What are the features that an urban house has on offer? Study its unique entry way and forecourt landscaping that does more with less.
The urban house aims to do more with less by the careful orchestration of spaces, forms, light and internal spaces to create a surprise — an illusion of space expansion on the limited site. Sensing the explosion, it is designed to be part of the urban morphology.
Since the modern day living involves entertaining lots of guests and relatives, the house needs to have more than just a `living room': an interacting space and an intimate private zone would form the integral theme of the house.
Every house has a sequence for approach, even as one needs to pause at every stage of this designing. The first striking element of any house is the entry way and the forecourt landscaping, since most of the city sites need to have a front set back according to rules.
If planned properly, it can be combined with the car park space for the bigger front area. So this area can be used for activities like:
* greeting relatives and friends.
* receiving nature... like the sun or hearing the birds while you exercise.
* creating an outdoor area for family interaction, maybe for modest coffee get-togethers.
* hosting weekend parties and birthday functions, or
* having a parking area for two cars at-least, plus two wheelers and cycles.
In most cases, the underground sump also would be along the front set back as the metro lines usually run below the streets and you get a better water pressure.
For proper usage of the front area, a good flooring combined with proper landscaping is required to enhance and make that area intimate and more usable.
So while connecting the top slab of the underground sump, the slab has to be lowered to allow for paving. Care has to be taken to raise the neck for the manhole cover. Properly dressed manholes in natural stone can be used for the forecourt paving.
The paving material choice is numerous... from concrete interlocking tiles, richer synthetic interlocking blocks to cobbled stones of natural granite material, it's a long list.
If planned well, the compound wall inside can also help recreate a court kind of a feel, making the house extend up to the compound wall.
But if it is only a raised compound wall, separating the inside from the outside, then the real joy of participation ceases to exist, the compound wall has to cater for people to look outside while also keeping in mind the passers by. The external seater in the forecourt area in the house featured here uses a combination of Italian marble and a flame finished granite, creating a feel of ruggedness of the exterior and also the comfort of a South Indian thinnai. The area below the seater can be used for storage. A security room and also a pump room would be better off, if planned along the forecourt area with a natural blend of materials. This area has to be free from loose soil, keeping in mind the non- pedestrian areas that need to have open soil for water to penetrate.
The author is the Chief Architect of Murali Architects, Chennai