It is a modern-day interpretation of the Kerala style of architecture, writes K.A. MARTIN.

The sun floods this house at Konthuruthy in Kochi as a brisk breeze, rising off the ripples in Vembanadu Lake, rushes in. Michael Dominic’s home revels in natural splendour.

The structure emerges out of a cocoon of laterite stones, wood and clay tiles, a modern interpretation of the traditional Kerala style of architecture with eyes wide open to the surrounding environment.

Mr. Dominic, a veteran of the hospitality industry and director, CGH Earth Group of Hotels, says, “We make a lot of investments in environmental sustainability when we build our properties.” The same way the house was conceived and constructed about five years ago.

A substantial amount of money went into tapping solar energy and rainwater, the investments now paying rich dividends with the present load-shedding and a fierce summer wringing dry the city’s water sources.

“It was our insistence that only naturally occurring materials should be used,” he says as the morning sun lights up the wooden floor and book shelves on the first floor of the house and a steady breeze plays around with the bamboo blinds.

Sticking to the traditional Kerala house make-up meant use of wooden rafters to support a combination of pitched and hip roofs, complete with wooden ceiling in some places, Mr. Dominic says. The home, woven around Nature and traditional Kerala designs, achieves its vibrancy from the use of contemporary lines and detailing. Even the way the laterite stones are used is current.

City-based Rajesh George, architect and designer, says his brief was to make a house out of materials naturally available in Kerala.

Laterite stones are one of the oldest building materials in the State. And the house came out of a latter-day interpretation of Kerala architecture.

Natural form

The stones were used in their natural form. They are a beautiful building material with their own form, character and texture. No attempt has been made to mask these qualities. The exposed stone work, in fact, gives the home an earthy look so rooted in tradition.

“But it is not a copy. It is an interpretation,” he says about the design of the house, which is strung around a central open space (courtyard).

The private and public spaces are linked to the naturally lit and airy central space. The private spaces lead away from the centre and the public spaces lead into it.

Stand-out feature

Cross ventilation of living spaces in the house is another feature that stands out. The design ensures that every room in the house has two of its sides to the open space. Mr. George says there was a conscious attempt to locate the house within the site in such a way that substantial chunks of open spaces are achieved in the front and behind. And, using the house as a wall, “We have been able to create a forecourt and an interior court; a public open space in front and a private open space behind the house,” he says.

The effect is that of a traditional Kerala house speaking a language that is current.

The investment now pays rich dividends.


1

  • Only naturally occurring materials used in the house.



  • 2

  • Contemporary lines and detailing employed.



  • 3

  • Woven around Nature and traditional Kerala designs.


  • Brief

    Rajesh George was told to make a house out of natural materials.

    Plan

    It was a latter-day interpretation of the Kerala style of architecture.

    Method

    Qualities of natural materials used have been left unmasked for that special touch.

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