House in the Trees

Client: Brinda and Anand Somaya

Location: Alibaug, Maharashtra

Status: Completed 2011

Area: 80000 sqft

Services: Architecture and Interior Design

This home was inspired by the magnificent Banyan Trees that stand as guardians on the 2 acre plot of land in the village of Awas in Alibaug. The land was essentially flat blessed with grand trees. A conscious effort was made to mark all the existing trees and ensure that the house was built amongst them. The property opens with a grove of coconut trees in the foreground and the house positioned strategically in the middle. The design intent was to build a structure that was raised amongst the foliage of the trees creating a feeling of being surrounded by nature and sky at all times. The house was planned with the master bedroom located in between the two banyan trees on either side.

Spread across two floors, the internal planning was such that the main spaces were located on the first floor and the basic functional requirements were located on the ground floor. The ground floor seamlessly integrates with the landscaping. The structure is connected using verandahs and glazed corridors with openings framing nature and looking onto the gardens below. A pool embraces the back of the structure warmed by the southern sun and is connected to the building by a linear axial Malad stone wall.

The ground floor houses two bedrooms and a storage room with a linear staircase. As one enters the first floor a large outdoor terrace overlooking the coconut groves comes into view. he living room and dining area have floor to ceiling glazing allowing in natural light from all sides. A kitchen and pantry is located adjacent to the living area.

The final two bedrooms are found upstairs containing volumetric spaces with high ceilings and ensuite bathrooms. A floating deck emerges at the end of the linear corridor, sitting amongst the branches of the banyan trees. A small mezzanine has been created that contains a library and rocking chairs. From here one is able to rise above the treetops and view the skyline of Mumbai from afar.

The house has been filled with antique four poster beds and pieces handed down from generations. Antique wooden columns adorn the entrance marking a sense of the past in a contemporary piece of architecture. Each piece represents a person or a story as does the artwork on the walls. Madhubani artists were commissioned to draw on internal and external walls bringing in a sense of detail and colour into the spaces.

As the sun sets on the terrace the sounds of the birds change and the ethereal music of the suspended wind chimes can be heard as the wind blows. Banyan Grove is a home that has grown over time and continues to evolve with its landscape. It is a space for contemplation nurtured by the serenity of its surroundings, the beauty of the trees and the simplicity of the architecture.