Architecture and the Architect
Does size matter? Perhaps a cheeky question – but is it ?
Living in a society where we are constantly judging success against a yard stick – our architecture is an accurate reflection of our
value system. For the most part, an understanding of our needs is over shadowed by wants and aesthetics skewed by fashion.
Of course there is balance – good healthy balance that makes the dialogue between need and wants, aesthetics and fashion, inspiring
and challenging for an architect.
The product of one such encounter is a 500 sq yd residence for Mr. and Mrs. S. Ahmed, designed by Architect Khadija tul Kubra.
Khadija has an extensive portfolio in residences, from ASA, where she worked for several years and Design Options, a studio she co-created with Moyena Niazi. Her portfolio articulates a keen eye for details and a delightful choreography of spatial experience.
Khadija’s design philosophy is to ‘work very closely with the requirements of the client, and what delights them to generate design appropriate to the needs of the users’. In line with her philosophy, each project is wonderfully unique to the client and context, and sensitive and responsive to the design brief.
are the light cantilevered white canvas screens of the terrace. The roof at a glance is wrapped in low wooden louvers, with the sky peeking through occasional openings. Supported by cables wrapped in rope these openings and screens, infuse a sense of playful curiosity. Hide and Seek Unlike most houses, the main entrance is tucked away in a side alley. One walks past the low fence, down a relatively narrow path paved with pebbles and wooden boards. Boards that are perhaps reused from some abandoned railway track, and the grey of the wood and pebbles is lined by lush green palms and bamboos.
Context, Client and Design Brief. This project was built in the Naval Housing Scheme, adjacent to Zamzama. Mr. and Mrs. S. Ahmed enjoyed the sense of community and security within the development and wanted to preserve it in the design of their house. For a family of two working parents and four boys, ages 3-13, the design brief described a ‘practical house that did not compromise on the children’s usability of spaces’. It required Khadija to balance aesthetics with the functionality, maintenance and security of the house. Project and Projections The house draws its materials, bricks, wood and cement, from its immediate environment and its architecture is far from static. One is greeted by an asymmetrical composition that plays with the visual weight of the structure. The way the elements are composed makes it appear as though either halves of the house are supported by the other in dynamic equilibrium. In strong contrast to the heavy indulgent red baked bricks and polished wood of the exterior,
The path ends in a double panel wooden French door, fixed between a short boundary wall and the house. Through the glass panel, peeks a brick column and the promise of a secret back garden. The main entrance is a stop short of this door on the right, but it is perhaps best to describe this house as it unfolded, and so curiosity leads one to bypass the main entrance. ‘It is a very soothing transition from the business of our lives to the quiet of our home.’ Mrs. S. Ahmed. The secret garden, is in fact a secret courtyard.
A graceful tree frames a picturesque view of the veranda and the suspended wooden ‘jhoola’ . The courtyard too has a terrace One of the key elements in the design brief is to ensure the privacy of spaces and pardah . There are subtle and often indistinguishable boundaries between formal – informal, public – private, indoor – outdoor, and men and women. Boundaries are formed by jute sandwiched in glass doors, reinvented hanging blinds in door ways, sliding doors and planned routes allow spaces to be used independent of each other or simultaneously.
‘Oonch Neech Beech ’ It would be impossible to complete a review without mention of the front entrance to the house. The entrance leads to the heart of the house, and the heart of this house is a austere wooden staircase, naturally lit by a warm glow of light. The staircase starts half a level lower than the entrance, leading from the powder washroom, and rises past the first floor to the roof. The courtyard is an especially wonderful place to see this change of levels in cross section. The window opening from the tucked away powder washroom, peeking from a sunken level, indicates the building continues underground. The window openings on the staircase landings, and a wooden railing that highlighs the first floor suggest level changes on the exterior of the building. The roof space has been designed for entertaining. The level of the parapet has been overlooking it – with wooden canvas screens casting sharp shadows against the dappled shade of the tree. Past the tree and into the veranda on your left is a raised shallow pond with colourful Koi, water plants and a small unassuming water fountain. The veranda is sheltered from the neighboring house by freely suspended wooden blinds swaying in the wind. The courtyard opens into the lounge in the interior. One Step In and One Step Out. Moving into the interior of the home one would expect a drastic change of materials and the plushness likened to home interiors. Unlike most homes, however, there is a subtle distinction between indoor and outdoor spaces. The plan is engineered so as to allow spaces to open up and extend almost seamlessly. An element of raw plaster, wood, red brick and landscaping defines either the wall, roof, flooring or edge condition.
