The Hill Haven, Saattal
The Umber Home, New Delhi
Contemporary architecture of Delhi is defined by four storeys of plastic spaces placed upon a stilt floor that contributes to a narrowing ‘street width to building height’ ratio, felling of trees defining block frontage, reduced penetration of winter sun and dull ‘grey’ facades that fail to distinguish one floor from the other. The Umber home, in the diplomatic enclave of Malcha Marg, Delhi, creates an informed statement of approach towards such buildings and the urban scenario. The current urban challenge with all the city homes in Delhi is to achieve maximum FAR while, still trying to break away the monotony of an identical facade over all the floors. Therefore, the client brief was centred around creating a ‘family home’ unlike the standard standalone models practiced nowadays. Since the client came from a deeply rooted design background, stress was given on creating the right design statement.
As a measure to enhance the perceptibility of spaces from the outside, the geometric facade emerges from the monolithic design with a dynamic composition of subtractions to invite natural light, facilitate ventilation and necessitate visual depth. In an effort to remain additive to the street, the top floor is set back to reduce the scale of the building for the overall volume to seem like a monolith of two floors sitting atop the ground floor, which is also inset. Pre-meditated as a volume in its entirety, the architecture, interior design and décor, were all devised from scratch, cohesively, merging the inside to the outside seamlessly while endowing a unique identity.
The house is dressed in shades of copper. Clad in Dholpur stone, its deep faded beige; and elemental highlights of copper to detach the ground floor from upper monolithic volume, gleaming railings and a top band to tie the entire facade; the form irradiates under the vibrant sun of Delhi. The Balconies are conceived to break the monolithic form to create a dynamic play of volumes. Conceptually derived from the copper cladding pattern on the ground floor, the balconies render themselves as an element that integrates the façade. The copper and stone together bathe the street with vernacular colours of Delhi and a glow that seems innate to the opaque materials. The shimmering copper is placed to fade through the years to merge harmoniously with the stone, and then, decay further to reflect a blue-green finish, adding a disparate image, grain and memory, reflective of age of the house and passing time. Copper is a highly sustainable material- with about 80% recyclable value, durable, low in terms of maintenance requirements and with a long life, while providing diversity in color and texture is hence an appropriate choice.
The seamless monochromatic blend defining the approach towards the house, consequential of the building’s facade, seems to flow from outside to define the atmosphere of inside spaces. Simple and linear, the design revolves around the front garden/lawn, which is a rare urban opportunity these days in Delhi with the latest bye-laws. It provides a foreground and a breathable green space, to create a healthy transition from the street to the verandah. The entertainment activities are planned on the ground floor, to maximize the view of the front garden, so that they can directly open out into the green space. Designed to provide an end to end visual integrity, with green cover placed at the boundaries to gently confine the activities, provide privacy and create a sense of enclosure. The layout of the floor has been planned to create maximum openness so that the garden and built space become an extension of each other allowing activities to spill from one edge to the other effortlessly.
Designed as a single unit house over four floors, for a multi-generational family, the residence is conceived as a unified space while still respecting individual spaces. The real challenge was that the single unit had to be designed such that it could be easily divided into independent floors with similar programmes if the client requirements changed in the future. Further, the top floor is designed as an independent, self-sufficient unit. The living spaces are divided over the first and second floors with the basement being used for informal entertainment, storage and services. The open space in the center unifies all the floors, while providing a relief space that brings in natural light & also an opportunity to create a sculptural element. The juxtaposition of the double height space with the open to sky cutout creates an interesting play of volumes. The master bedrooms on two floors are designed as suites with walk in closets and dressers. The rooms have full frontage that maximizes the views of the green foliage outdoors, while bringing in maximum sunlight along with fantastic tree top view facing the park. Designed as a multi-functional space on the first floor, the family lounge opens up the first floor, and can be modified to become the guest room when required, by a simple sliding folder and customizable furniture that opens up to a bed when needed. Together with the double height space, the family lounge also creates a relief space on the first floor and the ground floor. All rooms, bathrooms and the kitchen are designed to get maximum light into the spaces through full height windows & higher ceiling heights, while integrating all services which are essential to a good project. Simple in design, the use of wooden soffit contrasting with the stone flooring, glass railings and the wooden handrail, allows the folded plate staircase to become a feature in itself while achieving the intent of making the space larger. The materiality for all interiors flooring, ceiling, lighting etc. is kept muted, in line with clients’ preferences and to offset the interior design and décor.
Conceptually, the interiors break away from the totally modern and contemporary over used look, having to work with a timeless building and giving it a flash back of the Classic and Imperial Elegance. These classic embellishments have been merged with the Architecture to achieve a Chic seamless style true to the home owner’s unique aesthetics. The feel and mood of the living spaces showcase the love of French Design and the finest Indian Craftsmanship. The dining room boasts of a bespoke handcrafted wall composed with Makrana marble applied using age old techniques and craftsmanship. It is designed to look as seamless as possible, thereby giving a unique look when backlit, providing a backdrop for a glamorous setting. The installation above the dining table is created with the same marble, with small metal and Swarovski elements which add to the old worldly charm of the space. The bar furniture, placed against the dining area, takes cues from timber and cane. The top of the bar is carefully clad with charcoal petrified wood, it smartly adds an organic and formal look in the overall ambience.
The same woody look is carried to the powder rooms where the cane work is portrayed in the wallpaper. The surfaces are complemented by wash basins and counters with inlays of organically shaped semi-precious rocks, scooped to create a feature. Copper has been used here on the wall paper with a glowing cane effect and as skirting around the wooden floor, to complement the placement of mirror and uniquely helping it blend with the image of powder rooms that are designed to satisfy the family’s love for nature. The master bedrooms has been decorated in muted tones this allows the outside green of the trees to take over the space and give a feeling of calm close to nature. The kids of the family had an important role to play in the selection and the overall look of their rooms, this was the most fun part of the designing and decoration of the home. The individual personalities shine through with the selection of color schemes, furniture, accessories and wall arts that make the spaces come alive with playful and a fun cheer! The study areas for both are spacious and well planned so that they can grow into the space as time goes along.
The double height space and the central cutout have been endowed with dramatic bird installations creating an imaginative space, where meanings of nature are carefully objectified and placed to generate an intrinsic landscape that is as emotionally responsive as it is tactile. To construct a rhythmic language of the spaces, the texture of outside spaces is carried within, with use of copper, wood and beige flooring. Thus, the building crafts a coherent experience that captivates a person’s senses from the street, define a playfield of spatial experiences that rope him in to the hearth of the house, all this while remaining consistent in their experience and identity. The design boasts of fluid spaces, clean lines, natural colour tones and light accents. The idea of an earthliness is improvised to reflect a sense of luxury, by use of a contemporary mix of simple furniture and vintage accessories, that give weight to the physiognomy of the entire house. Cornices, further add a sense of detail and glamour to the overall language of the house.
The Umber home is a testament, that despite several constraints, a modern house in Delhi can be conceived as responsible architecture, that responds to its surroundings, delivers to personal and collective expectations of a dwelling, and construes a language of spaces that transcends original functions to include dialogues on the monumental aspects of architecture; to resonate within the lives of its inhabitants and inform their lifestyle with a unique composition, that spans generations.