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India's House With Balls. A Modern Residence & Fish Farm.

I realize the title of this blog post reads like some sort of odd sexual euphemism, but the truth is it's a about an unusual modern home in rural Ahmedabad, India which is used as both a weekend residence and a place for the owner to raise fish. And yes, the balls, which are concrete weighted baubles, are an integral functional piece of the architecture and serve as the pulley system for the concrete shutters. Hence the name of the project by the Gujarat, India based architecture firm Matharoo Associates, "House With Balls."

text from GA houses 110, May 2009:

Scooped out of a plot of farmland twenty minutes outside Ahmedabad city, this house has been built for an aquarium shop owner to function as a place to breed fish as well as to serve as a weekend retreat.

Its design is centered around four fish breeding tanks and an observation room which could double up as a living room.

Every aspect of this design is set out to strip expense from the project; be it using 125mm thin concrete walls with standard concrete, one duct space for its three bathrooms, doors and windows made by pressing GI sheets or using bent rods to function as a handle and locking aldrop.

On approaching the entry from the country lane one finds the entrance nondescript and hidden in the scrub. The mandatory margin required is used for the tank space – while the walls of the plot and house are used as a retention structure for the tanks. These tanks are enclosed by glass windows which runs the entire length of the living space, the added bonus being that the glass works out cheaper than a concrete wall, more so for aquarium manufacturers!

On entering the house one steps up into a corridor opening to a small powder room on the left, followed by a choice to either take the left into the bedroom, or to carry on down directly into the long living space.

The layout of the house is such that several differing views of the water bodies are provided; in the bedroom space, the sitting ledge is just above the water level and looks down the long length of the pools; while the living space affords the inhabitant an uninterrupted view over the tanks when the windows are open, and view of the fish through below-the-sill glass windows.

Resting half-sunken under the ground level, negating the need for foundations, the long concrete-box house splits the plot space into two distinct yet continuously mingling spaces; it opens on one side to the garden and to the 49,000 litre fish breeding tanks on the other.

The living area can be opened to either of these two spaces by top hung metal shutters which extend at eye level through the entire length of the walls. When closed it is a 13m long and 3.6m wide space rendered by the light through the fish tanks.

On opening the shutters this linear space transforms completely into an infinite one perpendicular to its original direction. The metal shutters are held by handmade concrete baubles, the cheapest counterweights possible; they either swing in the wind when windows are partially open or dip out of view into the lily padded pools when the windows are fully open making the house animated in use or even without.

The concrete frame around the window plays multiple roles; as a seat from the garden side, steps for children to climb on from the garden or jump to from the terrace, a weather protection device while also providing a rat & snake proof section. It starts serving as a bar counter with the attached kitchen platform for larger gatherings. The grassy knoll that rises in front of the long opening bears under it a bio-gas plant, 50,000 litres of rain water storage, and an earth heat exchange tube.

Back through the shrubbery and fields the house assumes a squat position; the curving wall to one side allows one to walk up a gentle slope on to the terrace running over the length of the house. The weekenders enjoy the feeling of floating over a bed of lily petals while being weighed down by the baubles.

photos above courtesy of both Matharoo Associates and the very talented London photographer Edmund Sumner.

The plans:

Location: Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India
Design Year: 2003
Construction Year: 2004
Client: Mr. Mahesh Mohatta
Project team:
* Gurjit Singh Matharoo- principal architect
* Hardik Pandit – trainee
Structural Engineer: Mr. Rajendra Singh Matharoo, Matharoo Associates
Interior Designer: Komal Mehta, Matharoo Associates
Landscape Architect: Matharoo Associates
General contractor: Shriram Builders, Ahmedabad
Layout: Living room, bedroom, caretaker’s room, 4 fish breeding tanks, kitchen, 3 toilets, 1 parking.
Structural system: Concrete Raft and Walls
Major materials: Reinforced Cement Concrete
Site area: Approx. 530 m2
Building area: Approx. 130 m2
Total floor area: Approx. 130 m2
Cost of construction: Approx. $100/m2 - $12,000 (in 2005)

Matharoo Associates

24 - E Capital Commercial Centre, Ashram Road, Ahmedabad - 380 009, Gujarat, India
Phone: +91 - 79 - 26577757 / +91 - 9879543505
Ph/Fax: +91 - 79 - 26576426

Check out some nice images of another wonderful residence by Matharoo Associates, the Ashok Patel Residence at Ahmedabad here.

Learn more about Gurjeet Singh Matharoo and some more of his works in this nice article with lots of images from Archinomy.

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