Bangalore-based Indian architect Chitra Vishwanath focuses on ecology and sustainability in architecture. She is the principal architect and managing director of Biome Environment Solutions in Bangalore, which has been involved in more than 500 projects. She started her practice in 1990; her firm Chitra K. Vishwanath architects merged with the rainwater club and became biome environment solutions. She is married to S.Vishwanath, a civil engineer specializing in water management and harvesting structures and partners in her firm. Chitra Vishwanath built her own mud house to promote the mud architecture of buildings. She has designed and built structures with the earth as a primary material input in construction. As a result, the total footprint of the structure is kept to a minimum. She also employs materials from a local area for her construction.

In general, design in architecture is seen as a form of art, and architects are recognized for their originality and skill. Design is a type of service to nature, the environment, and the people Chitra Vishwanath designs for. Through this mode of operation, the Biome team has set a new path for architectural education and practice that is more focused on the needs of the community. This also ensures that there is harmony between the individual, the group, and the larger natural environment in which we all exist.

Description

Residence for Charis by Chitra Vishwanath: Brick by Brick - Sheet1
Elevation view of the house_©Vivek Muthuramalingam

On the outskirts of Bangalore, next to a lake, the house is situated at the edge of a garden around a park. Given that the home is on a plot corner, it has been built so that it can be seen from both sides. Chitra Vishwanath constructed the entranceway with telescoping vaults, sloping roofs, and walls pierced with windows of various sizes and colors. Lower levels do not offer a beautiful view due to the presence of a stormwater drain. The built-up area is 260 m2, and the total site area is 378 m2. 2013 saw the completion of the construction.

The house needed to contain two living areas, a guest wing that could accommodate guests, and a place for the family to live. The guest wing features a sitting area, a small pantry, and a sizable bedroom with a bathroom. Along with a living room, dining room, and kitchen, the family wing contains three bedrooms. Both wings are connected by a sizable interior courtyard with a palm tree. Both wings’ common spaces open out to this courtyard, which is filled with native plants. The property’s ground floor, from the entrance to the main door, is guaranteed to be barrier-free.

Residence for Charis by Chitra Vishwanath: Brick by Brick - Sheet2
Ground floor plan_©www.archdaily.com

Interior

The view of the lake against the setting sun from the bedrooms is spectacular. The courtyard, which is also regarded as a semi-open living space, is accessible from the main door. The connecting verandah, which features a swing and ample room for additional seating, divides the courtyard in two. The verandah was precisely positioned over the subsurface rainwater tank by Chitra Vishwanath. Three telescoping vaults cover the living-dining room in the main section. Because the sun seldom shines in Bangalore for extended periods, the best approach to gather light is from above rather than the sides.

Residence for Charis by Chitra Vishwanath: Brick by Brick - Sheet3
The internal courtyard with palm tree connecting both wings_©Vivek Muthuramalingam

Since the southern clerestory is partially shadowed, the telescoping of the vaults creates glass top openings on both the north and south ends. Vaults of two sizes are created for this. Hollow clay is used to construct two smaller vaults that telescope into a bigger concrete vault. Fixed windows in the skylights feature artistic grills. The small powder room has a built-in granite wash basin and a foot-operated granite faucet.

Residence for Charis by Chitra Vishwanath: Brick by Brick - Sheet4
The living and dining area with telescopic vaults_©Vivek Muthuramalingam

The master bedroom features patterned windows that face west and a window seat that brings in cooler garden breezes. On the ceiling of this area, which is not plastered, is a design by MC Escher. The carved granite sink in the adjacent toilet is a combination of black and white. The children’s den is on the upper level of the home, with a terrace garden and an open gym. There is a slight incline on the eastern side of the court which leads to the guest wing. All spaces are well illuminated and ventilated thanks to the large apertures and all-white decor.

Materials

Since the earth is used as the major construction material, Chitra Vishwanath and her crew love experimenting with different earth-building techniques. Since a company setup requires patronage to innovate, Charis served as our sponsor in the development of this home. This home has several firsts for Biome, including a rammed earth foundation, reinforced adobe walls, and a soil biotechnology process for grey water treatment. When building walls, floors, and foundations, rammed earth is a technique that employs compressed natural raw materials like earth, chalk, lime, or gravel. It is a time-tested method that has recently gained appeal as a green building method.

A view showing the sling in verandah_©www.brickarchitecture.com

Before dirt was dug for the foundation and pushed to the ground level, plastic debris from the surroundings was piled on top of the foundations. The guest wing has been constructed with stabilized adobes.  Stabilized adobes may be as structurally sturdy as CSEBs, and they are a technique to utilize when using earth as a construction material since they eliminate the need for machine dependency and the associated expertise.

References:

  1. ArchDaily. (2015). Residence for Charis / Biome Environmental Solutions. [online] Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/774084/residence-for-charis-biome-environmental-solutions 
  2. Brickarchitecture.com. (n.d.). Residence for Charis / Biome Environmental Solutions. [online] Available at: https://brickarchitecture.com/about-brick/why-brick/20-home/70-residence-for-charis-biome-environmental-solutions 
  3. Anon, (2017). Residence for Charis, at Bangalore, by Biome Environmental – ArchitectureLive! [online] Available at: https://architecture.live/residence-for-charis-bangalore-biome-environmental/ 
Author

Khushi is an interior designer who believes the key to understanding is communication, and what could be a better medium than words? She finds joy in little things as they matter a lot. She enjoys rom-com literature and poetry, always keen on learning something new.

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