Set amidst the coastal town of Alibag, Maharashtra, the Three Court House by the Mumbai-based firm RMA Architects is a testament that is well-rooted in the philosophy of its Principal Architect—Rahul Mehrotra. The project is the perfect abode for a medical practitioner, acting as both a clinic as well as a comfortable home, which lies unassumingly in a humble village setting.
It maintains the climatically and socially sound image that is a signature of RMA and makes excellent use of the locally available materials. As typical of their works, the project which was completed in 2014, is highly responsive to the peculiar shape of the site as well as the village that it is situated in.
Juxtaposed to the nature of most weekend homes in the region, the Three Court House takes on a form that helps its surroundings in accommodating a seamless language by diverging from a ‘villa-like’ form.
Modularity in Planning
On the forefront, the project is seen in modules that could be incremented as needed by the programme that is being housed. It is designated as a residential space with an outbuilding on the site that functions as a clinic. In the vicinity of the clinic, there is a provision for staff accommodation.
Each module is restricted to the height of one storey and is thus brought down in mass to blend in with the typology of the village that the project is situated in.
The programmatic elements within the modules in the residential wing are arranged around exterior courtyards. Connections are made such that the interiors can easily flow into the outside. Each module is designed to be closed off from the rest of the house when required.
The bedroom wing is made in a collapsible manner such that it serves as a large family room that can be segregated into private bedrooms using sliding doors. Both of these factors dictate privacy within the residential wing; with the house becoming more private with distance from the entrance.
As pre-mentioned, the house is made entirely of locally sourced materials. It consists of a heavy base made of basalt stone topped with light masonry materials. A cool palette is used to construct the entirety of the project which gives it a serene outlook. This is further emphasized by the presence of two central bodies of water—a swimming pool and a lily pond.
The roofing primarily consists of Mangalore tiles and are designed with an inward slope, providing amply shaded courtyards that are further enhanced by the presence of landscape elements. The roofline also features copper flashing, which acts as a waterproofing element in addition to instilling an element of play by creating a visual highlight when exposed to daylight.
Large glass windows and enclosures act as both daylighting elements and visual connectors to the site and are curated efficiently around the courtyards and water bodies.
Wooden walkways are used to create connections within the project in addition to acting as a soft visual element that complements the light masonry materials.
Much of the exterior of the house is a composition laid out in simple geometry that is spaced out amongst the local vegetation in addition to planted ones. The facade is a humble rectilinear tale crafted in rugged basalt crowned with an unassuming angled roof module that creates a visual distinction whilst supporting inwardly sloping roofs.
The entire project lies seamlessly within its surroundings thereby cultivating an environment that is not imposing as thematic to most weekend homes and villas but rather creating an environment that invigorates its surroundings.
Much of the interior is rendered in delicate colours with pale walls that are complemented with rustic wood-panelled ceilings, wooden doors and other wooden finishes. A similar complementary effect is achieved with the use of handcrafted copper detailing for windows.
The project exhibits a recurring theme of spaciousness through large openings for doors and the use of large glass windows and enclosures. Further, an element of play is employed with the use of smaller tinted panes of glass which are interspaced throughout the project, forming very distinctive visual elements that provide colourful rays of light in the interior differently, depending on the hour of the day.
The project makes use of simple and frugal locally available materials but it is enriched by strategically positioned openings for light in addition to the light reflected from the water bodies. As typical of RMA Architects, it is a statement that questions the need for having luxurious or imported materials within a project when the same perhaps even a more engaging dialogue can be achieved through simple and humane design interventions that benefit many a local craftsman.
The Three Court House – A Statement Piece
The Three Court House not only creates a space that is perfect for its clients but has been curated such that it is socially responsible. With the use of simple locally available materials and handcrafted goods interwoven with the unusual constraints of the site, RMA Architects have birthed a project that creates a wholesome narrative from the many distinctions employed throughout this space as well as its dialogue with its surroundings.
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- RMA Architects (2014). Alibag, India. Three Court House. Available at: http://rmaarchitects.com/architecture/three-court-house/ [Accessed 22 March 2021].
- Arch Daily (2019). Three Court House / RMA Architects. (Last updated February 20, 2019). Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/911785/three-court-house-rma-architects# [Accessed 22 March 2021].