This second home designed by Rahul Mehrotra is in a mango plantation extending approx. 8 hectare, about 5 km north of Ahmedabad. The climate of north-west India is largely dry and hot, so the detached house was placed in the centre of the plantation, so that the evergreen trees can act as a natural filter. Heat and sunlight are greatly mitigated by the all-year-round tree filter, and the direct view into the green shade provides another source of relief. Visitors are intended to experience the house as an introverted stone oasis, protecting, calming, after they have crossed the sea of trees.
The centring theme is continued in the house. A cruciform ground plan places the living-room centrally as a connecting and linking zone. Each arm of the cross acquires a different function: access area with accentuated main entrances and an enclosed courtyard with seating, opposite the dining area with kitchen and ancillary rooms, at right-angles to this the bedroom area for the family and the guest wing on the end. The central residential area opens up into a courtyard with high walls. This means a great deal of extra living space when the large sliding windows are open, as the division consists entirely of glass.
The courtyard is a location for the soul of the house. The area, which is ambivalently placed inside and outside, avoids the stiffness of an unduly rigid cross figure, which would suggest an inappropriate symbolic quality. The centre extends in this simple way, flowing from the roofed, protecting living area into the open outdoor space, and celebrating fundamental elements of our existence: the sphere of the omnipresent blue sky and a narrow pool running along the entire length, clad in blue material. Here the great horizontal of the spatial composition tilts into the vertical: Mehrotra colours the wall that follows the pool of water blue as well, making pool, wall and sky all of a piece. The extension of the water with the blue wall into the living room suggests the concept of living expressed by the courtyard: a spatial connection on the one hand and on the other hand the inclusion of the refreshing and stimulating element in the main area where much time is spent in a hot climate. The very presence of a shimmering pool is enlivening, but the pool also suggests a cooling swim, of course. This “synthesis in blue” becomes the most expressive design element in the house. The architect very deliberately allows the cooling effect of this colour to dominate as a counterpoint to the outside temperature. In this house, colour is not something applied, but entire walls are “plunged into colour,” like the red in the corridor leading to the dining area. It becomes an integral part of the architectural sub-figures, and lends them an individual quality, but this does not break the whole composition down. Coloured, smoothly rendered surfaces inside are contrasted with the tactile qualities of natural materials: on the outside the house is clad in sandstone, large wooden doors form independent areas of material, the entrance is a rough exposed concrete frame reminiscent of Le Corbusier, and a stainless steel rain-shield caps the living room window. The extremely carefully balanced scale of materials and colour demonstrates the architect’s high degree of sensitivity in an entirely Indian way: strong colour contrasts are derived from an everyday Indian world of magnificent hues, the sandstone,quarried in the vicinity, suggests historical Indian buildings and at the same time reminds of the nearby desert climate. The white of some of the interior plastered walls and materials like exposed concrete and stainless steel are reminiscent of classical-modern design principles. Modern details like profiling, material connections, door furniture and floor coverings show precise workmanship, but above all the intellectual intensity of the architect’s handling of his brief. The interior’s openness to the courtyard contrasts with the hermetic quality of the block-like exterior with its identical window slits. Introversion, a classical Indian motif, attempts to create communicative space that will bind the family together in the centre. The courtyard, the patio, the centre open to the sky, appears all over India as part of a domestic culture that is millennia old.
But Mehrotra enriches his building by another dimension: the roof terrace becomes a stone plateau garden, and acquires an exposed concrete pavilion for the cooler evening hours. It is only when looking out over the extensive view of the treetops from the terrace that they become aware of their central location, and the plantation becomes part of the house, a green, organic sea of trees, harmonising with the building’s broken autonomy. The strictly consistent geometry of the ground plan figure can be experienced from the roof showing the designer’s lucidity and precision, but the timelessness of the building’s formal language also expresses its occupants’ attitude to life.