Pirouette House by Wallmakers is an homage to revered architect Lawrence Wilfred Baker and features a contemporary rendition of his signature Rat Trap Bond technique of masonry, whereby bricks have been placed vertically rather than horizontally to facilitate thermal and material efficiency. The residence’s beauty stems from pure geometric forms, a ferro-cement shell roof and meticulously conceived, angled walls. In typical fashion, the architects have up-cycled scaffolding pipes to construct the staircase and grillwork, while leftover wooden planks form part of the flooring. A unique composition of cane wrapped around grills forms subtle screens and remarkable furnishings. Scroll down to read the architects’ insights.
Located smack in the middle of an urban and crowded locale of Trivandrum, the site was a small plot that was being suffocated by other residential projects from all four sides. The idea of this residence was to have an inward facing house with all its spaces opening into a funnelling central courtyard. The house is aligned in the East-West direction with openings facilitating for maximum cross-ventilation.
In the context of the city of Trivandrum that stands as a testimonial to many of architect Laurie Baker’s masterpieces, it seemed fit to modify one of his own introductions, the Rat Trap Bond masonry technique, on this site which didn’t offer the opportunity for soil excavation or for making mud blocks. Keeping in mind that brick kilns in Trivandrum are a dying industry, with people opting out for wire-cut machine made bricks, this was also an attempt to promote this local agriculture-based industry that is on the brink of extinction.
The Rat Trap Bond is a brick masonry method of wall construction in which bricks are placed in vertical position instead of conventional horizontal position, thus creating a cavity within the wall that increases thermal efficiency, cuts down on the total volume of bricks used and is ideal for concealing structural facets and service ducts. The idea was further developed to form a series of slanting walls that danced left and right, converging only to support the ferro-cement shell roof. Each staggered wall has been tailor-made to suit the issue of deficiency in space that this residence posed, aiming to create larger volumes and a feeling of privacy.
Scaffolding pipes left behind from the construction stage were reused to form the central staircase and the grillwork. Keeping in mind the principle of discarding nothing as ‘waste’, the wooden planks were also pieced together to form part of the flooring in the living areas. Cane has been acquired from the neighbourhood, then treated and wound around the grillwork to create subtle screens for privacy and also to compose distinct furnishings.