The Bricolage house designed by Betweenlines personifies the idea of ‘optimum’ achieved through layered ‘negotiations’


Fact File

Typology: Residence
Location: Anna Sala
Project area: 2690 sqft
Design Team: Deepa Suriyaprakash,Vanessa,Jayanth, Shruti Gowda, Vinod
Engineers: Guruprasad Kalkura Associates
Project year: 2018
Project Cost: Rs.42 lakhs
Photographs: Shankara Gomathy Selvaraj
Materials used: Compressed stabilised earth blocks, oxide cement flooring, reclaimed and up-cycled materials, including MS grills, tiles and wood.

The negotiation with the ‘normal’ started with the program when the client wanted to build her retirement home in her ancestral property in the suburbs of Chennai. The requirement was to build a 3-bedroom house with plenty of light, ventilation, and a garden.

BetweenlinesStaircore, brick texture and oxide colors

The footprint of the house is only 600 sft that grows into two levels. In the place of building boundary walls and a steady setback – the offset of the boundary wall - the project staggers its spaces, creating courts and socializing spots with the neighbours. Thus, the project was inserted at site, as a set of solids and voids, protecting the internal spaces from direct glare, providing privacy, and creating visual relief within its edge.

The vibrant suburbia and the unusual dimension of the plot were the starting point of the design process to create a house that belongs and outspends at the same time. The house zone starts at the 50th feet of the plot depth. The junction is marked by a curving patterned brick wall.
Ar. Deepa Suriyaprakash
The house stands as a testimony of ‘dressed’ ideas, built from pieces that were meant to be discarded, as kitsch, old fashioned and aged. Optimum led to Optimism

Ar. Deepa Suriyaprakash

It also adjusted itself to sit amidst the old well, and the drinking water sump - around which the garden is built. Every piece of the earlier house was retrieved and treated as a relic, and reused in the new house. Reclaimed bricks were reused at the foundation, the demolished debris were used to fill and raise the level of the site, and all the wooden sections retrieved from the old madras roof terrace were reused as frames for doors and cabins. The steel sections were used as frames for the main gate and the court grill, extending the shelf life of the material and repainting the memories from the old house.

BetweenlinesLiving room expanding into court

When the premise of the house was negotiated to become efficient and sustainably conscious, the material choice followed. CSEB (Compressed Stabilized Earth Blocks) were used for construction. In this too, the idea of treating the material in the most straight forward form was reconsidered and brick walls became fields of play to explore, pattern, course structure, strength, and fenestration modules. Although Concrete frame structure and CSEB brick fill make the basis of the house, colours and textures and finishes add character.

The up-cycling and cost conserving streak continued, with assorted grills procured and assembled from the second-sale market; the floor/wall tiles picked up from ‘discontinued display pieces’ of large tile showrooms in the city; the kitchen and wardrobe shutters re-framed from old window shutters; ventilators and doors picked up from demolition sites; vibrant oxide flooring and aluminum windows were preferred for their price and recycle value.

BetweenlinesUpcycled grill court

The living room grid shifts bay to create room for an extendable urban garden and court, which gets its protection from the assorted grills picked from ‘Gujri’ shops. The dogleg stair gets a twist at every flight with changing oxide colour and brick course pattern. The bedrooms welcome warmth with the colour yellow and inlaid vitrified tile pieces, and the wardrobe shutters are yesteryear doors as are the kitchen woodwork, windows, and ventilator shutters.

BetweenlinesBrick pattern work and associated light

The final exploration and negotiation happened in the form of ‘super graphics’ that came to earmark the place without use of any additional statement material. A study of the brick pattern revealed the inherent shift of light and shadow; this was captured at the entrance and facade level as graphic patterns, through the medium of paint.