bedroom.

It has been a process of thoughtful planning, meticulous design decisions and careful designing to eventually lead to a house which evokes different experiences in each corner of the house. Just sitting in the bedroom would let one connect with nature from multiple viewpoints and spaces; and not just from the balcony.

Innovation:

Considering the proximity to the airports and the height limitations imposed due to it, it was necessary for the house to have a structure with minimal beam depths. Architecture, as a profession, is interested in space created distinctively. The importance of vertical lies in its perceiving the gravitation, forming focus and orientation in space.

The Cube House By Modi Srivastava & Associates - Sheet8
©Tejas Shah

Going vertical not only allowed us to play with the volume of spaces, but also saved space and allowed for accommodation of more requirements.

Instead of proposing the conventional frame structural grid, we were inspired to diverge from convention. A structural consultant was hired and we sought to derive a structural scheme similar to that of shipping containers. When 10 shipping units are stacked on top of each other they do not require any additional structural support and the open shelf unit itself is capable of transfer of loads.

We designed the structure as a shell structure, giving us the possibility to work with maximum open spans of volume and avoid unnecessary beams and beam depth. The entirety of the project was envisioned as a shell structure of cubes stacked on top of each other along the vertical line of stacked containers; giving rise to a playful volume of spaces and a stunning building elevation. This concept when discussed with the structural engineer, the outcome was to design a house by stacking different volumetric RCC shells on each other and generating a column free volumetric space with multiple connect points to the nature and outdoors.

Different floor cubes were composed of different materials. The upper ground floor was fabricated as a brick cube, the first floor was fabricated as a concrete cube and the floor above it again a brick cube. This led to a well composed and completely resolved architectural mass deriving the overall residence of the family. Though it was an uncommonly small size of land, the end outcome was a piece of architecture which had a statement of its own.

The balconies have been framed with metal sheets appealing to the solemn part of the cube stack overlooking the common plot.

Material palette:

The material palette is composed of white marble for flooring, natural Kota stone flooring for parking and utility and the staircase. Wooden flooring was used for flooring of the internal room. The exteriors were composed of a selection of natural bricks and exposed concrete. The furniture was made of natural hardwood, bringing the same architectural character to the interiors.

Furnishings, Furniture, Art:

For the interiors, the concrete shells were chosen not to be superficially treated, and rather be displayed in its raw, beautiful form. To complement the basic material palette, the flooring is white marble and wooden flooring has been used for the internal private areas of the residence.

©Tejas Shah

The main interior is derived from the concrete palette and is accessorised with bright painting to borrow warmth and bring about a soothing environment. A collaboration had been done with the same artist who had done paintings on the walls on site, and whose canvas paintings were used to augment the residence.

Instead of having a typical spiral staircase leading up to the terrace, a fabricated staircase painted in bright blue was furnished and the wall behind it was painted in a bright shade of yellow. Inspiration was taken from the natural sun rays observed on site, which extended to the wall painting. The son’s bedroom study was adjoining the wall which overlooked the volume and the open nature of space, the sky and landscape.

The internal staircase leading up to the floors was blended with exquisite abstract paintings, adding an interesting character to the space and volume. Since it was a narrow strip of space, the painting brought in more depth and vibrancy.

The overall concept was to design a small home with a bold structure and interiors which justified the individual personalities of all its residents. The son’s bedroom was themed more on sports and his outdoorsy nature. The backdrop of the brick wall was accentuated with sports decals and artworks from his area of interest were introduced. On the other hand, the daughter’s bedroom was designed as a more free-spirited area with inspirational words and quotes which were a reflection of her likings and taste.


About the firm:

Founded by Ar. Hitesh Modi & Ar. Amit Srivastava in 1994 as a multidisciplinary architecture design practice, Modi Srivastava and Associates’ expertise includes architecture, interior design, planning & urban development. The firm takes pride in its innovative design, often inspired by nature, history, urban context, technology & sustainable strategies. The belief is that the most complex and beautiful solutions are often, if not always, the simplest ones. MSA’s portfolio of projects spans across the country and ranges in scales & typologies; that broadly include the following:

Residential Projects | Commercial Spaces | Educational Institutes | Group Housing | Institutional Projects | Hospitality Projects | Health Facilities | Interior Spaces | Industrial Units | Renovation & Adaptive Re-use Projects

The firm’s design process is an interactive & collaborative one, promoting open and effective communication between leaders, team members and consultants. During the design process itself, the clients are engaged and informed in making decisions to reach a consensus and proceed towards the successful completion of the project. The philosophy of MSA’s work is a collective one. The idea is to achieve a design solution driven by concepts about function, climate, location, the form-making process, the role of the final design in the neighbourhood, etc. MSA believes that a building designed with a broader perspective of knowledge & understanding of the larger community & environmental issues related to it intensifies the project’s meaningfulness. Members of the firm routinely provide leadership in civic, sociological & sustainability initiatives. This commitment allows the firm to bring a unique perspective to every project, resulting in an outcome that is innovative, relevant & timeless. MSA consciously & with determination is engaged in reinventing the urban conditions. We work with the belief that every project contribution must belong to its place & time. It results in the dynamic relationship between nature & built environments. We understand the designer’s obligation to repair & restore the state of the environment & our approach extends beyond simply reading the negative impact of construction. We recognise that each project has a unique “ecosystem”, & we strive to integrate project objectives within broader social & environmental missions. Since construction activities constitute a significant source of pollution on our planet, we believe in using and reusing materials in optimum quantity and efficiency.

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