Design Philosophy and Style 

The mansion-looking ‘House Under Shadows,’ a 1672-sq.m residence was designed by the Zero Energy Design (ZED) Lab from New Delhi. It was completed in the year 2021 and is located in a barren land in the historic city of Karnal, Haryana; a part of the National Capital Region (NCR). The site barely had any physical or natural aspects attached to it. The client’s brief was to imbibe the values of both living with and for nature by enabling sustainable living. The concept was to experiment with eco-friendly measures, make the building unobtrusive, and yet benefit the natural flora and fauna. The architect was inspired by a Palatial hotel Noor Mahal in Karnal and approached the project with a vision of zero-energy and reformulating the idea of ‘India-Modern.’ Architect Sachin Rastogi wanted to keep the roof as a very organic element such that throughout the day, the shadow patterns change, creating differential experiences. The semi-outdoor space above the house topped by a pergola, allows for panoramic views of the low-lying green spaces of the neighborhood. The two main elements of the traditional Indian havelis; ‘chowks’ or courtyards and ‘chhatris’ or elevation dome-shaped pavilions as the main derivations from this project. The massive roof has given the structure its name, as it extends to provide outdoor shade with full-length glazed sliding doors; representing a typical mid-century California glass house. The roof’s fluidity is a contrast to the otherwise geometrical pattern of the house.

House Under Shadows by Zed Labs-Sheet1
Design Inspirations_© ZED labs

Planning and Interior Layout 

When it comes to the planning of the ‘House Under Shadows,’ the design emerges through a common entrance complemented by the surrounding boxes representing each of the two units for each of the two families, through a mirroring process. Despite this, the house maintains its dual personality. This allows for privacy for the brother’s families and yet brings them together through the shared spaces. The common façade creates a sense of social cohesion through its horizontal axis. The integrated design of the south-facing double residence is in response to the harsh and extreme weather of North India. The interiors are naturally lit and the layout allows for cross-ventilation across the expansive units. Day-time areas like the living areas are oriented towards the north-east and open out into the courtyard to allow more daylight; whereas the night-time areas (sleeping spaces) are towards the south-west. The kitchen, utility, bar, powder room, and servant’s quarters along with the staircase are placed in the center of the southwest side. A calm oasis is thereby achieved by the pool & and semi-outdoor space, offering broad views of the outdoor landscape. The interior furnishings, pre-polished Indian veneer doors, and artwork along the earthy palette of textures and colors blend beautifully and seamlessly with each other.  

House Under Shadows by Zed Labs-Sheet2
Elevation_© Andre J Fanthome

Material Palette, Sustainability, and Technology

Materiality is unique through the use of marble floors combined with timber ceilings to create a luxurious indoor ambiance. The use of local materials ensures low embodied carbon, combined with neutral tones which enables heat reflection creating a visual lightness in elevation and also reducing the dependency on mechanical cooling measures. The annual cooling load was recorded to be 53 kilowatt-hours per square meter, going down by 20%, from the previous demand of 76 kilowatt-hours per square meter. The ceiling is made of natural wood which imparts a sense of warmth to the inhabitants. To create a distinctive finish to the ‘House of Shadows’ and to enhance the thermal mass performance, dry cladding of Gwalior mint stone has been done to the walls. Windows span from floor to ceiling and are made of aluminum glazing. The microclimate created by the courtyard relays the act of sustainability and is complemented by the greenery which extends vertically on the inside and horizontally outside the building footprint. The green walls help in combating the urban heat island effect while facilitating evapotranspiration which nourishes the surrounding plants. The parametrically designed double-roof and split massing allow for the creation of a swimming pool acting as a heat sink in between the units, with overhangs on all sides to shade the walls and contribute to a 50% reduction in the overall direct radiation reaching the upper floor. The walls surrounding the pool area beautifully reflect the water body. The roof is fabricated through digital modeling, supported by an extensive Mild Steel (MS) framework over steel columns. The material has a low value of thermal transmittance (0.4), preventing excess heat absorption.

House Under Shadows by Zed Labs-Sheet3
Sectional View_© ZED labs

The double roof of the ‘House Under Shadows’ is a Voronoi tessellation patterned canopy made of Fibre-Reinforced Polymer (FRP) and Glassfibre Reinforced Concrete (GRC), which in conjunction with its surface property of a high Solar Reflective Index (SRI) and planned water bodies, the project emphasizes natural beauty through the lens of a kaleidoscope; while framing nature artfully and also responsibly. The Voronoi pattern is uniquely observed in trees, branches, and on leaves towards the sky; whilst from a human scale perspective this building humbly casts shadows and filtered light on the ground.

Reference list:

ArchDaily. (2021). House Under Shadows / Zero Energy Design Lab. [online] Available at:

Architecture + Design. (2021). House Under Shadows is an Eco-friendly Edifice designed by Zero Energy Design Lab. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Jan. 2024].

Futurarc, A. (2021). House Under Shadows by Zero Energy Design Lab. [online] FuturArc. Available at: [Accessed 3 Jan. 2024].

Leishman, C. (2022). Living in a kaleidoscope of light: House under shadows | Habitus Living. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Jan. 2024].


Nikhil Ravindra is a passionate Architect, Urbanist and Academician, based in Bengaluru. His interests and expertise are on the topics of urban governance, climate action, land management, energy efficiency & digital innovations. He has several research publications to his name & also won awards for practicing sustainable architecture and urbanism.