You can tell a lot about an architect by the style and architectural language used in their projects. Their design philosophy is reflected in the planning of the spaces in the structure, the materials used, and the construction methods. Here is a structure by the renowned architect Nari Gandhi, for Rustom Mehta at Korlai in Alibaug. Nari Gandhi was a Parsi architect. He studied architecture at Sir J.J College of Architecture, Mumbai, and later went on to be an apprentice for Frank Lloyd Wright. His works mainly include residences constructed using natural materials.
Let us set the context for the bungalow first. Korlai is a village along the coastal area of Maharashtra, which is called Konkan. It was once a part of Portuguese India. Many of the residents still speak a mix of Portuguese, Marathi and Konkani language.
Nari Gandhi’s working style was mainly site- oriented. He took advantage of the coastal part and selected a water-front angle for the bungalow. He worked with a lot of volumes for this project. His design philosophy was organic, and therefore all the spaces in the bungalow seem to have a flow and are connected.
A heightened and arched pavilion was constructed which is under the main roof of the bungalow. The kitchen, service spaces, and bedrooms were situated at the lower level of the pavilion. The upper-level dining area and living room area have amazing views of the sea.
There are mostly curved and angular aspects of this structure. The large pitched roof is asymmetrical and is supported by two parallel arches. These arches are part of the pavilion. They were the first thing constructed on-site. Flying buttresses which are loaded with walls on either side support the arch and bear its thrust.
Red bricks which are wire-cut, are predominantly used for construction in this structure. Some walls, like the ones adjacent to the pavilion, have punctures that were later filled with stained glass. Stained glass is usually used for aesthetically pleasing openings, and the light filtering through looks beautiful in the interior spaces.
The bedrooms are situated on either side of the pavilion. The roofs are constructed as vaulted roofs. They have semi-circular windows and circular windows. Some of these are recessed, while some extrude out the surface of the room. A semi-circular shaped garden is designed as a sit-out for the rooms. The volume of the vaulted bedroom intersects with the volume of the kitchen and creates an interesting interior space.
The exterior of the bungalow looks like a series of numerous arches and vaults. The brick walls making up the double-height pavilion have circular designs that are openings and voids creating an interesting pattern in the wall. This organic style is
characteristic of all of Nari Gandhi’s works. These patterns created by constructing the façade rather than plastering it, look more natural and aesthetically pleasing. The flow of the patterns echoes the rest of the building’s language, which are all organic volumes. Cutting through these organic volumes are the sharp angles of the sloping roof. The roof was originally designed and constructed as a thatch roof. Later on, it was replaced by a Mangalore tiled with wooden batons on the inner side. A small arched balcony is situated right below the ridge of the roof. It is sea-facing and leads to the interior loft of the building.
The dining area is located on the upper level. It is arranged circularly and is sunken. There are very few architects that create interesting furniture designs along with their structures. For this dining table, Nari Gandhi designed special chairs that have different leg lengths. The dining area has a tall arched window looking out to the garden. The living room doubles as a loft. It has abundant light and ventilation. It has balconies facing the sea and the backyard.
Several coconut trees are jutting out of the spaces of the bungalow, juxtaposed against the red brick walls. All the vegetation on site mingles with the structure, giving it a natural look and feel.
This structure is listed in Nari Gandhi’s most notable works because of so many architectural qualities. It is said that the architect made only 1 sketch for this structure after looking at the site. The spaces are designed very organically, and the different volumes intersect and create interesting spaces. The use of the red bricks throughout the structure makes it stand out in the coastal context. The use of unconventional sizes and shapes for the openings creates an extraordinary look to the structure. The repetitive use of arches sets a pattern and decides the style of the bungalow. Plenty of light and ventilation in all the rooms is ensured by designing the spaces organically. The retaining of the existing vegetation ensures sustainability and tells that the overall structure is along with the flow of nature.