Since earliest times mankind has sought inspiration from nature for our built structures. However, until the dawn of the modern era in architecture and design, the true structural character of a building was invariably fully or partially encased in an ornamented cladding, of often stylised motifs of nature. The modern emphasis on honest structural expression has resulted in more sincere and innovative interpretations of nature in spatial structures. The direct inspiration of nature and the increasing use of advanced parametric digital design tools that replicate virtually instantaneously evolutionary processes results in structures that are not only elegant tectonically and in terms of economy of means, but also aesthetically pleasing.
Mumbai based architect Shimul Javeri Kadri of SJK Architects was blessed with a site located in Alibaug at the base of a hill but far away from the sea. The task at hand was to build a weekend house that is located away from the chaos of Mumbai. In the architects own words, “It was a beautiful property – we wanted to include the hills and trees and the gentle winds – the leaves strewn over the earth were the perfect cue. The form of the leaf – gentle but sloping was perfect and our very first sight of the plot yielded a site plan made of dried leaves.”
The programmatic forces and the nature of the site are seen as fields of potential for architectural investigation here and the resulting interdisciplinary nature of architecture that led to tectonically expressing form. Steven Holl once rightly said, “Architecture and site should have an experiential connection, a metaphysical link, a poetic link. When a work of architecture successfully fuses a building and situation, a third condition emerges. In this third entity, denotation and connotation merge; expression is linked to idea which is joined to site.” Few projects create such frisson of excitement and sense of genius loci as this weekend house. Whether viewed from the air or fleetingly glimpsed from behind coastal bushes this lush land with native coconut, mango and neem trees has been activated by the form of leaves. The leaves overlap one another and form ‘pods’ that are distinct to each part of the house and the spaces and paths between the pods encompass the surrounding landscape. The architect recognized that this unique site needed to be understood in terms of its surrounding landscape and required a sculptural solution, rather than an conventional orthogonal design.