The working style uptil now had been to develop the design through the knowledge that the body has unconsciously developed over the years as we see and perceive things around us. The solutions and creativity had sprung out of known experiences of the memory and body that I was familiar with or ones learnt from peers. But, the start of the next exercise had implored to look at the unknowns and take notes from it by observing and understanding how a similar background of the design had been tackled. For that, I visited a known building of Ahmedabad, which was converted from a sprawling residence into a public institution, while retaining the original structure and renovating it.
The House of MG is a heritage hotel located right alongside one of the busy streets of the Old City. I believe that the experience of the space begins right from the public paver block pavement, that acts as a threshold between the busy street life and peacefulness of a residence. The entrance, with its guard house and entry and exit gates, perform its primary function to regulate the movement into the hotel, but I became interested in its distant location from the entrance lobby. The leisurely walk that one can take under the open sky, from the entrance to the lobby, allows to take in the entirety of the sprawling bungalow while providing a smooth transition from the simple streets to a heritage-worthy interiors. However, all this gets concealed behind the row of trees along the front boundary, without revealing much to the busy passerby and creating a perfect camouflage for it to blend in with its surroundings. The boundary wall of grilles on a low parapet wall along the front, further accentuates the flow of the space into the street as the visual view remains unbroken. Apart from this, its South façade is particularly protected from the harsh sunlight through a curtain of bougainvillea and other creepers, while the small openings take in only sufficient light to light the interiors. This separates it from its closely built neighbouring buildings while being functional to reduce heat gain of the building.
Having inspected and observed the exterior of the space, I set out to observe the interior spaces. Right from the open spaces, its entry into the lobby builds on the image of the space, from the artificial pond under the high volume verandah that spill into a few flight of stairs, leading to the entrance lobby. Despite the original use of the verandah as planned for a residence being lost, its creates a unique experience of entering the space by passing through a series of threshold.
The interiors of the space retains the handcrafted building elements and exposed timber structure, adding to the traditional experience of the institution, while not modifying the residence much to suit an institution’s requirements. The additional furniture and the sombre yellow lighting follow the language of the already present elements, seeming to fit together without the gap of their tenure explicitly visible. The passage along two distinct lobbies leads one to the staircase and elevator, but the divergence of path, that leads to the leisure spaces of open courtyard, gym and pool, allows one to take a detour and relax before reaching their room of stay. The already present layout of the residence is used advantageously to offer that sequence of movement, with only internal partitions added to guide that path.
With regard to the vertical movement, the timber stairs, and the elevator in the stairwell have common landing, allowing the visitors to start their course of movement from the narrow passage towards the rooms on either side of it. The narrow and high passage is used as an advantage to make it as only a space of circulation and not rest. However, the wider passages around the courtyard offer one to stay and look around, down or up, and is retained as such with its openings since they share the same purpose in their usage from the home to the hotel. The terraces of each of its pockets and the large open ones are retained with the greenery around and within it scaling it down, that add to a leisurely experience for the visitors.
I had taken particular note of the museum on its first storey, with its entrance directly on stepping out of the elevator or the stairs. Considering that it is visited by short time visitors besides the guests of the hotel, unlike the rest of the spaces, its location in the set of rooms closest to the circulation passage provides ease of access while maintaining the privacy of the remaining area of the hotel. Within the museum, that uses a collection of interconnected rooms to display the traditional artefacts, the division between rooms is used as an advantage to categorise the exhibits such as books, textile and objects of routine use. Minor adaptions are made to change the function of its residential components to suit the exhibition area. For instance, the windows that would open to the outside in its residential usage is closed shut, and used as niches to display the items inside the rooms. Further, the layout of the display shelves allow an onlooker to easily navigate through the primary circulation area across the rooms, without them coming in the way.
The visit provided a starting point to approach the reusability or reorganisation of spaces in order to renovate a part of my childhood home into an institution. While the previous exercise kickstarted the process, it was worked on one of my peer’s design. While returning to my own design, I had to rethink on the type of institution that it would be used for before designing the spaces. Having seen an approach of how my home could develop into an institution by someone else provided a fresh perspective towards it, but being more familiar with the neighbourhood, I decided to modify it to suit the needs better.
Thinking along the lines of skill development, I decided to devote the space for use by the farmers, who occupy a majority of the neighbouring population. It was then that I recollected instances of my grandmother attending farmers’ local association meetings, that are held in the town. Considering that most of the farmers are from the rural side, I felt that using the institution for that purpose would be beneficial, particularly since its location is midway between the town and the nearby villages. Further, stalls for exhibiting their produce and samples, handicrafts and other small scale products can also be organised, attracting attention to buy directly from suppliers from their native place itself. However, these meetings are organised monthly or after even longer longer durations. But, that opens up the possibility for it being used for other purposes such as occasional film screening for the adults, or indoor digital play area for the children, allowing the space to be optimally used at all times. Apart from that, I thought of using the flat terrace portion for the kids to fly kites and gaze at the green surrounding from a height, that is not offered by the nearby single storey houses.
Usage of the Multipurpose Hall and Terrace
Having developed a program of the functions of spaces and their multi-users, I organised the spaces and decided on the levels at which they would be held. Being open to a large group of the public, the stalls and sale of produces was placed near the entrance to the house, which can used for as a semi-open gathering space for the neighboring ladies for a chat. The meeting space for the association members, which also doubles as an entertainment space for the neighbours, was placed at a higher level, making it less accessible for its non-users. Thus, the rough layout of the spaces was thought of based on their usage. Further, the approach can be taken forward, where the current 3M of the space can follow the profile of the roof the kitchen and adjoining spaces, with their level difference being connected by seating steps. While it’s a start, there are various aspects of the design that haven’t been focused on such as the roof profile, or the stairs dimensions. Further, there could be aspects within my initial approach that does not work, but I have not noticed it yet. Thus, I am eager to start the following week with the process of receiving feedback and developing the scope of the design.
Possible Layout of the Spaces at 0.0M and 3.0M