Excerpt: 5 Element House, designed by Studio PKA, is a weekend retreat and a reprieve from the city’s bustling life in a pristine landscape. The house on top of the hill, reminiscent of the forts in the horizon, reveals its ability to become one with the land and is a pure reflection of the realm surrounding it. The light cast reflections of rippling water from the pool against the walls. The shadows grow across the expanse of the house and along double-height walls as the day wears on. The world around had grown into the design the same way the design had grown into its surrounding.
[Text as submitted by architect] Famous for its captivating vistas, Pavana is as much a getaway as it is a pristine landscape – landlocked by the Sahyadris, crowned and guarded by three forts. The lake, a man-made marvel, held back and contained by a towering dam plays host to a wide gamut of activities throughout the year – an emerging hotspot for tourists and nature lovers alike. The family of four sought to discover a weekend retreat as well as a reprieve from the bustling life of the city, and hence ventured out in search of a tract of land that would not only capture the essence of the place but could also inspire, delight and satiate their creative endeavors. Snaking its way up a steep slope riddled with hairpin bends that overlook the range, the site rests as a proud marker – evocative and majestic, overlooking the shimmering lake in the distance. The house on top of the hill, reminiscent of the forts in the horizon, revels in its ability to become one with the land and is a pure reflection of the realm that surrounds it.
Rising high and at the level of the Sahyadris, the story begins where the Five Elements meet – The Earth and The Sky, with Air, Water and Fire in-between – molded from the earth and open to the vast surround allowing the outside to step in. The design allowed the world outside to grow along and within the spaces of the structure itself. You could find green climbers trailing their way up along the wooden trellis, the occasional garden variety chameleon darting across the stone pathway. Dragonflies hover over the wild flowers that grew around the structure, or just a yellow butterfly sitting still against the window pane. You could see the changing hues of the skies sitting in the living room; feel the cold breeze that began at the lake. The light cast reflections of rippling water from the pool against the walls. The shadows grow across the expanse of the house and along double height walls as the day wears on. The world around had grown into the design the same way the design had grown into its surrounding.
“The abode exists in tandem with the elements around it – a subliminal nod to nature itself.” The textured and subdued wintergreen walls grow warmer in tone under the sun and mimic the tones of earth; which not only blends in with the landscape but gives the impression of a mass that has grown and emerged from the land on which it rests. The house rises and falls, following the lay of the land. Each level responds to the contour which gives rise to a dynamic and playful mix of risers and landings – a homage to the hills. Following the profile of the roofs, large fenestrations bring in daylight and warmth creating a connect with the changing hues of the skies above and a casual reminder of the passage of time. The spaces within the house stay in a constant dance of light and shadow – with light that shimmers and glides along walls and dark patches that spread out across the floor. The elements are allowed to enter and can be seen, felt and heard, enticing the users to pause and constantly explore, experience and live the space.
The footprint ensures that the site has been altered to a bare minimum. The very form of the design tries to embrace the landscape, creating multiple vantage points from within – making it easy to forget where the house ends and the outside begins. The house continues to respond, adapt and live in harmony with the elements. Spaces were imagined to develop and narrate their own story over time – as the seasons change – in sync with the natural environment. A simple and earthy palette of materials and tones – limestone (Shahabad & Kadappa), sandstone, slate, teak wood, terracotta tiles, exposed brick, cement plaster, mild steel – complement and respect the site and its surroundings.
Taking advantage of the site and the surround, the design evolved from a cohesive single unit to a structure that spreads out in blocks, akin to a jigsaw, with built and unbuilt spaces interlocking to create a whole. The unbuilt open spaces act as natural extensions that exist as distinct entities which seamlessly merge to convey the duality of space. As the extensions branch out in the form of bridges, the disparate blocks come together, effectively eliminating the sense of distance one would expect to feel in a space of this scale.
Segregated into numerous zones – the master block, the kids block, the living block and the guest block – the house takes into account the family’s requirements and their professional inclinations. Each zone spills out into an informal space – the aangan (a small courtyard), the pool, the lily pond – that ensures the continuity and flow of spaces from the interior to the exterior. A divide between the guest block and the living block acts as a magnet and the true entrance of the house –enticing and pulling the user in, towards the view of the lake and the range – bringing forth an element of surprise in the form of the silhouette that is the house itself. The living area acts as the fulcrum of the house, asserting itself as the warm welcoming safe haven, while the remaining three zones provide privacy, and are reserved to retreat or retire to at night. If the living area is the heart of the house, then the aangan is the soul. Nestled between the double storeyed M – block and the low heighted K- Block, the aangan is envisioned as an informal yet deeply personal space for the family of four – a place for quiet contemplation as well as invigorating conversations, bringing the residents together.
An edgeless cantilevered swimming pool, in line with the dam, breaks forth and juts out towards the crystalline lake, an invitation for the water body to enter the house; a vast pervasive expanse yet seemingly only a stone’s throw away. As a direct response to the site – the altitude and the prevailing climatic conditions – currents of wind are allowed to flow through the numerous openings and are directed along the two main axes of the site – from the aangan to the entrance and from the pool to lily pond. Conceived as a home for friends as much as it was a home for family, the 5 Element House is a place for celebrating life itself.