Undertaking a new house project, or any project for that matter, outside of the city always brings new challenges and excitement.
Challenges because the distance and time it takes to make visits is time taken away from other projects and life in general.
The distance means less visits and that in turn means the feeling of “less control” over the project. Though that may not be the case, as creatives we often have the tendency to micro-manage and be overbearing perfectionists…
But the excitement and opportunities that come with such projects often counter balances any concerns and fears one may have.
Our current new house project in the hills of Dehradun. A plot of land nestled on a roughly flat contour of a hill, overlooking the ‘SOM’ river, vast expanses of pure natural beauty, and the glittering lights of Mussorie on a hill top to the left corner.
On this beautiful piece of land, our client wishes to build a private retreat for his family and above all himself and his books. It will be a place for relaxation and to re-charge, a place to reconnect with nature and indulge in the world of words.
A home away from home, offering a chance for some quality harmonious living.
Having spent weeks and months getting to know the clients and discussing the scope of the project, and with the initial house designs now agreed on, it was time to visit the site and speak to the contractors.
While we anticipated to encounter some difficulties with the contractors, due to the complexity of the design: what really startled us was the realisation, of how old traditional building skills and know-how, has been lost, over what seems like a short period of time.
It was not so long ago when our grandparents built simple humble homes using locally sourced materials, constructed via traditional techniques and equipment.
Fast forward a few decades and those skills are now on the edge of extinction. Traditional building methods are considered a waste of time and the mention of the proposed use of natural, locally sourced materials, is met with raised eyebrows.
And while many may simply give up at this point and go back to the city, erase a few lines here and there, simplify the design and make it more “feasible” and “doable” – that would just not be us…..
Our belief in designing buildings that have integrity and withstand the test of time; that look modern in their deconstructed lines, curves and angles, are deceptive to the untrained eye.
At a closer examination, they are solid and honest in execution. Our insistence on selecting the best of locally sourced materials, working with nature and not against it, incorporating harmony inside and out, from the moment we take on a project – these values guide us continuously and help us stay on course.
A short walk through the village, meeting the locals and chatting to the new neighbours to be …. (humble villagers with little material belongings but hearts of gold) is all we needed to keep our vision for a modern day harmonious living, alive…
Modern forces have changed the typology of houses here, with concrete and bricks overtaking local stone construction. Stone being a locally sourced material, coupled with mud mortar and plaster kept these spaces warm in winters and cool in summers.. a prerequisite while building in these hilly climates.
Our proposed design: striking, somewhat minimalist and modern, is still anchored in tradition.
We’ve made a conscious effort to incorporate the ‘pitched’ roof albeit with a modern ‘twist’!
Traditional ‘black slate’ shall be used to create the pitch , and the roof shall seamlessly transform into wall and flat surface..
Local round river stone, ‘current tossed and shaped’ from the ‘som’ river shall adorn our walls, not as a mere ‘cladding’ but hand built with traditional insulating mud mortar.
Our retaining boundary for the site is complete, built with local river stone, broken into halves and laid in massive walls by craftsmen and labour from the adjoining villages and a head mason from Saharanpur.
The building’s orientation has been planned with the summer and winter sun in mind, and local trees have been retained, with the knowledge that the land is held together by such flora and fauna.
Old trees, dead and decaying have been allowed to remain, as woodpeckers roost in the same…
We are looking to provide a home where animals, plants, insects and birds can live harmoniously with its human inhabitants.
A glimpse into our humble neighbours’ way of life on our recent site visit has further reinforced our resolve.
Livestock, birds and insects play and dance in their surroundings as the residents go about their day, collecting firewood, washing clothes, and attending to daily chores, with a passion that is tireless and joyous.
As we lazily soaked in the sinfull winter afternoon sun, on their patio, overlooking the valley, our appreciation of ‘Harmonious living’ has only grown stronger and fonder.