Friday, January 27, 2017

REVISIT MEMORY- #2 - Dr.Arunachalam residence


 “An architect is– necessarily- a great poet. He must be a great original interpreter of his time, his day and his age.”
-Frank Lloyd Wright

We continued along the Revisit Trail, towards Nungambakkam, a busy part of Chennai, to chronicle the home of Dr. Arunachalam & Dr. Vinutha Arunachalam.
The client, belonging to Chettinadu, wanted to combine the traditional cultural living to contemporary spaces, and thus was born the concept that drove the design of this eloquent, sprawling home.
The client also wanted to recycle and incorporate elements from his ancestral property and that of his relatives, to create his home in the heart of Chennai. The 1½ ground property was thoughtfully zoned to create comfort and privacy for its residents.
At the entry, a set of steps led to the basement, with parking space for 2 cars, and 2 rooms that form a clinic that accommodates our doctor couple’s medical practice.
Moving on, we arrived at the ground floor of the home with its large central courtyard and swimming pool for their adorable toddler. The spacious formal living room was furnished with teakwood and we were pleasantly surprised as the marble floor was suddenly replaced by glass, revealing the Koi fish pond beneath.
The central courtyard linked all the levels of their home, with a large double height void that made the house permeable to light and fresh air. We stood, awestruck at the scale of the space, with its rustic stone cladding from Mahabalipuram and a majestic Buddha mural, also in stone. The courtyard was fitted with a retractable roof that prevented the rainwater from entering the home, while also creating soft shading within.
The stained glass windows and grandfather clocks that chimed at different intervals, gave an ethereal quality to the experience of the space.

Traditional windows, doors and wooden ceiling that earlier belonged to Dr. Arunachalam’s ancestral property were integrated into contemporary design.
The play of levels was evident as we climbed up the stairs, the midlanding of which led to their son’s bedroom and a home theatre, with dramatic lighting and dusky wooden walls that transported us to the culture of Chettinad.  
The bedrooms were on the first floor, with large glass windows that had views out to the vertical garden screen walls, which made us feel like we were amidst nature.
Our last stop was at the terrace, with its lush growth of greenery, where one could recline on the thinnai facing the garden. The clients usually invite their friends over on the weekends, to enjoy a quiet evening, relaxing after the busy schedules, amidst the lush greenery that made the home stand out like an OASIS within the city.

REVISIT MEMORY#1 - Suresh residence

Written by Preeti Shibu, Intern Architect- MURALI ARCHITECTS, Chennai.
It was a bright and cheerful morning on Thursday, when a small group of us from MURALI ARCHITECTS, Chennai set out along the ECR to Neelankarai. The occasion was definitely special- a revisit to one of our completed residences, designed for Mr. & Mrs. SURESH and family on Blue Beach Road.
Being an intern at Murali Architects, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to be part of our Revisit, and it was a rewarding experience, seeing how the spaces within this home were so uniquely responsive to the tastes of its homeowners, dignified and steeped in rich tradition, just as they are.

The shaded walkway drew us inwards, with tall bamboo shoots on both sides, and soft light streaming in through the bamboo pergola overhead. The local granite used to accentuate the pathway struck a rich contrast to this.

Through low windows to one side, we could see the large and spacious living room, with dashes of color calling out attention to the curios and memorabilia that the family so lovingly cherished.  As we reached the thinnai, we could hear the faint strains of Carnatic music, playing from the puja.
We were warmly welcomed by the lady of the house, Mrs. Malini Suresh, who graciously allowed us to experience their home, even amidst their busy schedule. We realised that the design of their home started as a response to their respect for tradition and passion for Bharatanatyam- their daughter is an exponent of this dance form.
The classic foyer with its marble clad walls lead to the living rooms, and a remarkable puja room with a glass pavilion, leading out to a small shrine, where the family worships together,
The color palette of the interiors was set by the tone of earthy marble, wood and cool white walls, with glass being used to create the maximum transparency and openness within the house.  
We got the distinct feeling that one would not need lighting for the most part of the day, as the sunlight streamed in through shaded openings and the windows that faced the landscape courtyards.

The play of levels was another interesting facet of this home, where the stairs at midlanding drew us out into a lush green terrace garden, where one could enjoy nature and fresh air, without being watched, behind the screen walls with playful punctures that framed views of the distance.
The bedrooms got the privacy and quiet they needed, connected by a wooden deck, from where one could see the double height living spaces on both sides. The bedrooms were softly lit, with infusions of colour, echoing the tones of the rest of the home.

As we bid the family goodbye and walked back through the bamboo gateway, we had a common thought in our minds- how comforting it must feel to have a patch of heaven on earth, in an abode that rang true to its very soul...



“Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam, be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.” – John Howard Payne.

