Creative spaces Homes and gardens

Room with a view of nature

Liza RS at her workspace

Liza RS at her workspace   | Photo Credit: S MAHINSHA

Architect Liza RS gets inspired by her garden and all things natural

Far from the madding crowd is the residence of architect Liza R S. Her rented house at Bains Compound, Nanthancode, opens to a traditional structure nestled among trees, potted plants, creepers, flowering plants... The unassuming, tiled house is an oasis in itself.

Liza is at home in her office room, her creative space. It is spic and span; on the teak table is a big sheet of white paper covered with drawings, and a laptop. A built-in cupboard has a model of a building in it. One of the walls is covered with drawings and photographs of homes she has designed.

“The best part about the room is that I can observe our garden. I can see a lot of things happening outside. I feel nature stimulates you more than anything else. My workspace and garden are an integral part of my architecture,” she says.

It’s not a landscaped garden, rather the trees and plants grow here in wild abandon. Mango, bamboo, varieties of ixora, kanakambaram and ornamental plants add depth to a mini-pond filled with water lilies, around which are stone seats arranged in a circle, bird baths, garden artefacts and granite figures, among many other things.

“In tropical countries, gardens are also part of the living space. It is only recently that we have started moving indoors...,” she says. The considerably-trimmed plant just outside her office is neermathalam. “Chocolate albatross, a particular variety of butterfly, loves this plant and I have seen dozens of them sitting on it. Birds often come seeking the bird bath. It feels nice to see some of them diving into the pond...” she says.

It has been 17 years since Liza made this her home along with her husband, Ajith Natarajan, also an architect. “We haven’t gone for any drastic makeovers, except for setting up the garden and some changes with the lights and window dressing. While all other rooms have terracotta flooring, we have done a plywood flooring in this room,” says Liza, an alumna of College of Engineering Trivandrum. There is nothing flashy about the furniture, they are the old-world kind, keeping in with the ambience of the whole structure, she adds.

Comfort zone

“It is here in this room that I hold discussions with my client. I prefer to have all members of the family here. I show what we have made. Moreover I want them to look at the spaces in a more meaningful way, more closely, so that they understand what is comfortable for their being. When they start doing that, they won’t splurge on spaces. Now what happens is that you start building more and more and thus quality suffers. So I make them think and answer certain questions. Sometimes they come up with surprising suggestions. If you make the right kind of building, you can make it breathe, just as veteran American architect Frank Llyod Wright once said, ‘Buildings, too, are children of earth and sun’,” she says.

Ecology, conservation and nature have always been subjects of interest for Liza in her growing up years. “My father, Raju Kayikkara, was a literary critic and one of the books I got attracted to was the late Laurie Baker’s book on cost reduction in building construction. Later when I became a student of engineering, forced by my mother, Subhadra, I opted for architecture because I found it gentler when compared to other streams!” An opportunity to work on a township with veteran BV Doshi in Ahmedabad gave her an edge when she became an independent architect in 1991, with a project in Nedumangad.

Over the years she has been “pushing my boundaries with each project”. And she has chosen to work in the traditional way, on most occasions. The ruler and set square on her table prove that. “Although today you have the software to make designs, I am more comfortable this way. That makes the entire process more personal for me. Also, I prefer working in the early hours of the day,” she says. Even as she proudly talks about one of the houses she has designed being included in the book, Twenty-Five Buildings Every Architect Should Understand by Simon Unwin, Emeritus Professor of Architecture, University of Dundee, Liza shares her dearest wish with us – making a building with natural materials.

Before taking leave, she tells us that the design we see on her table is that of her own home. “It will be a small house, built without disturbing the earth. You know something...just like birds and badgers build their homes, we too can make our dwellings.”

(A series that explores the workspaces of creative people in the city and suburbs)

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Printable version | Feb 23, 2020 3:56:11 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/homes-and-gardens/architect-liza-rs-talks-about-her-workspace/article17400776.ece

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