Compassionate Construction

Laya is an alternative sustainable urban habitat project located in Kolhapur. It aims to represent the idea that modern architecture can be functional while also being strongly empathetic to the environment.

‘Can a tangible, measurable, presumably inanimate built form embody our immeasurable human values and aspirations that hint at possible new alternatives for our future relationships with the environment, with fellow humans and with our own selves?’ The design of this house attempts, within its limited scope, to at least partially answer this question in the affirmative by becoming a tangible embodiment of the architect’s intangible life-values.

As this house is made from materials that were discarded from demolished buildings, it has the smallest possible carbon footprint. All the wood used for the doors, the windows, the ceiling, the stairs, the mezzanine floor, external wooden strips, all the flooring tiles and all the Mangalore tiles on the roof, most of the structural steel for the roof and the pipe columns, all the steel for the reinforcements and gate-and-fencing, the plywood shutters, the PVC pipes and the bamboo pieces in the filler slabs, and more, were all procured from discarded dumps, scrap-yards, or salvaged from demolished buildings. 

“Special places in and around the house have been created to capture the silent energy of nature – for plants to be seen, caressed, smelt and eaten; for birds to sit, bathe and to nest at; for fish and dog to live and rest at,” states the team.                                                                                                                                                                             

To further reduce the burden on the environment, the house tries to be as self-sufficient as possible in terms of water usage through rainwater-harvesting and the use of sullage for gardening; in terms of electricity by using LED fixtures, by installing small photovoltaic panels and solar water heaters, and by focusing on good natural lighting and ventilation with minimal reliance on artificial air-conditioning; in terms of food by creating an edible landscape in and around the house; and in terms of energy and fuel by using solar cookers, a garbage disposal system, and more.

This house is also a small attempt at reducing the inequity in today’s society. “It was constructed so that a large ancestral home in the city could be sold and the entire money could be used for the benefit of the underprivileged, as well as of the environment,” states the team. The single-volume, flexible openness of the new house, with its folding partitions or curtains that can create 1-3  bedrooms, encourages lively interactions between the residents and guests. “Voluntary simplicity was also a major generator of the house’s form, making it much smaller, more compact and more open than the user’s earlier house, encouraging less storage and accumulation of goods.”

This 220 sq. mt. home sits on a steep, sloping 465 sq. mt. plot and has an inviting and organic ambience. The steep contours have been utilised by tucking the domestic helper’s quarters and an R.W.H. tank at the lower level, with terraced edible landscaping all around. The covered balconies are used the most for sitting out, for eating, working, reading and for sleeping.

“This house may become a pointer to future residential architecture, as it embodies the coveted values of empathy towards nature and environment, caring and sharing, contentment and simplicity.”