Elemental in its approach, the Mobius House in Goa by Girish Dariyav Karnawat of Mangalore-based GDKdesigns invites a reading less as an object of design but through an exploratory process, of a site of transformation. The architecture of the residence is grounded in an understanding found within inherent gestures of domestic occupation and the slow shifts of architectural representation.
“Mobius House is a resultant of the pursuit of the archetypal image of a pavilion in the landscape through processes that strive to accommodate contemporary building and living conditions, while in simultaneous dialogue with rich traditional and vernacular references,” writes Siddhartha Singh for GDKdesigns.
On the edge of a busy pedestrian thoroughfare in Goa, presides the Mobius House by Girish Dariyav Karnawat. Imperceptible behind a sensitive street frontage, the 2400sqft residence is staged as an instance of growing layers. In the design process plates, one can see explorations that stem from the notion of a continuous boundary wall defining the space. Breaking the monotonous linearity of the southern edge, eventually the elongated arm opening across the landscape to the front house and the shorter arm opened to the private court. While one retains a staunch commitment to its periphery, the structure created responds to a conformed geometry that choreographs an episodic narrative for the inhabitant.
“Corresponding to the plot geometry, the building is configured in an ‘L’. The intensity of references from the Portuguese building forms – great churches with their bell-towers and buttresses, imposing forts and their bastions, massive houses with large volumes and big windows – offered the opportunity of adapting institutional architectonics reinterpreted/redefined to a domestic scale. The language which thus evolved is neither welcoming nor intimidating; instead, it merely frames spaces. The type – each arm of the ‘L’ – is a generous living bay open on both ends and flanked on one side by servant spaces. The few formal indulgences in a rather dormant built-form have to do with the obtuse edges of the ‘L’. While one edge forms the entrance passage to the house, the other is the right of way for the visitors moving to and from the beach.”
Breaking the traditional anonymity of a residence building and forming an engagement with the street on the site’s north-eastern edge, a narrow entrance passageway initiates the hierarchical status of the house. In subtle ways, it is a move away from the context of the humdrum within which it lies. Soft vines and stray branches of bougainvillea drape the northern façade including the angular walls of the passageway that inch gradually upwards to meet the rectilinear edges of a lofty water tank. The water tank seems to trace a visual reference to the extensive upward outreach of the palms in its immediacy.
“The entrance passage is flanked by the building on one side and by a compound wall on the other, which rises as one proceeds up the passage and doubles up as a bracing to the OHWT tower. While the bracing on the left hits a tower as the passage culminates at the vertex, the terrace line acting as the edifice on the right climbs down a flight of steps to reveal the arrival court – the prelude to the experience, located at the node anchoring the two arms of the ‘L’. It’s precisely between this zone that the Mobius nature of the house is born, the birth of delusion between outside-inside…the illusion of threshold between landscape and the house comes alive. The edifice towards the right of way is an undulating surface, expressing a release analogous to the recoil of a stretched piece of elastic when snapped. Subsequently, the structure is un-self-conscious yet present; a presence which may appear alien at the initial glance. However, space is a greater concern here than form, which, perhaps when the ivy shrouds the edifice, one may see better. “
The inverted approach dissolves at a forecourt, a curated open space to formalise continuity to different functionalities. Order evolves out of predetermined functions of domesticity and the residence aligns into a series of identifiably distinct spaces, where every access is an event, prefaced by filters of ante-spaces, or of changed levels. It emerges as a contrived juncture of various nodes in the design – the public, the private and the core services – and thus, the spaces expand into their designated capacities from here. Within the design schemes across different stages, one can observe, in the designers’ words, ‘the court as it acquires a different dimension, the idea that is the generator in a real sense, begins to govern the nature of the organisation.’
Commanding a stronger presence, a linear space that shares the living and dining room amenities delineates the way forward. Another doorway simplifies access to a core of kitchen and a detached toilet. The northern face of the court retreats into the more private threshold of a bedroom. And a short flight of stairs meanders to the green roof on the terrace level. In this singular arrival experience, the planning conjoins the formal with the intimate. Apart from the directional, there is not much that intervenes in this context. Uncluttered by distracting details, boldly articulated built forms form the space.
