Kerala-based architecture firm- Wallmakers- has designed ‘The Pirouette House’, a brick residence in Thiruvananthapuram that takes cues from British-born Indian architect Laurie Baker’s masterworks. Led by Vinu Daniel, the firm designed this hard-to-miss building in the middle of an urban and crowded locale of Trivandrum. SURFACES REPORTER (SR) takes you on a tour to this exceptional breezy and bright brick house that has a multifaceted undulating façade from the ground up.
Stand out From the Crowd
Titled as ‘The Pirouette House’, this 196-sq-m single-family residence is created on a site, which was a small plot that was being suffocated by other residential projects from all four sides.
The idea of this residence was to have an inward-facing house with all its spaces opening into a funneling central courtyard.
View above from courtyard
The house is aligned in the East-West direction with openings facilitating for maximum cross-ventilation.
Influenced by Laurie Baker’s Philosophy
In the context of the city of Trivandrum that stands as a testimonial to many of Ar. Laurie Baker’s masterpieces, it seemed fit to modify one of his introductions, the Rat trap bond masonry technique in this site which didn’t offer the opportunity for soil excavation or for making mud blocks.
Keeping in mind that ‘Brick kilns’ in Trivandrum is a dying industry with people opting out for wire-cut machine-made bricks, this was also an attempt to promote this local agriculture-based industry that is on the brink of extinction.
One wall with staggering
The Rat Trap Bond
The Rat trap bond is a brick masonry method of wall construction in which bricks are placed in a vertical position instead of a conventional horizontal position and thus creating a cavity within the wall that increases thermal efficiency, cuts down on the total volume of bricks used, and is ideal for concealing structural members and service ducts.
The idea was further developed to form a series of slanting walls that danced left and right, converging only to support the ferrocement shell roof.
Each staggered wall has been tailor-made to suit the issue of deficiency in space that this residence posed, aiming to create larger volumes and a feeling of privacy.
Reuse of Waste Wooden Pieces and Scaffolding Pipes
Scaffolding pipes left behind from the construction stage soon were reused to form the central staircase and the grillwork. Keeping in mind the principle of discarding nothing as ‘waste’ the wooden planks were also pieced together to form part of the flooring in the living areas. Cane has been acquired from the neighbourhood, treated, and wound around the grillwork to create subtle screens for privacy and various furniture.
Ground floor bedroom
Last of the Mohicans
The Pirouette House features the “Last of the Mohicans” fired bricks as an ode to the stellar practice of Laurie Baker with spaces that are made beautiful by the pure geometry and patterns created by the walls that seem to be coming alive and pirouetting around.
Materials used in Construction:
1. Fired bricks for Rat Trap bond masonry:
Rat trap bond is a brick masonry method of wall construction introduced by Laurie Baker in Kerala, in which bricks are placed in a vertical position instead of a conventional horizontal position and thus creating a cavity (hollow space) within the wall that increases thermal efficiency and cuts down the number of bricks.
Chief Architect explaining the work to the mason
2. Waste wood
Cut wooden scrap pieces have been joined to panel a part of the flooring.
Staggering of courses
3. MMT Ferrocement shells
These wafer-like structures are steel reinforced arched shells with an effective thickness of 2.5cm and they take an equal load of respective R.C.C slabs. They effectively reduce the overall cement consumption by 40% and steel consumption by 30%. These replace the R.C.C Slab in roofing as they are as strong as 1200 kg/m2
4. Discarded Scaffolding pipes for Staircase and Grillwork
The staircase and the grillwork of this house has been made entirely out of scrap scaffolding pipes that have been welded in place.
Floor and selected walls have been finished with grey and yellow oxides.
Landing cum Informal Living
Cane has been treated and woven together in-between the grillwork to act as a partial screen for privacy.
Semi open Balcony
Project name: PIROUETTE HOUSE
Architect’s Firm: Wallmakers
Lead Architect: Ar. Vinu Daniel
Completion Year: 2020
Gross Built Area: 196 sqm
Project location: Maruthamkuzhi, Trivandrum, Kerala
Engineering: Adcons Infrastructure Pvt Ltd
Landscape: Vinu Daniel and team
Fabrication team: Kunjumon James and team -J.K steels
Carpenters: Sarath Prasad and team, Shivadas
Masons: Ezhil and team, Deepu and team
Photo credits: Jino Sam
Ar. Oshin Mariam Varughese, Ar. J.M.Srivarshini, Ar. Gayatri Maithani, Ar. Swathi Raj Ar. , Keerthi Kausalya, Ar. Shiuly Roy, Ar.Neeraj S. Murali, Ar. Dhawal Dasari
Nihaal Gafoor, Smit Zalavadia, Apoorva Goutam, Harshita G Tophakhane, Manav Muralee, Rohith Krishna, Bharati Gupta, Yash Sukhwani, Neeraj Viswam
Vinu Daniel, Founder Wallmakers
Wallmakers is an architecture studio based out in Kerala, India founded by Vinu Daniel in 2007. The firm devoted itself to the cause of using mud and waste as the chief components, to make structures that are both, utilitarian and alluring.
Text and Photo Courtesy: Wallmakers
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