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Keeping Cool at 40°C: This House of Arches is a Sustainable Oasis in Rajasthan’s Heat

Mirai The House of Arches in Bhilwara was designed and conceptualised by architect duo Sanjay Puri and Nina Puri. It is designed to keep the interiors cool even in peak summers using materials like terracotta, bricks, sandstone and lime plaster.

Keeping Cool at 40°C: This House of Arches is a Sustainable Oasis in Rajasthan’s Heat

At the intersection of ancient Hindu mythology and India’s cultural repertoire, there lies a city in Rajasthan that goes by the name Bhilwara. Legend says the town was christened by this name as homage to the tribes of Bhil who lived on the land in the mid-19th century. 

But whether it was these ancient tribal groups or the current occupants of the land, there is one tie that binds them together. Anyone who sets foot in Bhilwara is courageous for braving the heat that rises to as high as 40 degrees Celsius in the summers.

This unforgiving weather coupled with the fact that the city lies in a state known for its dry climes made it a challenge when Sanjay Puri — head of the design company Sanjay Puri Architects — was approached by a family, native to Rajasthan, with a request to build a sustainable home in Bhilwara in 2020.

After a two-year-long process that involved selecting the right material, planning out the “contextual” design, and finding a balance between the enclosed and open spaces within the home, the property was completed in May 2022.

Mirai House of Arches was ready to welcome its inhabitants, a family of three generations.

Mirai The House of Arches is constructed with earth, sandstone and plaster as the main materials
Mirai The House of Arches is constructed with earth, sandstone and plaster as the main materials, Picture source: Sanjay Puri

The desert sees an architectural marvel

Seeming almost like an architectural oasis in the midst of the sand-covered land, Mirai proves a point with its three levels — which house four bedrooms, two living rooms with a gym and a study.

The palatial space covers an area of 9,900 sq ft and was envisioned and completed by architect duo Sanjay Puri along with his wife Nina Puri. They emphasise that Mirai is a “contextual house in response to the hot desert climate of Rajasthan, India”.

A central corridor runs through the house from east to west ending in a pool of water
A central corridor runs through the house from east to west ending in a pool of water, Picture source: Sanjay Puri

The house is designed with spatial planning kept at the fore.

“Based on the location, the southern and eastern sides have minimum open space with adjacent villas on those sides to be built in the future,” notes Sanjay. He adds that in contrast to this, the northern and western sides have more open spaces with garden areas and existing trees.

What is interesting to note is that within the home, there is a variation seen in the heights of the individual rooms. The architect duo explain that the idea behind this was to keep the spatial experience engaging.

“There is an interesting play of volumes (the space enclosed in the 3D area) in each part of the house, bedrooms of a single volume, dining area of a double volume, and a living area of an intermediate 1.5 level volume,” Sanjay elaborates.

Wicker lighting and granite furnishings lend an aesthetic elegance to the home
Wicker lighting and granite furnishings lend an aesthetic elegance to the home, Picture source: Sanjay Puri

The play of spaces extends outside the home too, where a curvilinear punctuated envelope surrounds the house.

Sanjay adds that this innovative design has a much greater purpose than being an aesthetic addition to the property. “This punctuated envelope creates interstitial semi-open spaces all along the perimeter of the home. The envelope reduces the heat gain substantially while providing sheltered open spaces around the house to each room.”

Keeping cool at 40 degrees Celsius

Archless portals within Mirai The House of Arches make the space seem wider
Archless portals within the home make the space seem wider, Picture source: Sanjay Puri

While an occasional gentle breeze provides respite to this ‘city of textiles and looms’, the average temperature on any day is clocked at 40 degrees Celsius. But even as natives of this region scramble to find ways of staying cool, the residents of Mirai have nothing to worry about.

As Sanjay explains, this is gratis the terracotta envelope that borders the house, designed to mitigate the heat gain — the rise in temperature within the space due to heat from the sun.

“This envelope keeps the entire house cool in the hot summer months with temperatures in excess of 40 degrees Celsius for eight months of the year,” he confirms. 

The northern and western sides have more open spaces with garden areas and existing trees
The northern and western sides have more open spaces with garden areas and existing trees, Picture source: Sanjay Puri

In fact, the materials employed for building the home too were selected keeping the heat in mind. “Locally sourced bricks, sandstone and lime plaster were used,” says Sanjay adding that local craftsmen and contract labour from the immediate vicinity were employed for the project. 

Located within a gated community, Mirai, even though branded as a sustainable home, looks ultra modern with the arched doorless portals within the home leading from one room to the next. The monochromatic colours go well with the themes of the surrounding landscape.

A walk through the home gives you a view of the interiors furnished with granite and illuminated by wicker light installations that hang from the ceiling.

The arches and difference in volumes of the rooms provides an engaging spatial experience
The arches and difference in volumes of the rooms provides an engaging spatial experience, Picture source: Sanjay Puri

You’ll also notice a central corridor that runs east to west, visually dividing the home and ending in a small pool of water on the ground floor. The upper floors are designed in a way that creates shaded balconies sheltered by canopies.

Throughout the house, stone and wood appear to be the hero elements, providing an aesthetic natural beauty that is the stand-out point, setting Mirai apart from the many homes that dot the Bhilwara landscape.

The house is recognised above all for its aesthetic quotient and has found a place in influential architecture awards, such as the Architecture Master Prize 2022, the Best Implemented Project of Private Residence 2022 at the Golden Trezzini Awards, and the Best Residential Project in Architecture at the CDA Awards 2022 at Paris.

As the summers are just beginning to get control of Rajasthan, the coolness of Mirai is a welcome deterrent to the heat. The envelope of terracotta stands firm guarding the mansion against the extreme weather the town will witness in a few weeks from now.

Architect Sanjay meanwhile stands proud of his creation. “This sculptural house is not only contextual to its surroundings but also the climate and the owners’ need,” he says.

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Edited by Pranita Bhat

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