House in a Gaothan, Dakivali, Maharashtra

This meek house, nestled in a small village, Dakivali, in Maharashtra, is an anecdote of the aspirations of a paddy farmer, also a retired school teacher, who dreamt of building a modest cost-effective home within his Gaothan (the inner core of a village). Positioned on a tight 5000 sq.ft. plot abutting the dusty katchcha village road, the site was once a wasteland, with a small bamboo grove on it. Flanked on two sides by traditional village homes of a closely knit farming community, the house had to strike a balance between being participative as well as reclusive. Toiling most of his life in the paddy fields, this farmer wanted his retirement home to also have this connect with nature alongside a sense of affordable comfort. With a meagre budget given to us, the challenge was how to explore an efficient way for a farmer to live in his old age, yet retain the essence of a countryside life.

Our design intends to weave this 1400 sq.ft. home through a traditional unpretentious central courtyard, locally called Aangan, circumscribing the primary functions together around it. Being the immediate visual aspect from the living, this Aangan with a young champa tree, creates a comforting microclimate, lowering the ambient temperature by 3 to 5℃. It acts as a safe green haven, establishing a direct connect with the elements, which the client always desired for. While ensuring the privacy of its residents from being exposed to the village road, the house also has an extroverted road-facing entrance verandah on the west, serving as the vital visual connect with the traversing villagers. Strategically located westwards, next to the existing bamboo grove, one witnesses a breezy sunset seen behind the distant Sahyadri hills, while swaying on a traditional zhoola. An integral element of most tropical homes in India, the verandah acts as a threshold, a transitory space between the village’s public realm and a reclusive indoor living.

The larger yet controlled openings, establish a connect with the immediate landscape, make the compact indoor spaces feel spacious, bringing in precise amount of light, also facilitating cross-ventilation. Costs are drastically reduced by optimizing the floor plate, by proposing multifunctional  spaces, like the double height dining-cum-pooja space, which also serves as a library, integrated with a metal staircase to access the upper storey.

Dust and privacy being a major concern, the house is entered through a landscaped entrance courtyard, enclosed by low-cost locally sourced concrete flyash block jaali acting as buffer to screen off the dust, and cut-off direct visibility from the village road. The jali screen also serves as a climate control measure by breaking off the harsh east and west sunlight, while also letting the breezes flow through it.

The orientation of this courtyard house with respect to wall surfaces, openings and projections has been conceived through passive solar strategies to achieve optimum thermal comfort for the inhabitants. The terraces have been painted white, to reduce incident heat gain. With a low embodied energy material palette of bricks procured from nearby kilns, locally manufactured concrete fly-ash blocks, plastered walls and indian kotah stone floor, this village home fosters economic and ecological sustainability. Recharge pits have been introduced at key locations on site, to channelize the rainwater runoff into ground. Wastewater has been treated through phytoremediation and subsequently used for landscaping the surrounds. The cost-effective productive architecture alongside the green initiatives in landscaping is establishing new standards for an affordable sustainable living within the nearby farming communities.

Inhabiting this meek abode, our dear client is a proud owner of a village home, an exemplar of an affordable luxury, which he enjoys residing, nurturing and aging gracefully with it.This humble home of a farmer exemplifies that sustainability need not always come at huge costs, but can be practised at grassroot level too, through simple DIY solutions.