The making of a metaphor

  • Location

    New Delhi
  • Project area

    2.5 acres
June 21 / 2018

The metaphor is the architect’s pet muse of annotating their work. Metaphors enable and endow meaning, relatability, method and an additional lens to purview or approach built-forms. And then there are those metaphors that arise when a building or subject is critiqued or overviewed. Metaphors augment experiences and perspectives to the extent of controverting reality. And this process, at the risk of seeming overtly romantic, discovers new realities within existing contexts. Within this premise, matra architects and rurban planners turned towards imbibing nature for aresidential project. Architecture is commonly compared to or is aspirational with natural forms. Or at most, built-forms attempt to encompass naturewithin it. These commonly steer towards loftiness of the mountains wherein the built-form creates yet subdues its impact as itappears and disappears into the landscape; or of water as spaces meander organically merging, evolving and terminatingwithin one another.Then there are the literal metaphors where physics and structures are derived from nature, be it bio-mimicry or a house that orients around a single tree and unravels from there on. And then, there is there is the Rhizome Residence, which investigates and deduces from a seemingly simpler and singular entity - the ‘rhizome’.
A rhizome is any horizontal stem that grows underground. Its roots sprout from nodes. The rhizome has a peculiar quality of proliferating even if it is cut or separated. So if a rhizome is indeed dismembered, a new plant can develop from each piece.This quality endows the rhizome and its metaphors an attribute of self-repair, resilience and even independence. And there are the added characteristics of activities seething under-the-surface, hidden from purview and so on.
The design conception began from evaluating site conditions. The 2.5 acre plot is divided into one-third and two-third parts by trees on site. To avoid constraining the built-form to any singular part or plot the architects developed an organic shape that navigated the trees. The plan deploys a central core which is also the entrance to the residence. From this ‘core’there are‘stems’that branch out onto vantages. Secondary projections from the stems are deployed as windows. The core is often lent a function of the courtyard or a space where various activities transpire. However, within the Rhizome Residence, the core is a transition space, much akin to a passage. The living area bifurcates away from the entrance in the form of one stem. Two more stems emanate from the core that house bedrooms and family areas. While the structure is one or a whole in cohesion with the site and the client’s function, the stems are easily reckoned as detached and almost autonomous, revelling in unfettered identity. The windows again branch outwards from these stems and communicate a similar narrative.
The trees on site posed concerns over creating an expansive footprint wherein the foundation could affect the roots and vice versa. Hence the ground floor plan is generated within a tight and dense layout and the upper floor is cantilevered over it. The cantilevers are constructed in steel tubular trusses over courtyards that culminate in a large ‘brise-soliel’. The robust ground floor that supports these cantilevers is a double wall cast in exposed concrete. The upper floor is clad in Red Cedar wood shingles.
The wood is used in shingles that accentuates its texture. This is juxtaposed against exposed concrete. The use of the materials in cohesion is common, but it is the dynamic nature of the built-form that renders the residence a striking demeanour. The use of material is an amicable ancillary to the geometry. Here again, even externally, the rhizome metaphor emerges because the form refutes to be perceived as a whole. Each fragment that tears off the core creates a frame of reference for the user. And this transpires even as a singular material scheme and construction system is throughout. This is not to say that the building does not function as a whole, which it does, yet there is a very strong presence of the ‘I’ and the self. And that is the story of the rhizome that translates tenaciously into Rhizome Residence.