House at Highlands by Ark Atelier Ltd

July 23, 2015

House at Highlands- The dynamic uses over a period of time can affect greatly the conceptualization of houses. A wider array of activities available to people nowadays allow for greater overlaps between previously separated spheres of day to day living. Lines between home and work have long been blurred. Newer technologies make it easier to access, share and communicate information.Now, the task of checking work email on a tablet from home, though quickly dismissed as a simple act, says significantly how convoluted notions of house/work or public/private are becoming.

Learning and sharing have become easy and accessible tasks. Someone can follow live feeds of a work related event while preparing dinner for the family and can send in comments or questions at the same time. The accepted norm now is that team leaders can contact their team members anytime. Most of the time, team members and their families end up becoming friends interacting on much more than only work issues.The house situated at Highlands was designed with the aspect of dynamism of usage and phased availability of funds in mind.

Stage 1

Initially, the house was designed for a young and small family unit such as a bachelor or a couple with one child. At this stage of their careers, funds are also limited. Therefore, on the Ground floor, the house was designed as a two bedroom unit while the first floor, accessed by a staircase separate from the house, is designed as an open office. The family can either rent it to generate income or save on rent for an office space if they are entrepreneurs.

Care has been taken to avoid privacy issues by carefully positioning feature walls and a courtyard that separates the office component and the house component of the project while openings have been carefully positioned in a way that views onto the residential part are limited from the office component. It is often noticed that finishing of a house suffers due to limited funds. The dynamic solution attempts at answering this situation. Cost of finishing of the First Floor is saved by doing a shell and core solution, leaving the internal finishes to the tenants. Thus, critical funds are made available to increase the level of finishes of the Ground floor, contributing at both giving the house a more aesthetic appeal and raising its value.

Stage 2

The house is positioned on site with a second stage of building process in mind. Several extensions of the house are planned over the medium term. Livable spaces are extended by carefully plugging in looser spaces at strategic locations. These loose spaces, mainly designed as light weight structures, increase the visual character of the house while the use of culturally significant materials and elements instill a sense of belonging.

In a multicultural society like Mauritius, these spaces are appropriated differently based of the day to day habits of each ethnic group. Unity is achieved and peaceful cohabitation is strengthened while cultural uniqueness is maintained through this new house typology. As the occupants settle and save money, they can spend on the construction of these particular spaces at their own pace. The annexing of a covered terrace extending the main living area proves invaluable since life can spreadout during hot summer days or when relatives gather for parties.The front landscape area of the house isappreciatedfrom this in-between space and the uplifting aspects of sub-tropical climate of Mauritius is experienced without its inconveniences.

Similarly, an extension adjacent to the kitchen area turns into an outdoor kitchen that comes in handy as additional storage area as well as preparation of food for a larger number of people and for more heavy duty cooking equipment. This area acts as buffer space between indoor kitchen area and a small vegetable garden. The open carport, an alternative space to the conventional and costly Mauritian garage,is positioned next the living room extension enhance a feeling of openness and becomes yet another add-on to the house during events where a larger number of people gather.

The main bedroom on the ground floor prolongs out to a covered private terrace areaof varied usage while the first floor spreads out onto a covered terrace that the office uses as meeting or relaxation area. In addition to extending the house, loose spaces provide indispensable climate protection to the main internal spaces. The sun facing facades get protection from the heat, naturally regulating the temperature of the house while doors and windows directly under the loose areas may remain open during rainy summer days, maintaining cross ventilation within the house. An Architectural solution reacting to the dynamic lifestyles of modern Mauritians at numerous levels.

Stage 3

The house will not only grow with its users but will also adapt to future change in circumstances. The characteristic of this technological era is such that now change is the only constant.An Architecture that reacts to this new but vital aspect of society becomes more pertinent. Initially the house is a small unit of 110sqm for a small family with a 100sqm area on the First floor as an additional source of income. Slowly, as the family evolves, the different lighter components grow alongside to accommodate further uses, to protect from climate and to carry cultural significance.The total area at the end of the growth period then reaches about 320sqm.

In the longer term, if the family grows and requires more space, the First floor can be converted into two additional bedrooms or can take any other residential use based on the need of the family. In the Mauritian context, as children grow they go their separate ways or often settle abroad for a perceived better quality of life. The family cell then shrinks leaving several unused spaces; signaling a failure of Architecturein catering for people in such situations. The retired parents can no longer maintain the house properly as it grows old with its tired occupants. In the event that this situation occurs, the house character can then be re adapted to its original plan of minimal Ground floor residential use and the upper floor, having a separate parking and access can be converted into either an office or a small studio unit, generating income to alleviate the financial pressure of the old parents.

In our rapidly changing world, houses can no longer be only a vehicle for a single use. The increasingly complex lives of people require an Architectural response that adapts, grows and shrinks with their needs as well as reacts to their financial constraints. This sustainable Architectural typology proposes invaluable solutions for the future of residential buildings especially in a developing and multicultural context.

Ark Atelier Ltd-

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