Using the humble gabion as both screen and sculpture, and rammed earth walls as an aesthetic statement, Art & Architecture Associates have created an intensely eco-friendly bungalow in Vadodara.

Using vernacular architecture in an urban context is easier said than done. Furthermore, getting age-old techniques and materials to perform in a slick, contemporary context without looking like country bumpkins in a world of steel and glass, is a conjuring trick which few architects attempt to pull off.

Built for a couple with two sons, the brief was to create an eco-friendly, well-ventilated home with plenty of natural light – its aesthetic blending with nature. The 3,000 sq ft home has three bedrooms and a pool. The layout is a simple one, divided in two blocks, one with all living areas and the other with bedroom spaces. Between the two sit the leisure components of the pool and a gazebo. This area also connects the Miyawaki forest in the north and a buffer green wall with tall trees towards the south.

Seeing the sculptural potential in gabions, Patel has used them as screens to provide privacy, the large linear volume of the boxes and the earth colours of the rocks within complementing both landscape and built form. Far removed from their customary function as retaining walls, this reinterpretation of purpose has resulted in a dramatic presence in the design of the home.

Rammed earth walls are usually in one standard colour. We decided to experiment with the composition of the earth used. To complement the linearity of the structure, we added either charcoal or lime to the horizontal layers, to darken or lighten the colour of the soil. Since the proportions were not strictly monitored, human error did the rest…we ended up with luscious shades of soil in variegated caramel, beige, tan and biscuit, creating a sophisticated café au lait effect with the added element of texture.

The roof is made of 100 mm PUF panels, which are lightweight and provide a high level of insulation. They required very little structural support and are also fireproof, as they don’t burn. Installed at an angle which is optimum for the functioning of the solar panels on top of them which generate 10KW of electricity, enough and more electricity is available for the requirements of the bungalow. The interior is also seven degrees cooler than its surroundings, due to the passive resistance to solar gain.

Employing several techniques, the foundation of the structure was made with random rubble masonry from local stones. The orientation of the house is predominantly with openings towards the north. Glass walls provide all the rooms with natural light, while the massive earth walls on the south and west protect the house from the heat of the sun. Inclined fenestrations on the south wall aid cross ventilation, the long overhangs resisting sun and rain - offer shade for daytime activities.



Earth Walls

Archy Bhatt, Priya Goyal