Project: Up to the Sea House
Architects: Matharoo Associates
Lead Architects: Gurjit Singh Matharoo (Principal Architect), Krishna Mistry (Project Architect), Daksh Sharma, Vinita Mhatre (Interns)
Location: Surat, India
Photo Credits: Dinesh Mehta
Alongside the major diamond and textile industry, recent other sectors such as oil, shipping and metallurgy have contributed to the growth of Surat into a sprawling metropolis in a very short time, making it one of the richest cities in the country and one that is highly vibrant in character.
Located only 20 km away from the hustle bustle of the city is the coastal town of Dumas, marked once by its numerous havelis (mansions) for the Nawabs (noblemen of the kings), now its peaceful setting is the reason people opt to move here from the city. The site for the house of a jeweler couple and the family of their son, lies minutes away from the coast and required only some elevation over the palms, to be able to afford breath-taking views of the Arabian Sea. An old baori (fresh water well) was found on site, a rare find in the coastal regions – and the joining of these two waters and weaving them through the house, became the driving force of the design.
The planning of spaces was imposed by the strict limits of Vaastu that had to be adhered to- a set of principles of traditional Indian building design that often arise from myth and defy rational and contextual thought processes. It assigns fixed locations of various spaces and elements to the cardinal directions – including the entrance, water bodies, kitchen and each of the bedrooms, down to the orientation of beds, even water closets.
Fragments of the past are manifested in a stone masonry enclosure for the house, high on the road side to form a visual and sound barrier, and open on the serene internal sides of the site. Thin concrete tubes are stacked up on this massive stone base, pushed in and pulled out to frame views of the expansive landscape all around. This play leaves behind a void within that emerges as the protagonist – a snaking volume that constricts and dilates, entwining each of the five floors into a seamless continuum.
While each tube on the upper floors contains private suites for members of the joint family, the common spaces of the house including the living areas, temple, entrance vestibule, kitchen and utilities are all nestled directly beneath them. Of these, the family and formal living areas along with the dining, open out into a semi open verandah at the corner of the house adjoining a swimming pool and landscape beyond. With the sit out of the master bedroom and childrens’ lounge on the first floor looking into this space, it forms the nucleus of the house by default. From here, one looks at the baori deep into the ground on one side and sky through the void on the other.
Inspired by the now extinct typology of the ancient Indian step well, a long flight of steps that give access to an ever-fluctuating table of water – the stair starts from the base of the well, rings along the inside and wraps around the sunlit void, connecting all of the spaces as one rises to the top – a walk 150 steps up to the sea.