Villa in the Palms by Abraham John Architects

Fact File
Location: Goa
Size: 610 sq m
Principal Architects: Abraham John, and Alan Abraham
Photography by: Edmund Sumner


Villa in the Palms by Abraham John Architects is named after the 19 coconut trees that have thrived for decades and continue to do so on this site overlooking a seasonal stream. The four-bedroom home has been embedded into the natural landscape, cantilevering between the trees (to ensure that none had to be cut) in a fragmented composition reminiscent of a traditional Goan village. Decks, passages, and bridges meander over pools and gardens, while a vernacular palette of laterite stone and 100-year-old recycled teak wood complement sloping, red-tiled roofs to create a seamless, contextual living experience. Embedded into the natural landscape, Villa in the Palms appears almost village-like, with pockets of small homes nestled between 80-year-old coconut trees, nearly invisible from points further up the approach road. The fact that the trees on site have existed for decades gives the overall house a rooted presence. The studio’s design approach is to reconnect architecture with nature. Designing a regular building block would have required the cutting down of several trees to accommodate the programme. To avoid this, the building was carefully designed to fit between the trees without disrupting the surroundings, and not a single tree was removed during construction.

The main entrance features a kind of dramatic crescendo, with a view that widens with each footstep: first some exposed laterite stone, then a glimpse of the pool, then the gardens, and finally the wide field beyond. On one side is a sky-lit living room with an internal garden and walls of exposed masonry. On the other side are an open kitchen and dining room featuring a wet bar, all overlooking an expansive deck and pool (three distinct water bodies are separated by teak-wood bridges and tree islands). Consequently, the structure is fragmented rather than monolithic, reminiscent of an old-time Goan village but at the same time entirely modern. Each bedroom on the ground floor feels like a separate home, replete with en-suite bathroom, a rear garden, a front garden, and an internal courtyard flanked by laterite walls. These independent volumes are interconnected with decks, passages, and bridges that meander through the trees and over pools and gardens.

The building design adopts distinct local features and materials of the tropical coastal state of Goa, with exposed local laterite stone walls, sloping roofs, and screens made from 100-year-old recycled teak wood. On the other hand, the landscape design consists of local tropical species (various types of palms) that maintain their lush greenery throughout the year. Roofs pitched at different angles pay homage to the monsoons and accentuate the staccato nature and fragmented aesthetic of the building. The interstitial roofs cap each unit individually, harvest rainwater, and visually integrate the building into the lush landscape. Boundaries between the inside and outside are blurred, and vast open spaces connect each living space. While everything is open and filled with light and air, the house is still very private. The laterite walls thermally and visually shield each room, maintaining privacy while orienting for the best views of the northern field. The northern façade, on the other hand, opens with largely recessed glazing to the fields while not increasing the solar gain.

With the thermal mass of the laterite walls, open northern facades, and internal courtyards, the house is designed to be environmentally responsible for its site, sustainable as far as a private home can be while respecting the local environment and geography. The infinity swimming pool is fully integrated with the villa, dividing the semi-private areas from the private ones. A bedroom abuts the pool, with a slit window along the floor that enables the ripples of water to reflect onto the ceiling. All the lower floor bathrooms have in-built sunken bathtubs to enjoy the adjoining courtyard landscapes. The last bedroom features a serene indoor-outdoor bathroom where light and shadow create ever-changing landscapes. On the upper floor, there is a family room, powder room, top-floor garden, and an exquisite master suite. The latter consists of a bedroom and an open library, with a windowed sky bridge separating the bedroom from a walk-in closet and an expansive master bathroom. The views from upstairs consist not only of the open field to the north but also of a “Goan jungle view” to the south, replete with the red-tiled rooftops of the adjoining village.