House in a Beach Garden
The House in a Beach Garden in Alibaug, Mumbai is a design-led transformation of a decrepit coastal residence by Architecture Brio.
The house used to be segregated from its seafront by a tall boundary wall. It separated the property both physically and visually from the much-coveted coastline of the Mumbai bay. A missed opportunity, according to the architects, hence they first set to create the visual connect to the coastline.
“Therefore, the first and most important intervention was to lift the garden up 5 feet above the existing level, such that the house, the garden and the top of the boundary wall, were all aligned in one level,” says Shefali Balwani, founder principal and director of Architecture BRIO, who is committed to exemplary planning, design and execution of the projects at Architecture BRIO.
The framework of the house was unfortunately in such a bad shape that it had to be demolished. All material that was born from the demolition of the original structure was reused to raise the garden, such that no material had to go to a landfill. These judicious construction processes also included reuse of the foundation as the outline of the new house was based on the existing structure.
On arrival one walks up a gentle set of stairs along a carefully crafted low basalt masonry wall to reach the top level of the garden. The masonry planter bed flourishes with ecologically grown vegetables. With the house on one side and the pool in front on the other side, one catches a glimpse of the shimmering sea beyond. A clear line of sight from the house to the landscape on one side and the seascape on the other gives the house a dream-like existence, a place anyone would covet to spend time in.
“A row of palm trees carefully flanks the pool on the left side, creating a shady, breezy spot. Despite the earth fill surrounding them, our team was able to retain them. Since conical brick wells surround the base of the palm trees, and keep the earth away, they can continue to breathe. It avoids them from being suffocated. Simple tree gratings made of leftover rebars, prevent those wells from becoming dangerous pits. The right side of the pool has a different character. Here, the landscape falls away covered with wild naturalist, grassy vegetation to the palm orchard,” explains Robert Verrijt, another founder and practicing architect of the firm.
One enters the house from the generous 4-meter deep verandah that faces the garden and ocean. The living room and dining room on the ground floor opens up to this verandah with glazed Amber double doors. Similarly, at the back of the house it opens to a large Amber deck that extends into the palm orchard.
From the centre of the house, a double height space leads a staircase up to the upper floor. A solid steel panel folds around as a railing. A skylight facing north animates the light that filters through into the living room downstairs. This skylight is dimensioned exactly to 5×2 solar panels that electrify the house.
In order to make the most of the scenic views from the site, the upper floor composes of panoramic windows. The external faces of all the bedrooms can open up with glass sliding windows. On the West side, they open out to the expansive views of the sea, the beach and the pool. On the East a suspended bedroom enters the striking palm orchard within which the house nestles. Sliding screens made of aluminium strips wrap around the upper floor as a second skin. The sliding screens create a seamless connection with the ocean as can slide away and open completely to relish in uninterrupted panoramic views . However, it can also provide privacy and beautiful sciagraphy.
Name: House in a Beach Garden Alibaug, India
Size: 320 sq.m
Programme: Four-bedroom house