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Radhika Villa

Vastu Shilpa Consultants

Rajeev Kathpalia describes the house he built for his family in Ahmedabad as a pavilion opening up to gardens and the sky, even though it appears from the outside to be carved from a massive block with a dramatic cantilever. As an associate of the veteran architect Balkrishna V. Doshi, who assisted Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn when they built in this northern Indian city, Kathpalia seeks to fuse tradition and modernity, in this and other buildings. Cavity walls and a well-insulated roof mitigate the chilly winters and ferociously hot summers. The sunken roof terrace is a traditional feature, providing a cool retreat on summer evenings and a place to indulge in the local sport of kite-flying, as is the basement cistern for storing monsoon rains. But the shuttered concrete outer walls and ceilings, jutting rain spouts and sculptured roof lanterns evoke Corbu’s villas and his Mill Owners’ Building; Kathpalia has even included a Modulor figure in his elevations.
It’s a witty gesture, but Kathpalia is a pragmatist who differs sharply from the French master in emphasizing livability over form-making. The Radhika Villa is named for his wife, an architect who is one of Doshi’s three daughters, and it is shaped by the needs of the couple, their sons, aged 15 and 21, and guests. For all its hard surfaces and sharp corners, the house has a sensuous, informal character. Trees filter the sunlight and soften the raw surfaces with a dappled pattern of light and shade. Within, the light is constantly shifting, charting the movement of sun and clouds, and there is a free flow of space and cross ventilation around the closets that divide the double-height living room from the smaller rooms on both levels. This is an inventive spin on the traditional Rajasthani house in which a single space is divided up with curtains or bamboo roller blinds. Contemporary Indian paintings and sculptures are displayed on ledges. The lanterns capture the cool evening breezes like desert wind...

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