- Published on Saturday, 02 March 2013 09:00
My wife Penelope and I came to Kerala on holiday in 2006. We were back the same year and again in 2007 looking for a plot to build our house. After much searching we found the plot with a view stretching to the horizon, in a peaceful location and yet close enough to shops and the beach. To me, an architect, the 2.5 acre plot on sloping ground with rock crops offered a challenge and an opportunity in terms of design. Much time was spent on the plot to understand its character, to feel the natural forces and to appreciate the rock crops and the existing trees. An additional half an acre of land was added to at a later date extending the plot to the west.
It took three months of sketching the initial thoughts to arrive at the final design which, never changed in its concept. I was then still engaged in managing my architectural practice back in the UK; the designing of our residence was relegated to evenings and Sundays
Before the construction of the building proper could commence, considerable site development work had to be carried out. A small shelter, open on three sides and with a palm leaf roof became my office on the site. A labour force of between 15 and 20 was recruited to shape the site. Earth moving machines were busy for a whole week. I do not speak Malayalam and not one of the site personnel spoke Hindi or English except for a few words like height, sand, tape, pronounced tap, snake pronounced snack, hollow block and red block meaning brick and of course cement. Most of my instructions were sketched out or gestured.
I acquired an ancient drawing board with a parallel motion straight edge running on fishing line. It has been a faithful piece of equipment which saw over a hundred A1 size drawings prepared in a prison cell like room I labeled as Jail Bhavan. Would I repeat the experience: given time: yes. Soon after the main retaining wall was completed the construction of the house started and I spent a greater part of the four years that it took to complete the project in Kerala designing and detailing, researching and acquiring all materials and components, being a client, the architect with a sketch pad and supervising the project and being my own cook. Throughout this time Penny’s support and encouragement were absolute. It has been an exciting challenge. The completed project reflects my initial concept and I love it.
My Malayalam has not extended beyond a few words and my old crew still pronounce tape as tap and snake as snack. I ran a blog which charted the progress of this project through the years of its construction. The history button is a link to that blog.