House 55 rests lightly on top of a hill, overlooking expansive views of a valley in Coonoor, a hill station in Southern India. Formerly part of a tea plantation, when this site was converted into a residence, one of the key design decisions was to preserve the natural steep slope of the land. The home is conceived of as transparent floating volumes suspended on columns, to have minimum impact on the ground and open up to its surroundings.
Coonoor, previously a summer retreat for the British, is dotted with large colonial estates that contain main bungalows and outlying guest cottages on sprawling grounds. These building are generally wrapped with verandahs that are encased in glass to shield from the elements and function as sun rooms. This residence reconceives that idea, and adapts it to its compact linear setting, in the form of three interconnected volumes that cascade down following the contours of the site. The First Block functions as primary residence, containing all major functions - living, dining and master bedroom, the Second Block contains the guest rooms, and the Third Block serves as the entertainment area- with TV lounge and deck. The idea of the glass lined verandahs, is taken and expanded to encompass all Living spaces with Services contained along a more enclosed central core.
Entry is at the highest point of the site leading onto a parking deck that forms the roof of the staff block below. From here you step down through the landscape to reach an entrance court which opens up into the main block. Each subsequent block steps down further to form large terraces at every level allowing you to enjoy different aspects and views.
Concrete walls frame a central spine, containing circulation spaces, with services running above. These walls dip down to create retaining walls and lift up to form floating stairs and bridges allowing the landscape to carry on uninterrupted underneath. Service spaces such as toilets, kitchens etc. are enclosed by these walls creating more private areas allowing living spaces and bedrooms to open up unencumbered to nature beyond. Materials are left in their natural state with exposed concrete, wood paneling, aluminium windows etc. allowing for least maintenance and timeless appeal.
The composite construction of steel beams and concrete slabs allows for a slender combined thickness of 300mm, matching the width of the columns. This structure frames 6x6 metre grids that can be easily adapted based on programme, two cubes come together to form larger spaces such as the living areas, with single cubes forming the bedrooms.
What emerges is three houses within one, which can either be opened up and expanded when necessary, to host multiple people, or condensed into a compact home for just the principle occupants, saving on energy and maintenance. In this retreat from city life, walls hug the ground, columns merge into tree trunks and glowing boxes nestle into the surrounding vegetation to create an environment that becomes a permanent interweaving of man and nature.