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Diya by SPASM Design Architects

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Fact File
Location: Ahmedabad, Gujarat
Size: 1400 sq m
Principal Architects: Sanjeev Panjabi, and Sangeeta Merchant
Photography by: Photographix India


Diya by SPASM Design Architects is crafted as an organic spatial experience, punctuated by a lower volume that meanders around the 248 trees present on the site. Ahmedabad is predominantly dry through the year, though it does rain occasionally during the monsoon months, from late June to August. The clients, a young couple with a nine-year-old daughter and their respective parents, contacted us to design a family home. Pre-existing trees and a large lawn prompted the exact positioning of the built form. Several foundations were carefully positioned and dug by hand to ensure the preservation of the roots, with the treescape facilitating specific vistas and open-to-sky courtyards. The result is a formless labyrinth of interconnected spaces.

The entrance marks a 16-metre column and a free-span canopy, which creates a 2.4-meter-high entry space bound by vertically pivoting wooden louvres. This filter-like space enables a perennial breeze to flow through the central courtyard beyond and sculpturally frames an existing Neem tree, highlighting the powerful presence of nature throughout the house. The ground level marks an organic spatial plan, bound by massive rammed earth walls with high thermal mass, courtyards, vertically pivoting wooden louvres and top-hung windows with mesh inserts that keep out mosquitoes and allow ventilation. Aided by giant sliding glass walls, which retract into pockets, the living and dining spaces seamlessly connect with the surrounding verdant environment. Shade, stemming from the upper cantilevering storey, brings respite and is a welcoming facet in this tropical region.

Apart from these heat mitigating measures, sprinklers activate on timers to humidify the courts which are all planted with Ferns, Monsteras, Allocasias, Philodendrons, Rafi’s palms, Terminalia, and other plant species. The upper storey is adorned with a skin of Corten—single elements of 0.5-metres x 5.5-metres high panels which hang from the internal structure, creating a permeable façade. This facilitates the absorption of heat from the sun and releases upward air circulation behind, hence reducing heat gain of the inner structure and interior spaces. The corners of the volume feature perforated jaali in tree and branch motifs, a reference to the Sidi Saiyyed Mosque jaali, an architectural wonder of Ahmedabad.

These spaces are adorned with dappled, patterned light and shade, and along with the sliding screens on the principal plane of the façade, cool the breeze through the Venturi Effect. The forthcoming nature of the clients led to the design of an entirely bespoke series of furniture and objects specifically for their homes. These were all designed in 20mm x 20mm brass sections and salvaged wood. Mirrors, towel racks, bookshelves, vanities, TV stands, occasional tables, and a nest of trays, were all part of the ensemble. The main staircase leading to the upper level is an assemblage of thick wood, akin to a stack in a drying yard, and the stair rail is crafted out of rosewood as a precious object with bent corners in cast brass, pronouncing an elegant luxury along with a sense of timelessness. The craftsmanship throughout the project is exquisite, while the intriguing art collection has been gifted by the clients’ friends and family over the years.

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