Further, the volume of the living room extrudes visually into a semi-open verandah deck bearing an informal seating space and rests at a well within the precinct of the otherwise landscaped plot westward along the same axis. The southern edge of the room is threaded with a kitchen alongside and further eastward, it moves on to materialise as a toilet flanking the arrival court in plan. A small alcove recessed northward beyond the living room leads to the bedroom accompanied by another courtyard. A direct entry to this courtyard dictates a more private access for the inhabitant to use.
The spaces, sparsely and tastefully furnished, are not ostentatious. Stark hues specified by exposed materials and select furniture and vertical painting frames create an aesthetic expressive of the construct. Large openings that create an even wash of light bring in an inherent feeling of chiaroscuro. An interplay of solids and voids, the planning frames connections through and through at multiple points framing the lanky palm tree trunks onground as they disappear from the well-thought of manoeuvres of the seemingly straight planes.
“The intentions of replacing lost ground and achieving forthrightness in construct for this single storey building called for a configuration of flat slabs spanning between load-bearing laterite masonry walls. The course of action has been one of minimality in process rather than in appearance. Just as the plan has been reduced of elementality, so do the finishes employ reduction in layers/ materials. For instance, to drain the terrace valleys, sufficient measures were created within the slab while casting the RCC with required waterproofing ingredients, thus avoiding any additional layers for either waterproofing or slopes. The slab soffit has been left exposed; and the waterproof plywood sheets used as form-work were recycled to make the required furniture for the house. Paint – both from the wall and the plywood surfaces – has been done away with since the base layer of putty itself provides adequate protection. Similarly, the bedding mortar itself – when reconstituted and laid appropriately – gives the IPS floor-finish, thus avoiding the need for any further layer of stone or tile finishes. Each of these processes gives rise to its own appropriate aesthetic, just as rethinking the plan allows for a richer, if not new, spatiality. Nevertheless, both demand a shift from conventions (personal or collective), not only in the designer’s approach but also in the inhabitant’s ways of seeing.”
While much of the experience appears becalmed, it continues to evolve under the patina of details – an inconspicuously embossed cross, the porous panelled doors, the greenery embracing the laterite along the walls and stairway, and the generative connections that are abstracted throughout from one space to the other. Up the short flight of stairs lies the unassuming expansive stretch of terrace lawn, keeping with the sense of the restrained efficiency of the design while providing a utilitarian and textural continuity to the space. The boundaries whether tectonic or speculative do not confine the inhabitant to what is projected or defined just architecturally, it continually refines itself within these details.
Laid along two axes, the architecture is not a continuous take. It is not a proponent of any style nor does it need any technological legitimations for its existence; it talks of emancipatory possibilities that exist within the movements of the inhabitant. Devoid of any overt expressive artifice, the acute massing and owing to the sparing placement of simple openings , the design heightens the perceptual quality of the spaces itself. A regularity of geometry is inscribed in the system of spaces and organises the parts. Foregrounded by austere lifestyle of its inhabitants, the architecture proposes and serves an orientation composed by microspaces. The set of spaces are intimate yet informal; they relate to each within a sense of this geometrical camaraderie or through these designed connects that establish an episodic rhythm to the whole language. But it is the duality of the space which is becoming; the reversal of an architectural process where the innermost sanctums are interpreted to expand to respond to the surroundings. While it is perceived tactilely, the essence of the Mobius House lies within the elaborate process of design by Girish Dariyav Karnawat and within the ingenious superimposition of drawings and models, simplifying the complexity of the built into many layers of meanings.
“This adaptable built form attempts to accommodate the contemporary nomadic urban existence, which finds urban abrade repulsive and yet cannot survive without urban affluence. The context that this house desires to address is the Goan landscape: of consuming it and getting consumed. Oscillating between the inside and outside, between the familiarity and unfamiliarity of scales, views and textures, inhabiting this beach house is akin to movement on and about a Mobius strip.” – Girish Dariyav Karnawat.
Area: 2400 sq ft
Project: Mobius House
Location: South Anjuna, Goa
Principal Architect: Girish Dariyav Karnawat
Assistant architect: Puneet Mehrotra
Client: Neil D’souza
Project management consultants: Girish Dariyav Karnawat, GDK Designs Collaborative
Structural consultant: Shekher Bhagwat, Dimensions consultants
Photography: Piyush Rana & Vikram Ponappa