Wide angle lens
A for Architecture
The spatial effect of the architecture of a rectangular box-like concrete structure sets the character of a house located on the outskirts of Nashik. The vivid compositional and constructional elements create a distinct silhouette against the horizon; the tight vertical dimension amplifies the horizontal expanses of the landscape of the house as much as the landscape outside the house
The house in the landscape is a powerful and oft-seen image in the annals of architecture. Whether it is Palladio’s villas and everything that came in its wake or the humble mountain cottage that sits isolated and insulated from its surroundings, the notion of a dwelling that signifies habitation within an otherwise untamed (or tamed – the most likely condition) is a visceral primordial intention when it comes to ‘dwell’. The jostling and claustrophobic nature of cities find their release here, where the mind (and the body) is free to move uninhibited by the forced trajectories and geometries that the city imposes. The most iconic houses of the 20th century are not set in the hustle and bustle of the city – and thus one finds the appropriate setting to build an almost idealised condition of living within an (oft-presumed) idyllic setting. The advent of independent motorised travel meant that it was possible to stay at a relative distance from the city within wide open surrounds and yet be connected to it. Thus one had the mid-century CaseStudy Houses of California and the pavilionlike houses in South America, with Oscar Niemeyer’s Canoas being a standout example owing to its emphatic modulated connection to the condition of the ground.
However the notion of ‘human independence’ from the forces of nature also made itself manifest – a misplaced notion of those times
that was somehow also evident in iconic works such as the Farnsworth House by Mies van der Rohe, a space where nature is objectified and distanced. Perhaps one saw this deference being bridged (quite literally) in the stunning works of the lesser-known Craig Ellwood, whose Mies-ian steel houses tread a fine balance between the act of distancing themselves from the immediate conditions of the ground and yet warmly embracing the countryside with their porous perimeter. Here technology, and ‘man’ as its carrier, is gradually humbled by the boundless expanses of vast landscapes, and both stand to benefit from this exchange.
Ajay Sonar’s Panorama House rakes up memories of the images of Craig Ellwood’s houses. But here, industrial steel gives way to reinforced concrete – and slick metallic chic to the rugged hues of the terrain. Situated a half hour’s drive from Nashik’s city centre, the Gangapur Dam Lake or ‘Bandh Sagar’ as it is known has become a fashionable destination for those who can afford to live at a distance from the city, and with its bowllike landscape it potentially will see the kind of transformations that the surroundings of Pavna Lake (an hour or so away from Mumbai) have witnessed. As such, today, one still sees agricultural holdings interspersed with the occasional building – and one such example is this house, with its distinct silhouette and relationship with its ground. A set of earthen mounds towards the southeast visually obscures the house upon arrival from the cityside. Three distinct bumps in the landscape distance the carport from a sinuous pathway that leads one to the upper floor – where the low frame of the house becomes a lens to view the landscape beyond. The mounds create an intimate living condition on the lower level – where one finds the more private spaces of the house – a master bedroom, a private living area that also opens up to the pool on the lakeside, as well as the kitchen and the bathroom. The assertion of the space is a dual condition of the burrow on one side, and the wide expanse of the lake seen beyond the pool on the other side towards the north-west, sheltered by the large overhang of what forms the definitive singular image of the house’s architecture.
This large box-like overhang takes the form of simple concrete four-sided frame – of equal visual thickness – a visor and a portal that forms a protective armature as well as
frames one aspect of the landscape when seen from the other. Concrete here becomes an all-encompassing material, forming not only the structure of the box but also the finished surfaces of the ceiling and the floor. This elegantly proportioned structural box is held up intermittently by a set of crossshaped steel columns formed of angle sections – a homage to Mies, no doubt; but here the columns display their visual lightness with their interstitial gaps, and thus the overall visual impression and experiential sensation of levitation is achieved. The glass walls slide away completely to be tucked along the two vertical cores that conceal the services and thus one has a house with a simple and clear diagram of served and servant spaces. Verandahs on both sides add to the box’s sense of depth – and the consciously designed low ceiling height of the concrete box creates a space of intimate domesticity wedded to the sheer expanse of the landscape and the lake beyond. Thus the tight vertical dimension amplifies the horizontal expanses of the landscape of the house as much as the landscape outside the house. This is a house designed in cinemascope – to be viewed at ease from the wide apertures of the box in the large living space above, as well the two bedrooms that occupy each end.
The interior furnishings are minimal and thus emphasise the view of the landscape beyond – luxuries of living here are rarefied to allow for the richness of the outside world take centrestage.
Previous spread and this spread: photographs of the exterior of the house captured from various angles at different times of the day indicate the well-defined contours of the structure as well as the topography and rugged hues of the surrounding terrain
Next spread: The elegantly proportioned box-like concrete structure of the house is levitated by a set of cross-shaped steel columns formed of angle sections and is characterised by glass walls that slide along the two primary vertical cores