We believe that, as architects and designers, our role is exceptionally interim in nature. And by “in nature”, we mean both, the inherent characteristic of a person, as well as the collective physical world around us. After all, for all the glorification we grant to ourselves, we are, eventually, only a means to an end which will exist long after we are gone.
Fully aware, and accepting of this interplay of the past, present, and future, we have come to understand that everything we do, is going to interact differently with the evolving sensibilities of the people, the landscape, and the weather, at that point of time, on that given day.
The only truth then, remains in experiencing that moment in the present. And our attention converges on building within that context to reveal a truth that already exists, not recreate the narrative.
In this case, Sandeep and Navina Bhargava own a 10-acre estate near Karjat, literally at the foothills of the Western Ghats. Most of this land had always been used for farming and several resident farmers still line the plot with their outhouses, working on a small scale.
Amidst these farms, lush mountains, and a flowing brook marking the end of their property, the couple had built a weekend getaway in the form of a small farmhouse called ‘Sanvina’. Perched upon a plateau with a sloping valley on one side, Sanvina represents the life that this working family craves for.
Avid dog-lovers, nature enthusiasts, and passionate gardeners themselves, although Mumbai paid their bills, Sanvina commanded their heart. What started out as a project to spruce up the farmhouse that served as their escape from the daily grind of Mumbai city, soon ended up becoming a full-fledged transformation project. As the makeover began dancing to the tune of improvisations to match the fervor of the couple, the plot began to welcome some trimming, some landfilling, and the arrival of some of the most exquisite ornaments it had ever seen.
However, it happened all in good time.
On our first visit to the farmhouse, we noticed that despite being a massive 10-acre property strategically located in the hills, we were unable to experience it at one go. Trees and hedges lining the 100 meter driveway to the entrance, blocked the vast expanse beyond it. Visually, this broke down the entire space into smaller fragments, making the actual location somewhat irrelevant.
We countered this patchy experience by creating a seamless amalgamation of the confines of the plot areas and the natural space beyond it. Using architecture to our advantage, we wanted to capture the agility of the open sky, contours of the hilly landscape, and ethereal quality of light transpiring between day and night through delicately detailed design.
This meant placing an undisrupted view of the prevalent landscape at the heart of the project.
The only place where the hedges were actually completely torn down, the new entrance was now an integration of levelled up patches of greenscape as one large stretch, dotted with sit outs, patio furniture and a fireplace as well.
The overall look and feel of the entrance created a picture postcard image, with the sit outs in the foreground, some lithe trees forming an arch over the entire house in the middle, and the misty mountains in the background, completing the frame.
With deciduous and evergreen trees planted across the landscape at various strategic locations, and nothing else to block the natural view beyond, this picture morphs with every changing season, showing off a plush foliage in the summer, bare branches in the winter, and gushing waterfalls and streams in the monsoons.
This idea of openness carries forward through all the areas of the house by inviting the outside in through large windows and openings. For instance, at the entrance, despite a verandah leading you to a lavish, double-heighted living room in between, your gaze is intuitively drawn all the way across the hall. Huge sliding glass doors at the rear end take you back outside to a deck area.
That said, the moment soon passes when you enter the verandah. Almost like an implant floating on the natural landscape, it poses as the divide between the inside and outside. A mezzanine hosting a quiet library and resting space directly above, compels you to look ahead, allowing you to register the room itself in its grandiosity.
To give you an understanding of the layout, to your right, is the dining area, to your left, two bedrooms, and in front of you, a floating, open to sky deck area beyond the living room. While the extravagant use of glass lets ample of light through, the personal collection of artifacts from Gujarat, Rajasthan, Bali, Africa, America to name a few, including authentic wooden columns, a traditional jhoola, copper utensils, antique water boilers, wrought iron jalis, and a lot more, contribute to the ornamental richness in the space.
This conversation of contrasting weights is complimented by a modest colour palette boosted with accents of bright colour in the form of upholstery and artwork. Although it may seem like a random mix of objects, the overall feeling of connection remains constant. Even in the bedrooms, this language is seen in the panoramic and bay windows which let you go with the grain of the landscape out there.
Moving on to the attic-like library tucked away in the mezzanine, we see a nook that reflects the unique personalities of the people curating it. A spiral steel staircase from the living room lets you access it. Authentic wrought-iron jalis, an English-style window, a passionately put together pop-art collection lining the walls, and a low-lying bed with two bookshelves on either sides of it, this is a haven for art lovers, bookworms, and all those looking for a snug, afternoon, lazing around in the company of things that could very well have jumped out of a book like Aladdin and the Magic Lamp!
In conjunction with the rest of the home, the library is also linked to the outside with a view of the deck area through the living room doors. Two decks – one floating (extending from the living room), and the other, a step down (extending from one of the bedrooms) are interconnected with each other. Hosting a small bar area for when friends come visiting, these decks lead to an open lawn, taking you to the other side of the plot sloping downwards to a garden, and plantations ahead of it.
The garden, having been built before, is the extent of human intervention in the area, with all other plantation replacing the urban response to a more natural, organic growth pattern.
Contrary to the above, the slopes leading from the house to other parts of the property, have been filled in to appear gentler, becoming more visible, than the infinity drop that preceded it, to retain the feeling of being connected with everything around.
Proud, satisfied, and overjoyed with the outcome of this farmhouse, both Sandeep and Navina agree that it embodies some of the best moments of their lives, curated together in one place. On that note, they would love to invite like-minded individuals to experience a slice of their cozy retreat, as they connect over nature, art, and the warm, fuzzy, feeling of being at home.
As for us, despite our role always being so interim in nature, we understand that architecture is not about space, but about the time spent within that space, and work towards making our next endeavor, just like this one, the best it can be.
– Text By Nakiya Haideri
Project Facts –
Principal Architect – Parag Ainchwar, Parag Sen
Civil Contractor – Arun
Client – Sandeep & Navina Bhargava
Location – Mechkarwadi, near Karjat
Principal Designer -Parag Ainchwar, Parag Sen
Landscape Consultant – Cluster One creative solutions Pvt. Ltd.
Project Name – Sanvina Farms
Build Area -3310 sq. ft.
Site Area – 10 acres
Year of Completion – 2020
Project Cost – 50 Lakhs