With temperatures soaring as high as 45°C, summers in Mathura are quite the nightmare. In winter, owing to the cold wave from up north, the mercury drops well below the tolerable limit. Needless to say, Mathura is not quite the destination that comes to mind when one thinks of a vacation.
So, when Mumbai-based architects Seema Puri and Zarir Mullan received the project of building a vacation home in Dampier Nagar, an area in the city, they knew that before everything else, the structure had to be climate-responsive.
Taking a Keen Interest in Sustainability
With an experience of over 25 years, Seema and Zarir head the architecture firm SEZA, and have won numerous awards for their work.
“Sustainability has always been the underlying aspect in all of SEZA’s projects, even when the concept was yet to make inroads in mainstream architecture,” says Seema, in a conversation with The Better India.
“For us, sustainable architecture is not simply another genre; rather, we try to incorporate environment-friendly features in almost all our projects. We explore designs which have traditional overtones, and prepare blueprints in ways to cut down the unnecessary use of electricity and unsustainable resources,” she adds.
What makes the Mathura house climate-responsive?
The climate-responsive bungalow in Mathura presents the epitome of all sustainable aspects, while also manifesting the best of modern architecture.
Keeping in mind the natural air current of the location, most of the windows face the north or the south, thereby facilitating cross-ventilation throughout the house and stalling the abrupt rise in temperature. This significantly reduces the dependency on air-conditioning, even during the blazing summer days. The genius window placement also ensures ample natural light flowing into the rooms, negating the need for electric lights in the daytime.
The walls of the house have been built in a curious pattern, with 50 mm air gap prevailing between two layers of a brick wall.
“The air gap provides very effective heat insulation so that the room temperature remains more or less constant even with the drastic rise or drop in mercury. It thus creates a microclimate within the room throughout the seasons,” explains Seema. She adds that a gap wider than 50 mm would have compromised on the sustainability aspect, as the connecting beam would require more space and material to be constructed.
Each side of the house comes with large overhangs which provide ample shade from the blazing midday sun. Besides, each room is accompanied with an 8 to 10 feet wide verandah, which, in turn, block the heat from entering the rooms directly.
The slanting rays of the sun do illuminate the rooms, but the heat transfer is prevented.
Wood profiles, arranged in a random yet rhythmic manner, further control the heat from reaching the interiors of the house. Seema and Zarir have also chosen a very light cream colour for the facade of the bungalow, which again works to reflect away most of the heat.
“The house was a greenfield project, and we decided to accentuate its existent natural features. There is a thick grove of trees surrounding the property, balancing the right oxygen levels. The total area of around 18,000 square feet is bifurcated by a central water body, around 12 feet wide. Strategically located between the two wings of the bungalow, the water body also provides a cooling effect on the rooms on all sides,” informs Seema.
A pleasant architectural symphony
Other than its climate-responsive characteristics, the house also boasts of stunning architectural attributes. For instance, its entire profile has been set in an opened out, stepwise manner, rather than raising a concentrated block of concrete.
Lines form a standout element in the entire facade of the house. With a predominance of linear and symmetric features, the house appears like it is moving backwards in a symphony as one approaches.
Aside from being pleasing to the onlooker, it also has a soothing effect on the residents. With wood profiles arranged in a randomised synchrony, the aesthetically enriched bungalow presents a pleasant juxtaposition of solid and fluid forms.
Every indoor space of the bungalow is accompanied with a matching outdoor space to make the property more open and expressive.
The strategic location of the centralised family lounge does more than comforting the eyes for one relaxing there. On one side, the lounge overlooks the water body while the backyard garden is visible on the other.
“Together, it renders the bungalow almost transparent as the landscape appears to merge underneath,” Seema reveals.
“What we are building today, we are building for tomorrow!”
“When we build any property, be it an uber urban residential or commercial project or a greenfield property like this, we choose sustainability as one of our basic parameters, not as a separate trait,” asserts Seema.
The climate-responsive house in Mathura is one of their latest and greatest precedents of the same.
Affirming the importance of sustainable architecture, Seema says, “After all, what we are building today, we are building for tomorrow.”
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)