We leave our home land for many reasons. Earning and education are the most common of the causes. So what do you do when the sound of your childhood calls you across vast distances of land and seas?

Mrs. Uma Gopinath and her husband Mr.Gopinath, chartered accountants  living in Muscat with two young children yearned for a vacation home in India, where they could spend their yearly break away from the hustle and bustle of their professional lives. They spoke of their wishes and dreams, and now, they live in it.

The house, serving as a home away from home, satisfies the long vacation needs and focuses on providing the necessities for the ultimate bonding experience. It is also the permanent home for their parents who reside in India.

The vast living room holds to the notion of providing a comfortable space of interactive bonding for the family and for the friends and relatives they might have over their stay. While connecting the spaces, the central stairs also has a glass floor feature that visually connects all the spaces, incorporated so that no space should feel isolated. For instance, it quenches the curiosity of the kids about what the adults are up to, and the concern of the adults for the safety of the kids.

Above the central stairs stands a skylight that emphasizes the central space. It throws artistic light and shadows and also provides nourishment for the courtyard below.

The ground floor has the kitchen, which notably has an open configuration, increasing the participation of the family in chores alongside the women of the household. The spaces are infused with landscaping elements to soothe the nature loving family.

The circular mezzanine gently becomes a place to unwind and relax. The kid’s bedroom on the other hand, entices the imagination of the young minds, and with a wall climbing feature, sees to that physical activity is also encouraged.
The master bedroom reaches out to the restful needs of the working couple. A tall Buddha court, with a skylight, connects the spacious bedroom with the bathroom, which has no doors.

The entire house sits on a raised platform, with compounds on all its sides. The exterior fa├žade, studded with small vertical slits, brings in ventilation while it protectively encases the house to make the house feel occupied all the time. Finally, the terrace has a home theatre and a terrace garden with bold elements.

All in all, a home is not one until you feel belonged. And Mrs. Uma Gopinath and her family believe that they have found theirs.

MANOJ BHAVAN - Highway restaurant


"They say life is a highway and we all travel our own roads, some good, some bad, yet each is a blessing of its own.”

One does not take a road trip without stopping at a Highway Restaurant. Anyone on a journey, be it an adventurous one or an arduous one, needs a break to refresh and relax. Such highway restaurants must be inviting to the travellers who wish to explore the journey more than the destination.

The story begins in a small town named Maduranthangam, with an elderly gentleman Mr.Padmakaran who had started his life on a bicycle selling tea in his early years, with a big heart and even bigger dreams of one day catering to the entire world.

The Manoj Bhavan highway restaurant is located in Madhuranthagam, along the 100 feet wide Chennai-Trichy National Highway. The essence of the restaurant is to attract and arrest the attention of fast moving highway vehicles from a distance by the use of strong geometry and bold shapes and sharpness, a play of varying silhouette, material, texture, colour and form.
The restaurant is an incorporation of massive structures with irregular angles that create three different faces to the onlookers. This way, the travellers are welcomed from all the directions. These three faces create a visual axis and what first looks like haphazardness and chaos are diligent decisions - made with the public users in mind.

The atmosphere of the building mass and slanting walls along with the combination entice and invites the weary traveller into the restaurant’s pleasant and rejuvenating interiors.

"The best thing about concrete is that, it looks unfinished."

The exterior and the interiors are constructed with exposed concrete and plywood shuttering. The cantilevers are formed by steel truss framework and they are an interesting play in the structure which emphasizes the outlook of the building.
Usage of exposed concrete and the neutral colour scheme of various hues and tones of grey and white create a balance and uniformity that compliments the usage of the irregular angles.

The cantilevered Director’s room is designed in such a way that it overlooks the processing and the flow of activity of the restaurant. The glass frames with steel channels are held together by channel sections. Niches have been fashioned as seating along the interior exposed concrete walls. The janitor area in the washrooms has also been carved with niches.

The tower which holds the overhead tank and its head room acts a focal point that is capable of attracting passengers in the surrounding 3km radius. The massiveness of the tower makes it as a prominent landmark of the restaurant and its verticality and vastness makes it easier for the visitors to spot it even from a distance.

The children play area along with the landscape provides a relaxing ambience for both the adults and kids. The pathways are defined through the means of landscape.

The highway restaurant acts as a retreat for all the travellers. Its serene location and ease of access makes it a pleasurable space for people to unwind and rejuvenate after a long tiring ride.

The comforting landscape and the sculpture-like mass will invite the tired traveller in, offer a pause period and a time of bonding, and rejuvenate their senses, before they restart their journey.

In conclusion, Manoj Bhavan, makes the journey of a traveller to a destination more delightful and enjoyable, because the journey to a destination is equally important as the destination itself.

“The road is a word, conceived elsewhere and laid across the country in the wound prepared for it: a word made concrete and thrust among us.”