These contrasting materials in a never ending series of exciting combinations creates carefully detailed moments of transition that enhance the experience of moving through spaces.
This is most apparent in and around the courtyard and terraces. The raw cement of the walls is reflected in the polished cement tiles of the verandah, these continue into the living spaces within the house. Brick is used ingeniously for wall exterior finish, flooring patterns and to define built-in furniture. Unlike how most clients dictate their interiors, the material palette chosen for this home, caters to the energy of four boys growing up. The materials have been handled with a wonderful sensitivity – so that their finishes are well matched to their function. The boys share rooms, and a common front terrace. Their room furniture, too, is designed to easily transform each bedroom into a lounge or open play area for the children. raised by a louvered wooden fence. There are some adjustable openings that frame views out into the Housing Scheme. One of the key elements in the design brief is to ensure the privacy of spaces and pardah . There are subtle and often indistinguishable boundaries between formal – informal, public – private, indoor – outdoor, and men and women. Boundaries are formed by jute sandwiched in glass doors, reinvented hanging blinds in door ways, sliding doors and planned routes allow spaces to be used independent of each other or simultaneously. The roof also has a non visual segregation – allowing it to be easily partitioned into two entertaining spaces. If one did not know the intent, it would be a wonder to discover two identical charming wash basins tucked away at opposite corners of the roof.
Good design is inclusive of its users needs. Within this relatively small house, she has created several useable terrace spaces, a front porch, a back garden. She has creatively shared access to spaces, so as to allow full usability while affording private views into the outdoor spaces. Very little is authoritative or definitive in the boundaries that create enclosure. From the suspended blinds in the courtyard, to the wooden Jafri , the magnificent canvas and wood screens that fly open, to the dense plantation in and around the house – there is the suggestion of how far the eye is allowed to travel before it intrudes. Medium, Small and Extra Small The hierarchy of spaces has been beautifully orchestrated. At first glance one might judge the use of brick as being more rural than urban. However, the ease of maintenance of materials and the compactness and efficiency of the plan truly celebrate living in one of the largest cities of Asia. Here the measure of luxury is the quality of light, views and materiality. the house one is naturally drawn to want to know more, see more and experience more. It can only be imagined what a wondrous place it must be for the four boys growing up – a house that is at once, a fort, a palace and a tree house. Happily Ever After One of the truly delightful features of Khadija’s architectural design is how, true to profession, she uses the materiality of the architecture to construct the aesthetic – without deploying extraneous ornament or form. Through textured natural brick, raw gray plaster, jute wall finishes and dusky wooden floors balanced by finely polished wood that is wonderfully lit – Khadija weaves for us a story of the romance that exists in the meeting of all that is vernacular and all that is modern. Edwin Lutyen is right to claim, ‘There will never be great architects or great architecture without great patrons.’ It is the synergy of this relationship that produces architecture that is true to our needs and wants, our natural and informed aesthetic and architecture that inspires a sense of fantasy in our reality. Client : Mr. and
Mrs. Sohail Ahmed
Architects: Design options
Project Architect: Khadija tul Kubra
Drafting team: Iqbal yousuf and Zeeshan
Structure Engineers: Top Engineering
Accessories by: Seher Pervaiz
Plot size: 500 sq yds
Covered area: 5200 sqft
Date of completion: Dec 2009
Khadija’s architectural designs have one thing in common – and that is ‘that every room should open into a special space of its own’ and that ‘indoor spaces should never have compromised access to the natural environment – good light, fresh air and beautiful landscape’. The importance of space is not exaggerated by its size, but rather through order and materiality and this house is yet another example of this careful planning. Good design is inclusive of its users needs. Within this relatively small house, she has created several useable terrace spaces, a front porch, a back garden. She has creatively shared access to spaces, so as to allow full usability while affording private views into the
outdoor spaces. The kitchen too is boldly close to the entrance, with the window above the washing area looking on to the front porch. On this afternoon, the children are out splashing in an inflatable pool. The clients, both enjoy cooking, and so, equipped like a professional cum commercial kitchen, it has been tailored to their use. The kitchen is mostly managed by staff, yet, there is no ‘workers’ kitchen hiding away behind dark doors. All the cooking is fearlessly done here. Houses are built with budgets, and the story of this project is no different. Despite the unconventional use of materials, this house too tells a story of the joy of generosity. The clients seemed to have not held back in realizing a vision of serenity, joy and playfulness. Moving through