Can modern architecture be used to enable a family's traditions and heritage? The knee-jerk answer might be no, since early-20th-century modernism ignored tradition in a number of ways. But given that today's modern architecture combines modern style with today's technologies and ways of life, is it possible that it can be just as suitable a backdrop to heritage as another style?
A balance of modern life and the heritage of a three-generation family is but one way of describing the Ramchandani residence in Houston, designed by Intexure Architects. This ideabook will walk you through the house to explore the above questions and also see how the house relates to its landscape, and how the owners take advantage of the spaces around the house.
Houzz at a Glance
Who lives here: 3 generations of an Indian family
In a previous ideabook that toured Intexure's own live-work studio in Houston, one thing that came to the fore is the way the plan made a distinction between the two main functions, but the spaces flowed from one to the other. A similar thing happens inside of the Ramchandani residence, which has a large, double-height space at its heart to separate but also connect the rooms on either side.
On the rear side of the house, that double-height space is visible through full-height glass walls partially shaded by an overhanging roof. Note the concrete walls that extend from the house — the one on the left props up the second floor, and the one on the right is freestanding — as these are important parts of the design.
It's also worth pointing out the variety of outdoor spaces: the open space by the pool, the smaller spaces under the balcony and low roof, and the sheltered outdoor kitchen at the end of the driveway.
The front of the house helps to make the plan pretty clear, while showing how the windows respond to the exterior. The double-height space, here facing west, is covered in translucent panels to cut down on direct sunlight in the afternoon and provide some privacy. For reference, the brick-covered volume below the metal panels on the left houses the garage.
The plan is basically H-shaped, with the double-height space occupying the crossbar and other spaces on the sides. It is based on a traditional Hindu nine-square grid, with the double-height space in the middle, theoretically connected to the eight other squares. The plan does not rigidly follow the grid; some of the smaller squares are allotted to outdoor space (both in the front and the back), and the central space — defined by curved concrete walls — is used as a means of energy flow through the house.
Walking through the front door, one is immediately within the double-height space, looking east toward the backyard. The concrete walls define the sides, but only up to waist height upstairs; space flows from the center to the rooms on the side. Through the concrete wall in the distance are the kitchen and family room.
Looking to the west and the front door, we can see the bridge that connects the two legs of the "H" across the central space. The bridge's placement means also that one enters into a more compact space, making a subtle transition from the entrance to the great room.
Some partial-height translucent panels help to set off the walkway under the bridge from the rest of the great room.
The translucent panels provide a soft light that heightens the experience of walking from one side to the other.
More translucence is found in one wall bordering the central space, where frosted glass panels overlap the concrete wall. On the other side is a hallway leading to the master suite; the concrete is a base, and the glass panels are a backdrop, for what Intexure calls a Ganesh gallery.
These Indian statues are given prominence on the private side of the house, but their blurred image is visible in the more public central space.
For the most part the interiors are simple, allowing the furnishings and heritage pieces to come to the fore. And as in this view of the master bedroom, the outdoors is always considered. South light and cross ventilation happens above the bed, and the east-facing balcony allows one to step outside immediately after waking up.
Elsewhere in the house are devotional shrine niches, such as in this study. A base cabinet in the millwork on the right opens to reveal important mementos.
A window out of frame on the right (similar to the one looking out to the side yard space at the end of the hallway seen earlier) gives balance to the shrine. Also, double doors provide access to the backyard underneath the master bedroom balcony.
The outdoor areas are set up to be an extension of the inside, in terms of the nine-square grid and spiritual aspects. Intexure's design provides some flexibility regarding what the family can do and where they can do it.
The modern design serves to create a simple and calm backdrop for the three generations under one roof — and to highlight the trees and the sky.