Sense of entry, how the interior spaces open up, source and intensity of of light and air, smart designing…Sathya Prakash Varanashi tells us how
Everybody dreams of a good house. If we ask what a good house is, everybody may have his/her own definition. Anyway, one of the simplest and direct answers can be “the good house is where we feel good”.
There will be no unanimous agreement on how to design well, with each owner, designer and builder proposing his/her own subjective ideas. Yet the basics of ‘good’ can be related to the house plan, architectural elements, building materials, construction systems and experiences.
Most people tend to ignore plan making, quickly drawing up some rooms assembled into a rectangle or start with a rectangle, dividing it into rooms. Either of the approach would end up as a piecemeal solution, not a peaceful house. Plan with all enclosed rooms, in a metaphorical way, also closes our minds, while the open plan house lets us to open our minds! So, every room should get maximum external walls, two or three preferably, to get light and air from different directions.
If the outline of the plan is not a rectangle, but with rooms staggered in and out, both the above objectives can be achieved. It also creates outdoor gardens which can be directly connected to the indoors, letting nature enter the house. All these, air, light, space, greens and outside view automatically create a feel good factor.
A major paradox about the house plan is that it can be fully seen in the drawing sheet alone, with only the rooms and spaces that we walk into being visible once the house is built. If so, how to arrive at a ‘feel good’ house, looking only at the drafted plan? Experience in planning, of course, is a pre-requisite to achieve it, besides clarity of mind in what we seek in a house.
People capable of design thinking can easily incorporate theories of plan making, specific to the type of project. Multiple theories of design exist, but what need to be applied is left to the designer and the owner. How we get to view the house would be the first criteria, which is far more important than mere elevation that all talk about. As we near the house, sense of entry becomes crucial.
As we enter the house, how the interior spaces open up comes next, with visual privacy being a determinant there. Spaces and privacy are closely interlinked. As we walk in, the source of light and air with their directions and intensity play a subtle role. Suddenly, the house may open into a garden outside or to a double height courtyard in front. Such a spatiality can be an outcome of the plan configuration – the way rooms are arranged which could be in linear fashion, diagonal angle, curvilinear profile or with sequential privacy.
Depth of the visual spaces and not necessarily the size of the rooms decides how big the house appears. Also, small and compact rooms are not welcoming as we enter. However, we can place small and bigger spaces in a sequence, which the mind finds very attractive.
The idea of room size is a misnomer, where most designers simply make the room larger hoping to get that elusive feel of largeness. In every room, there will be a functional space like just around the dining table; a measurable space which as an example, could be the size of dining room; a visual space covering all that can be seen sitting around the table, say into living room, kitchen, garden or even out of the window; and lastly the experiential space. Planning only for the functional or even measurable spaces does not help much in creating the ideal dining area.
Experiencing the house is an intangible activity of the mind and an equally intangible expression of the house itself, where plan making plays the deepest role. The unskilled designer or the uninitiated owner tends to think that using modern materials or a fascinating structural form creates the goodness. They may contribute to it partially, but the core quality comes from the plan. Our mind has an uncanny capacity to perceive spaces which leads to comfortable or uncomfortable feelings, which is the starting point of experiencing the spaces.
Piece of paper gets connected to peace of mind with the house plan drawn there and built accordingly. So next time, let us plan not only for a good house, but for a ‘feel good’ house.
(The author is an architect working on eco-friendly designs and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)