The Leaf House is a weekend family home located at the foothills in the coastal area of Alibaug, far from the sea but embedded in a lush green site. A house that narrates its story through its natural forms and material honesty. A House designed to mingle with nature, and join in on the existing harmony at the same time fulfill its role as a relaxing and comfortable Family Home that harbors relationships.
Project Name: The Leaf House
Studio Name: SJK Architects
Area: 6500 Sq. ft
Location: Alibaug, Maharashtra.
Completion Date: April 2012
The project stands as a testament to the philosophy of its designers, the Mumbai-based studio SJK Architects guided by Principal Architect Shimul Javeri Kadri. A studio that firmly believes in creating spaces that are rooted in the earth. Environments that use the sun, the wind, and nature to create spaces that are imbued with light. Designs springing from contemporary innovations that draw from Indian traditions and spiritual metaphors.
The design project is a weekend home of 650sqm that stands on a 1.3-acre plot of land populated with native mango, coconut, and neem trees. The desire to include the sun, hills, trees and the gentle winds as indispensable elements of the design rather than side props guided the conceptualization, and the leaves strewn over the earth were the true inspiration. The gentle but sloping form of the leaf worked perfectly with the intent and the very first sight of the plot yielded a site plan made of dried leaves.
The basic design idea was to have individual pods – overlapping but distinct, to house each part of the home, and the journey between pods, to be a sculpted open space encompassing native trees like the neem, mango, and coconut that created the free-flowing courtyard. Each pod was created with an eye to the sun and the winds, and designed with different rules owing to their varied functions and circumstances.
The three pods with seamlessly overlapping roofs house the Living room, a den, and the kitchen. While the other two pods grouped together house the kids’ pod and master bedroom each with their private courtyards. These two groups of pods are separated by the central courtyard that acts as the heart of the space.
The concrete roof canopies supported by angled steel columns, shelter all the five rooms, of which four spaces are enveloped by glazing and an open-air living room which is bordered by a lily pond and a pool.
Open to sky outdoor seating spaces and local plant varieties were used to add to the existing narrative landscape of Mango, Coconut and Neem trees. Lemongrass was extensively used to counter mosquitos, and retain the simplicity of language. Rainwater harvesting was an essential element on this land as the bore wells ran dry most of the year. All the rainwater run-off is gathered into underground trenches and canals and fed to the bores.
The “leaf” roofs open up and rise to the north and the east and are lower and deeper on the south and the west sides. The southwest monsoons and the sun angles were formidable factors in the design. The critical design of the leaf accounting structurally, climatically, and ergonomically entailed innovation at every step.
The leaf-shaped roofs were extensively modeled using 3D design software to ensure that sun & rain and overlapping heights worked seamlessly and efficiently.
The lack of symmetry allows for walls to move and open as needed, and break into skylights or movable walls when required. The spaces are designed such that the right amount of sun and wind enter the pod, and create a dramatic yet comfortable indoor atmosphere. Ergonomics and anthropometry were considered to design the doors, windows, and cupboards that nested in the organic leaf form. Polished concrete floors feature throughout the house. The wooden doors fold back to open rooms out to the garden, in addition to these the glazed walls could be removed to create more open spaces.
The pallet of materials consisting of concrete, steel, linseed oil polished wood, and natural limestone was kept subdued to focus on the light, form, and vibrant nature encompassing the house. The thoughtful and deliberate pursuit of simplifying each element ensures that the user gets a pure experience of the space, form light, and nature. Retaining the natural color and texture of every material while keeping in mind the climatic factors such as the tropical rain and sun required research into clear chemical coatings that would endure and embellish and help the space be true to its materials.
The structural system involved the use of dense concrete and steel web, to generate beamless, leaf-shells, supported over angled steel columns filled with concrete.
SJK Architects. 2012. [online] Available at: <https://www.sjkarchitect.com/leaf-house> [Accessed 3 June 2021].