Tantalizing tranquility

India and her myriad landscapes are absolute stunners. The southern peninsular region in particular, with its coasts and shimmering sandy beaches set in the fore of lush green rainforests transcending over to relatively drier landscapes; the transitions often quite stark.

The Western Ghats, with its towering ridges is the primary reason for the shift in scenery. The windward side of the range right until the shoreline has a sumptuous offering of greenery which almost entirely depletes as you crossover the hills onto the leeward side-the scenery smoothening onto planar profiles.

Tamil Nadu though entirely on the latter side, has a couple of scenic hill-stations nested up on the periphery of the mountains. Contrary to the predominantly harsh, hot and dry climate of the state, these hill-stations offer mesmerizing misty mornings, ideal for weekend getaways and rejuvenating reposes.

Perched atop the blue mountains of Nilgiris in the quaint town of Coonoor is an abode by Studio Lotus, one that truly imbibes the essence of a dream dwelling. The Stepped House as rightfully named is materialized in multiple levels courtesy to the sloping site topography.

The subtle and sensible use of the material palette ensures that the structure blends in with the picturesque environ rather than making a bold visual statement. Having said so, the form isn’t to be called prosaic by any means; the exposed stone masonry walls, the stepped volumes, the floating roof, all of which essay a distinct character; this is one project that probably exemplifies the importance to never over-design.

Going overboard with visual design aspirations can be justified for a sculptural project, but in a setting that has an abundance of nature’s ubiquitous beauty, the lesser the level of human intrusions, the better.

Echoing these very thoughts were the architect and client, their aspirations in perfect resonance. The house is thus perceived as a single story low rise structure upon entry that gradually cascades into the greens as you move closer.

Envisioned as a weekend retreat that would subsequently cater to being the permanent residence of a couple, their children and their following generations.

Conforming to a structural grid of retaining walls, the residence follows an east-west orientation. The longer side falls on the southern façade which is duly designed with controlled openings; its opaque impervious identity adds visual drama to the volume while restricting the high wind chill factor of the region and screening the house from the neighbours.

The linear format for the house stacks spaces in progression with planes layered on top of the other. The primary level comprises living areas with a long verandah opening out to the scenic southern views encompassed by sliding glass doors that blur the transition between the inside and outside.

A retaining wall cuts off the master bedroom from the public areas on this level; also marking the separation between the common and private zones of the house.

Sandwiched between these two areas is a library/study space at an intermediate level. A cut-out in the floor plane ensures that this double-heighted volume is sumptuously flooded with natural light that seeps in from the skylights above.

Visually connected to the living space above and the greens beyond, this space offers an ambience that is surreally soothing.

All the three bedrooms boast of a completely private spill-out, the master bedroom at the upper level onto a terrace and the lower bedrooms into a double-height hard court; jointly privy to the panorama of the south and east.

The latter also connects to the sprawling lawns judiciously abutted by a guest bedroom and a multi-purpose yoga room in the lowermost level, ensuring that the owners are able to host large social gatherings of friends and family without compromising on the privacy of the indoor spaces.

The simplicity and climate responsiveness in the architectural expressions and vocabulary were also instrumental in conceiving this subtly set residence. Stone, steel and timber are applied in contemporary tonalities to resonate with the vernacular syntax.

A band of glass windows hemming the walls create a mirage of the sloping roof just floating above it. The house has a straight-forward, no fuss approach with attention to functional aspects, details and choice of materials.

The neutral character of the architectural materials allows for varied pieces of furniture and art to sit effectively over it. There is a strong element of individuality and warmth woven into the spaces with the architectural interaction of the volume and materials.

The house offers itself as a canvas for the clients to animate it with their choice of art, furniture and décor.

The Stepped House thus presents itself as a magical manifestation of a dream home that most of us aspire for; a place up in the skies, where you sip your morning cup of coffee as you fall in love with tantalizing tranquility of nature’s beauty.

Fact File

  • Project: Stepped House
  • Location: Coonoor, Tamil Nadu
  • Architects: Studio Lotus
  • Design team: Ambrish Arora, AnkurChoksi, AdwaitInmadar, Dipti Das, Hussain Mehdi
  • Built Area : 10000 sq.ft.
  • Structural consultant : Manjunath& Co.
  • Civil consultant: Mathew Jacob
  • Landscape consultant: Santosh, 3folddesign
  • Local Architect: Arti Golcha