SITE VISIT: House in Assagao by Field Atelier

Inserted into the topography with forethought, House in Assagao designed by the Goa-based Field Atelier, is a home open to programme while evolving an identity borrowing from the historical context.

Positioned in between the lush valleys of the Western Ghats coursed with streams and scattered coconut palms is a village rich in Goan cultural heritage; Assagao. In the last decade, a number of new and relatively grand country homes have been built in the village. House in Assagao designed by Principal Architects Teja Amonkar and Yatin Fulari of Field Atelier is located in a settlement in the midst of a serene landscape adjacent to historic land parcels. It is built on a narrow plot of land, about 12.5 meters in width. The structure is flanked by a house on one side, a busy village road in front and a forest plot adjoining it. Nestled in the site’s gentle terrain adjoining a steep driveway, the house appears unobtrusive to making the most of this tropical setting.

In a conversation with the architects on site, they speak of the brief set; which was to design a home rooted in place, craft and environment. The uncertainty of the end user gave rise to an open attitude and made way for an organic order of spaces. for the architects and prevented a larger predetermination of the final space. House in Assagao accommodates utilitarianism while not keeping the spaces constrained to it.  The premise of the project was to integrate the diverse experiences inspired by the context in order to create a home. The front is a ground structure and the rear part of the house is on two levels, allowing uncluttered views of the village from the first-floor bedrooms.

As we move inside, the view draws attention to the horizon, allowing us to appreciate the choreographed transition. Stretched out on site, the horizontal volume is defined by the views and sun path. Executed with restraint pertaining to the setbacks, the house is conceived as an inward-looking space and is designed to respond to its context through a series of courtyards. These act as spill-over spaces negotiating the indoor-outdoor transition while maintaining privacy of the adjacent living spaces.

Free and animated, the house is less about formal composition and more about spatial freedom. From the analysis and consideration of each of the elements, a series of spaces were enunciated according to the brief. Within the limited dimensions of the site, the house embodies a noble character; owing to the simplicity of its functional scheme and the rigorous traditional construction of the volume. The architects take not from vernacular architecture, but from vernacular ideas. The concept of vernacular is expressed through planning and articulate elevations of the House in Assagao

One enters the house juxtaposed on the topography through the phrased steps into a view of the frangipani in the courtyard. The axis visually directs the eye through the intimate volume at the entrance lobby towards the garden beyond. The ground floor consists of three main zones – the living area along with the bedroom, an open kitchen, and the stairwell connecting to the upstairs. The intermediate corridor forms the circulatory spine of the house.  Overlooking to the foliage, a double-height stairwell forms the focus of the dwelling. The living room opens into the larger courtyard on one side and the smaller courtyard to the right fills the space with softened light. The courtyard being one step lower, is finished with hand cut limestone, so that the living room can spill over into the landscape. The west wall of the living room, gives a bearing and a sense of security to the space. The linear fixed glass fenestrations running across the west facade breaks the mass and balances the proportions of the openings. The dining along with the kitchen is an unwalled open space for the user to illustrate the space as per one’s requirement.

The seamless IPS staircase connects to a lobby upstairs that further extends into a small private terrace, screened from the neighbour with a cement jali, allowing a space for discussions. The two bedrooms upstairs are finished with kota stone flooring and dark wood ceilings. The palette changes the quality of light while making the spaces more intimate. The scale of the roof overhang in the balcony negates the volume of the bedroom.

The materiality of the house was chosen to have a congruence with finishes such as IPS, timber for the roof and windows, white walls, exposed concrete ceiling all coming together in a seamless manner. This project gains value because of careful sourcing, use of materials and attention to detail. Sometimes the components of the buildings precede their design. The house is designed on a simple principle of creating a homogeneity in its space, articulation and finish. Volumes and textured natural stones survive with exposed R.C.C ceilings. The softened light entering in various layers thorough indoor vegetation and louvered openings,  washes the beige hued IPS floor and fills the space with warmth. As the time of the day and seasons change, it transforms the space. There is a distinct softness to the house the architects have achieved through making humane gestures articulating details. The movable louvered shutters as well as four panelled shutters allow the user to modulate the luminance. The proportion of the openings gives a unified and elegant aspect to the house, without revealing what is going on behind.

The fenestrations and the double windows orient the user towards the dense forest on the adjacent site. The thoughtfully designed window sills accommodate corners to rest and read. The use of wood and vegetation, the adaptation to the landscape, become the starting points for the design exercise. The clean joinery of the roof structure in timber while retaining the materials’ intrinsic character and purpose shows order and rigour in the construction process.

In retrospect, the architects believe that “The house is primordial in its nature. The whole emphasis of the design of the house is not on the elements that make it, but on the ‘feeling’ that a space evokes. An opening to the sky has an uncluttered view of the sky or the cosmos beyond unlike the horizon, which could possibly be blocked someday. A courtyard is an opening to the sky proportioned to be intimate & of human scale. To think of it, the world outside a house is an entire universe. But one tries to domesticate the sky, the cosmos, the rain, the sun and the moon.”

House in Assagao‘ being a pilot project for the studio, the process of learning and at times having to improvise, was mirrored by the process of the architects coming to terms with the progress on site. Improvisations saw the conversion begin to take on an architectural character and a language.  The project reflects upon the trajectory of work the studio has taken. Responsible use of materials, comprehensive details, model making and collaboration nourishes this project.

The project contributes to Field Atelier’s refined ease and thoroughness to resolve details with simple ideological ambitions and compelling formal expressions. The elegance of the house which falls under the residential typology belies the complexities and controversies of the project. It is a radical departure from ‘luxury’ residential typology and the past; a representation of restrictive demands with a conservative approach. On the contrary, Goan Vernacular system of architecture that has evolved over decades as a response to Goa’s tropical conditions, locally available material and cultural practices is comprehended in the project. House in Assagao refrains from incorporating first degree symbols of local history to give the house a ‘Goan Vernacular’ identity. Rather, a connection to the system is developed indirectly by designing in this equatorial context♦

Site Area: 425 sqmt
Built Up Area: 255 sqmt
Project: House in Assagao
Location: Assagao, Goa
Architectural Firm: Field Atelier
Architects: Teja Amonkar and Yatin Fulari
Client: Ignatius Nazareth
Consultants & Contractors: Saidul & Sunil (Carpentry),  Yogesh Bhobe (Structural), Prabhu Contractor (Electrical), Sameer (Plumbing), Rushel Elec (HVAC).
Year of Commencement: 2015
Year of Completion: 2017

Field Atelier is an architectural practice established in 2015 by Yatin Fulari and Teja Amonkar. The studio is based in Panaji, Goa.

Image & Drawing Credits:
Drawings: courtesy Field Atelier
Photographs: Field Atelier, Ronny Sen & Matter ©2020.
Text: Isha Raut

Site-Visits are project reviews on Matter visited by the designer/ critic and scripted after a dialogue with the author/architect. Write to us on if you wish to review a project you know OR if you wish your project to be reviewed on Matter.

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