‘Land is the purest form of nature, and buildings grow towards the light like a plant’. This is the kind of thought process that inspired Nari Gandhi to give us great buildings with sensitivity to nature, organic and yet resembling a strong geometry. Nari Gandhi’s work was deeply inspired by the ideologies of Frank Lloyd Wright. His thoughts, ideas, lifestyle, and the belief system were so straightforward and path-breaking that he is often compared to Howard Roark – the lead character in the famous novel – ‘The Fountainhead’.
Nari was full of modesty and would treat his workers very well. He was fond of the unconventional styles of architecture, sketching on the floor to make his workers understand the design better, and working with stone & wood himself, etc.
Here’s a glimpse of Nari Gandhi 5 Iconic Projects:
1. GOBHAI MOUNTAIN LODGE, LONAVALA
Gobhai Mountain Lodge was probably the first project by Nari and is the best example of his climate-sensitive design. This was also the first time someone used the ‘desert masonry’ in India which was inspired by F.L Wright’s rubble masonry technique. This renders the whole structure in a very simple yet classy palette. The living areas of the lodge are placed in a way that they receive maximum sunlight while the roof with deep overhangs helps in protecting the house from the dense rainfall that the vicinity receives. Moreover, the plan is laid in the east-west orientation and triangular fashion to gain maximum daylighting.
The triangular plan in line with the sun-path & wind directions, the openings directed towards an unobstructed view of the nearby fort and reservoir, the use of locally quarried materials, and the unconventional look of the building manages to give us the best taste of Nari Gandhi’s work.
2. KORLAI BUNGALOW, ALIBAUG
A widespread pavilion with arched openings, large pitched roof and the predominant use of red bricks, this bungalow at the coastal village of Korlai to the south of Revdanda is probably one of the most celebrated works of Nari Gandhi. The brick wall is adorned with various punctures that not only aid in ventilation but also add a playfulness to the elevation. The lower levels of the pavilion are supposed to have spaces like service areas, bedrooms, kitchen, and other ancillary spaces while the upper pavilion area functions as the living and lounging space. The idea of making the spaces semi-open with two huge arches supporting the pitched roof makes the space grand and acts as the main focal point of the design.
The fact that Nari gave immense importance to the construction techniques, design language, and materials is very evident from the use of hollow red bricks, stained glass, the flying buttresses, custom-made furniture, and the organically planned landscape around the house.
3. JAIN BUNGLOW, LONAVALA
It is said that this masterpiece by Nari Gandhi was constructed without a single set of working drawings or involvement of site engineers. This project involved a very labor-intensive method with Gandhi personally paying attention to every aspect of the design. The structure is composed of stone masonry walls of varying sizes and colors. These masonry walls were integrated with steel struts and trusses which then supported the sloping roof. Walls of the internal courtyards are embellished with small chips of stones. Most of the stones used in this project were igneous rocks from the western ghats of Maharashtra and this implies that Nari Gandhi was very particular about using locally available materials and making the most of it. Strong use of geometry can be seen in the forms of the aperture used in the design like semi-circular openings for windows and parallelogram-shaped openings for all the doors.
The structure through its shades and forms not only bends with nature but also creates an organic environment within and this is purely a product of an innovative thought process.
4. REVDANDA HOUSE, REVDANDA
Revdanda House by Nari Gandhi is a quaint red brick house that has undone the concept of ‘home’. This project is a perfect example of Nari’s ‘Out of the box’ thinking. This shows that a house need not be a space confined to walls and ceilings but can be a collection of organic spaces – open semi-open and scattered. Again this too is a climate responsive design with sloping roofs, clerestory windows, and deep overhangs. This project was more of remodeling work and the main highlights include retention of the dense vegetation on the site, usage of locally available red bricks, and tree trunks as the main materials of constructions and use of local ‘geru’ as paint for walls.
Revdanda House is more than a ‘House’. The large fenestrations aided for an unobstructed view, for the tree trunks to grow and also served as spaces for art objects like terracotta pots. The house and the design is an artistic mural in itself.
5. BEACH HOUSE, MADH ISLAND
Every project of Nari Gandhi has an interesting story to tell. As far as this Beach House at Madh Island is concerned, the story is that he was involved right from the stage of site selection. The design of the house began with the construction of the three huge vaults that formed the prime part of the superstructure whereas the extrados of the vaults was filled with the earth and the rood formed was converted into a huge terrace garden.
The elliptical openings in the vaults for light as well as to facilitate hanging of the swing; skylight domes affixed with capped glass chips, broken glass, beer bottles; and the vaulted canopy made from thin nylon strings and mother-of-pearl shells are the features that make this house quite an unusual masterpiece.