Architect Sheril Castelino made simple, innovative changes to this typical “row” house in Auroville to create a spacious, bungalow-like tropical villa with a private mezzanine for sleep and study and minimalistic decor.
Contrary to congestion associated with small spaces, the design deftly manipulates space and light in a 75 sgm plot.
The large fenestrations go all the way to the roof with insect-proof mesh stretched onto a wooden grid frame as cover.
When you think of Auroville, certain images spring to mind-among these are experimental, cost-effective buildings. These could range from the most basic to the very evolved, ecologically-friendly constructions. For sustainable and contemporary living with an international flavour suited to this town’s tropical climate, Auroville is known for its natural materials such as bamboo thatch, ferrocement, wattle and dob, compressed earth blocks and terracotta, that create sheer poetry of design.
For my own home, as an architect myself I began modifying my single-standing house-a standard for other homes in Auroville-while it was still at the civil works stage. Although the shell was ready-made and common to the rest of the houses in the area, the interiors were done in a strikingly stark and spartan language that achieved a classy elegance at very low cost due to the choice of finishes used.
An exposed terracota roof, granite-topped tables, canvas chairs and stone staircase give a varied, tactile experience to visitors.
The compact 75 sq m apartment with its own mezzanine has a curved double-height volume over the living area and a bedroom space within the open mezzanine. The lower floor includes the entrance area, the living room, kitchen and terrace dining in an open plan. A tiny study, a bedroom and another terrace form the mezzanine level covered by a half-vaulted, trapezoidal, exposed hollow terracotta roof laid in shallow jack arches. The fenestrations are large and all the way to the roof with insect-proof mesh stretched onto a wooden grid frame as cover. Auroville’s green forest forms a vibrant backdrop for the windows, dispelling the notion of a concrete jungle view that most city apartments have to contend with.
A level drop is the only sign of a change of space from the living area to the kitchen while the study forms an exclusive space.
The inexpensive, traditional IPS floor in a uniform, warm ochre hue dominates and holds together the entire lower floor. The minimalistic kitchen area is differentiated by a drop in the level from the living area and partly hidden under the staircase. The furniture is light and restricts itself to the bare essentials. The living-room divans double as guest beds. A rough granite-top table and metal and canvas chairs serve as a balcony dining nook. The entrance area includes a white wardrobe of perforated metal which allows clothes to breathe in the damp monsoon. A small bathroom is made to look larger with a mirror in small blue mosaic and white tiles.
The cost-effective IPS flooring in warm ocre is the only colour in an otherwise spartan and minimal living room. The woody trees become part of the decor, this time from the outside, affording the residents continous light and air supply.
The wooden bed frame overlooking the living area from the open mezzanine is the only piece of furniture in this unique bedroom which holds a colourful painting, an installation and a sculpture. The terrace that is shared with the neighbours was closed to include my small study which accommodates the studio and allows for privacy in an other-wise open-plan house.
Although this is a typical house given for a couple in Auroville, I aligned the line and form of the house to give it the spaciousness of a villa, without any loud, jarring furniture in its interiors.