Sanjay Puri Architects are well-known across the world for creating buildings that are architectural statements and structures that could be perceived as works of art. The firm creates designs that are both practical as functional buildings but are also sculptural masterpieces that satisfy the clients’ visions.
The private house, 18 Screens, is situated alongside other homes within the rich cultural city of Lucknow in northern India. The design is specific to the location and climate of the house and therefore has similarities with the traditional Indian courtyard house. The client’s brief specified that the plan accommodates six bedrooms as well as a prayer room, a movie lounge, a study and utility spaces. A double-height naturally ventilated internal courtyard is at the heart of the house, which is surrounded by open terraces and balcony gardens leading into the bedrooms.
The effective integration of landscape features alongside design techniques creates a series of captivating experiences within the house. Each living space was designed to have a different spatial quality, giving them unique identities. The placement of large extensive glass windows on the north side of the house allows for indirect sunlight to penetrate into the interior spaces.
Sanjay Puri Architects decided to build the whole structure out of raw concrete, with the internal spaces adorned with sandstone and wood features as well as landscaping which creates an overarching natural palette fusing effectively with the exterior concrete aesthetic. The differing living spaces have their own identities, characterised by spatial techniques as well as light streaming into the interior at different intensities, illuminating the room.
The key features that characterise the whole project are the screens with patterns that reflect traditional Indian design and architecture, which enclose outdoor seating areas while also allowing light into the building ensuring a continued healthy relationship with the natural environment. These screens protect the inhabitants from harsh sunlight and heat at certain times of the day as well as create beautiful patterns within the architecture as the light shines through. The screens also act as shields that mitigate the noise of any traffic from the nearby streets. The specific pattern of the screens was inspired by ‘chikan’ embroidery, famous in India.
Sanjay Puri Architects’ references to tradition and culture within the architectural features make this project special and specifically suitable for its context, in terms of its design as well as social aspects incorporated effectively. These screens add some flair and personality to the home, made almost entirely out of concrete. They create the most beautiful projections of light patterns within the house which would contribute to creating a peaceful and ethereal ambience overall.
The chikan tradition, from which the screens were inspired, is part of the cultural heritage in the city and is characterised by intricate embroidery using mainly floral motifs. The latticework of the screens beautifully encloses the terraces of the bedrooms, that cantilever out of the structure to provide areas for seating and relaxation. The interior is decorated with timber cladding finishes and landscaping which adds more character to the raw concrete finishes of the structure.
The modern design of the house by Sanjay Puri Architects, effectively responds to cultural and climatic contextual factors, using some traditional methods. The use of the screens and an internal courtyard are features commonly used not only in India but also in the Middle East. These perforated screens surrounding the building also minimise the chances of the structure overheating, therefore making it a more energy-efficient design.
The inclusion of an internal courtyard, that is double-height and open to the elements, creates a flow of natural ventilation throughout the house as well as providing shade from the sun. The garden within the design is situated at a point that is shaded by the structure and therefore can be used during the summer months, when temperatures increase and when refuge from the sun is needed.
The balcony gardens on the terraces act as buffers between the exterior and interior of the house, also beginning the process of cooling and shading the house. Solar panels were installed onto the rooftop that harness energy for general functions within the building such as lighting and water heating. Infrastructure for harvesting water from rainfall, to be collected and recycled for reuse in the garden also makes this a more sustainable form of architecture.
The composition of the overall structure, 18 Screens, comprising varying volumes of space, fusing to create a series of experiences in each room makes this architecture particularly unique. The glimpses offered of the outside world through the screens, ensure the connection between interior and exterior, while also providing breath-taking views out onto the landscaping and greenery.
This architectural form is a key example of a design that is functional as well as inventive and sculptural, making inhabiting the structure an interactive and memorable experience.