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This house in Chandigarh is an atypical ode to simplicity and whimsy

  • Ideas and Inspiration
By Gauri Kelkar
8 min read
Feb 08, 2022
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Think architecture in Chandigarh and it is but a short step to contemplating on Le Corbusier and the impact he has had on this planned city, and the generations of architects that came after him. His unornamented aesthetic is the primer for many who chose to craft homes using humble materials as their canvas. The Tapered House, all exposed red brick and sweeping symmetric roofs, is evocative of just this legacy, in spirit certainly if not entirely in form. Because this house in a central sector in Chandigarh is a hybrid of sorts: It is an ode to the simplicity of material and an expression of the homeowners’ penchant for whimsy, which is glued together with the design sensibility of Studio Mohenjodaro, the firm that designed it.

The Tapered House, all exposed red brick and sweeping symmetric roofs, is evocative of just this legacy, in spirit certainly if not entirely in form. Because this house in the central sector of Chandigarh is a hybrid of sorts: It is an ode to the simplicity of material and an expression of the homeowners’ penchant for whimsy, which is glued together with the design sensibility of Studio Mohenjodaro. Tarunpreet Singh Bhatia, architect and founder of the studio, decided to bring something uncommon to the all-around ordinariness of the home’s immediate environment, sitting as it does on a regular street amid regular homes. The final result was quite in keeping with the seven-year-old practice’s penchant of “going for a natural material palette in its attempt to achieve a balance between raw and finished surfaces”.

Tarunpreet Singh Bhatia, architect and founder of the studio, decided to bring something uncommon to the all-around ordinariness of the home’s immediate environment, sitting as it does on a regular street amid regular homes. The final result was quite in keeping with the seven-year-old practice’s penchant of “going for a natural material palette in its attempt to achieve a balance between raw and finished surfaces”. 

Material Gains

The idea was to create a structure that was interesting in its architecture but did so without screaming from the proverbial rooftop. Hence the choice of exposed red brick for the facade and the “ground-floor level butterfly roof which flanks open to either side of the house. The intent for the house was to create a sculptural monolith without overpowering the surroundings,” he explains. That installation-like quality is evident in the roofing that lends the distinct look to the house, with the upper-storey “tapering upwards and outwards on the front facade”.

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The red-brick facade of the house is topped by a ‘butterfly’ roof; the house, recessed from the streetscape and adjacent buildings, does not instantly come into sight.

Bhatia does succeed in creating an attention-grabbing exterior, open yet closed off, its sculptural quality and rigorous modernism concealing a well-planned space. Spreading across 4,500 square feet, the house is neatly laid out with mindful layering of spaces. The public living and dining areas at the front, bifurcated by the front entrance, followed by the kitchen, a family lobby (which has a second entrance) and a private courtyard, finally ending in three bedrooms towards the rear.

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The dining area on the upper floor overlooks the courtyard and sits under a sloping roof that tapers upwards; the sloping roofs are clad with natural Kullu slate; beyond the louvred windows is part of the 22-foot-high, hand-painted forest mural of the double-height ground-floor courtyard.

Outwards, Onwards And Upwards

Engaging with the outdoors is a running theme in this sprawling home. The highlight, of course, is the double-height, open-to-sky courtyard. “It floods the interiors with natural light and ventilation, courtesy the glazing on three of its sides and 22-foot-high, hand-painted forest scenery on the fourth wall.” This blurred-boundary narrative is further enhanced by the fluid movements within, the large windows on three sides of the living-dining area and the sheer openness of the interiors. “The house is intentionally designed to create a visual axis from left to right as well as from front to rear.” The location of all the ground-floor rooms, including the three main bedrooms, also feed into this visual assembly.

This easy movement is further anchored by the white marble flooring bordered by Jaisalmer stone and granite that runs uninterrupted through the house. While the privacy is absolute, these connections among the different spaces occupied by the family of five are as much a source of cohesion as the materials that meld the spaces into a seamless whole.

 

“There is a direct line of sight between the kitchen on the extreme left and the kid’s bedroom on the extreme right, via the lobby and courtyard,” explains Bhatia. Not to mention the view from the front lawn, through the courtyard to the internal staircase at the rear leads to the upper floor, which, in turn, looks down to the courtyard through louvred windows. Bhatia cleverly orchestrated a visual harmony, almost organically connecting the spaces.

 

The upper storey takes forward that narrative. Reached by a teakwood internal staircase featuring handmade Spanish tiles, the upper storey houses two guest bedrooms, a pantry, a common area and a landscaped terrace. And then there’s the “sloping roof [that] tapers upwards, bringing in a sublime view of the open sky unhindered by rooflines of neighbouring houses”. 

Colourful Nature

But views and greenery aren’t the only things that ornament the interiors of this house. “The homeowners displayed a leaning towards colourful, quaint home interiors. We endeavoured to draw a fine balance between the vision of the clients and that of the practice.” As a result, quirky furnishings and bright colours embellish the custom-designed furniture made by Woodmakers India.

 

While the living room has pieces brought over from their old house and refurbished with a distress finish, the dining table was custom-made in epoxy resin with sculptural legs, and Jeanneret-inspired furniture occupies the lobby.

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The living room furniture was from the homeowners’ old home and has been refurbished with a distressed finish and upholstered in colourful fabric to offset the neutral colour palette; the sloping roof adds dynamism to the space.

All of it is richly upholstered in colourful fabrics, a bright counterpoint to the stoic shell, as are the décor elements that include a cluster of wall plates in the living room.

 

This red-brick home in Corbusier’s Chandigarh may meet all the axioms of fuss-free modernism but Bhatia has given it a distinct character—sculptural yet liveable, modern yet traditional, stoic but personal. And while it is a respectful nod to the architects who built this city, at its core, it is simply a home crafted with the warmth and whimsy of its owners.

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The main entrance has pastel-green-painted double doors.
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The courtyard of the house; visual continuity is maintained, not just horizontally but vertically as well, with louvred the upper-storey windows overlooking it.
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The family lobby, which is at the heart of the house; large windows look out to the view outside; the custom-designed lobby furniture has been inspired by Chandigarh’s famous Pierre Jeanneret chairs.
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The wall plates in the living room were sourced by the homeowners from The Vanity Box; the custom-designed chair with the U-shaped legs was fabricated by Mobin Ahmed Ansari of Woodmakers India.
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The dining room has windows looking out to the front lawn; the custom-made furniture, including the wood and epoxy resin dining table, was fabricated by Woodmakers India.
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The master bedroom has a four-poster bed placed in front of a wallpaper with a golden motif; the standing mirror and the seating at the foot of the bed is from Fabindia.
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The lushly landscaped upper-storey terrace has ornate railings and has Kota stone flooring which is intentionally laid upside down to enhance its rustic appeal.
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