Homes are often described as beautiful, comfortable or even luxurious, but when the aim is to achieve comfort in compact spaces that is when it can be described as clever.
Passing through the narrow galis, with rather traditional-looking homes, one observes the people who live here. They are chatting on the otla, an outdoor sitting slab, and on many occasions, one can see the hustle of everyday life in these homes from the street. This neighbourhood in Ahmedabad has all aspects of a traditional pol but is quickly changing with time while being rooted in ideas of community living and the interaction of homes with the street. These continue to be the binding thread in its urban fabric.
Ahmedabad has served as the workshop for Indian Modernism. It is also a city synonymous with dense settlements in a pol, a community-based housing settlement prevalent in western India, particularly Gujarat. The Clever House, in terms of its materiality, experiences and just in its existential honesty, is the coming together of these two worlds that have coexisted for many decades in Ahmedabad.
In the middle of this chaos that is life, stands this single-storey house replacing a dilapidated structure with an exposed concrete monolith that cuts, folds and bends to articulate the facades. Its functional robustness emerges from the fabric of the resident’s life and everyday routines and is reminiscent of community-driven living in pols. Unapologetically, and in striking contradiction with its surroundings, it resonates amicably with the scale of the neighbourhood as a small urban insert.
A softened curvilinear corner at the North-Western end marks the humble entrance to this home. As one enters, a clear open space is bathing in the warm embrace of the sun which manages to peek in from the skylights and deeply recessed windows placed at different levels on each side to allow a connection to the street, without compromising the privacy of the room.
The windows on the northern wall catch the high sun, and the ones on the western wall form a rooted connection with the bustling life on the street. On this side, along the length of the house, runs an otla, a traditional low-heightened platform - a pause in the rather astir part of the town.
The living, washroom and cooking spaces on the ground floor are arranged in a linear
Spread, one after the other. These spaces merge into one another in the absence of a defining
physical barrier or a threshold, enhancing the character of versatility to a single space that can accommodate multiple functions. The deep recesses in fenestrations act as ingeniously crafted storage spaces in the interior, and sitting spaces for the exterior.
The furniture, particularly the sitting units, frame the living space against the backdrop of an artistic staircase - each step an independent piece of metal finished in wood, with parts of the space, covered in bright yellow below, used for sitting, storage or even display. A peek into what lies upstairs brings the feel of a courtyard. But no, this isn’t a courtyard, yet it is one.
On reaching the upper floor, a single bedroom space and bathroom cover the entire floor, overlooking the expansive and lively living space below. Off-centric fenestrations, while flooding the space with ambient light, also frame the community centre nearby. In the absence of opaque boundaries, only the furniture conveys the extent of the transition space, leading to a small bridge serving as a reading nook, with a bookcase and a reading ledge, showered on with light by the open skylight.
The bridge leads to a small terrace, disconnected from the home, barring a small peep window. It is the outdoors of this small family unit. From here, an exterior staircase, finished in concrete, leads up to the upper terrace granting a view of the lower terrace and towering above the radiant neighbourhood.
Both floors are open, breathing into the artistical ingress of light from different ends. Intricate details in elements like the staircase, spouts, grills, doors, and even the furniture, juxtapose and balance the solidity of exposed concrete.
The play of light and shadow frames each part of this home, enhancing its old-world charm of pol houses, presented with a new outlook to represent the time it was built in and the aspirations of the people who reside in it.