Mumbai-based architects Shriya Parasrampuria, Prashant Dupare blurring the boundaries between built and unbuilt spaces

How two architects use local materials and techniques to let design flow with the context, keeping the style unique so as to meet the site-specific challenges as well as opportunities

February 10, 2023 11:05 am | Updated 06:31 pm IST

The free-flowing living area with the unconventional openings and skylit courtyard 

The free-flowing living area with the unconventional openings and skylit courtyard 

When Mumbai-based architects Shriya Parasrampuria and Prashant Dupare decided to initiate their own practice in 2019, both having graduated in 2007 from JJ School of Architecture, the chief factor that brought them together was their joint passion and vision of blurring the boundaries between built and unbuilt spaces. The young architects, not surprisingly, chose to call their practice Blurring Boundaries. For the duo, architecture is beyond structure and engineering, encompassing art and its aesthetics. They were thus clear that their mainstay architecture would rest on sustainability. 

Sustainability, according to both, is beyond materials, technology and design. “It is about fluidity, aesthetics, how you use local materials, adapt simple local techniques to let design flow with the context, keeping the style unique so as to meet the site-specific challenges as well as opportunities”, points out Shriya, adding, “Sustainability is the starting point of our design, not the end goal.” 

Nestled amidst the greens, the organic sloping roof blends with the language of the landscape

Nestled amidst the greens, the organic sloping roof blends with the language of the landscape

In tune with this approach, the duo’s projects feature as an apt response to site conditions where the locational sensitivities manifest strongly. “Be it a tree, a scenic backdrop or topography, our designs capture it and highlight the same”, Shriya elaborates. The prefab structure they came up with for a resort project in Uttarakhand is a case in point. Being low in manpower, with presence of wildlife, the site demanded minimal disturbance, the structure requiring to be eco-friendly, minimal footprint and blending into the scene while catering to contemporary requirements. 

“We came up with an insulated metal and glass structure, the glass shielded from direct sunlight through the presence of a large overhang. Though metal is perceived as energy consuming, it requires low maintenance and fits perfectly with the site context of low manpower availability. Each project comes with its own constraints and the key is to identify the same and use the material that suits the context”, explains Prashant. 

Built with mud

Their recent project Maativan, built in Wada, Maharashtra, reflects amply the architects’ strong inclination to connect to the context of the site, resonate and merge with nature. Situated close to a reserve forest, with a thick growth of fruit trees, Shriya and Prashant realised that the structure they came up with would need to echo this rural ecology and the best material to achieve this would be mud. They thus came up with a mud composition for the walls that combined neem and turmeric for anti-termite, rice husk and aloe vera to bind the mud, lime to stabilise, hirda which is a local herb, to strengthen and hay to prevent the cracks in the mud walls. 

“Using the right composition ensures the walls do not degrade and last over 30 years. Periodic maintenance is certainly required as it is cob construction. Using lime plaster with water-repellent technique protects it and this strengthening feature of lime is the reason historical buildings were built with stone and lime plaster”, explains Prashant. However, the cob did pose challenges, with some of the walls directly exposed to rain starting to crack while under construction. “We replaced these sections with random rubble walls.” 

Hiring and training local labour

The construction was executed by using local labour familiar with mud construction techniques. “But we still had to train and assist in the construction as the design came with a significant amount of curves, slants and sweeps, combined with large openings, thus posing a challenge”, adds Prashant. The four-bedroom mud house is constructed as two individual units, with the living, dining, kitchen and two bedrooms featuring in the main structure. 

Also read: A pillar of modern Indian architecture 

The living space accommodates three open-to-sky courts, enclosing an existing set of trees and the living area built around them. The conventional windows have been dispensed with and replaced with large artistic openings where one is designed as a giant wheel of a cart, another as a tree branch in its organic shape. Yet another comes with discarded bottles where it manifests more as art than an opening. The placement of all the openings is strategic to permit ample cross-ventilation. 

Organic roof

The roof of the structure is equally organic, with logs of teak wood collected from the site used in their natural form to serve as the roof over the living area. Further, this green roof has a layer of mud over it and covered with a water-proof UV-stabilised sheet, thus fusing seamlessly into the mud walls. Just as the roof is organic to resonate with the mud walls, the central column supporting the roof is a teak tree trunk going up 12ft in height. 

The roof over the bedrooms too is organic, featuring split bamboo rafters that are covered with waterproof sheets. As for the roof covering the passages, the bamboo rafters have a layer of toughened glass over them, permitting light to filter into the passage through the glass and thence through the porous bamboo layer. The flooring in the mud house is done with rammed earth, IPS and Kota stone.

The bamboo doors likewise speak a differential story, fitted into organically shaped openings. The doors feature only in sections where privacy is solicited, with the rest of the spaces left totally open to blend seamlessly with the exterior landscape. The bedrooms open on to a garden while the bathrooms come with an open-to-sky concept where a private garden is blended in. 

Concept of a shelter

“The design is based on the concept of a shelter protecting from harsh weather while still remaining open to embrace the exterior natural habitat”, explains Shriya. The furnishings in the interiors reflect similar ideology, being made using split bamboo, mud, lime and Ferro cement. Given the hot climate of the location, cooling pads with drip irrigation have been put in place along with exhaust fans that aid in circulating cool, moist air. 

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