Architect's Perspective

Nari Gandhi – Philosophies and Works

Breaking the conventional process of an architect, Nari Gandhi worked on site as the construction progressed, allowing his ideas to evolve alongside, his unique style – organic architecture.

About

  • Popularly known as the “Howard Roark of India” due to his unconventional designs and his headstrong attitude towards work ethics.
  • He has worked on approximately 27 projects, each one unique and expressive of his love for nature. 
  • He purposefully extended the construction period for the landscaping to grow and he believed that they held a spirit- this allowed the design to develop with the landscape.
  • His plans were never on paper – they were simply drawn on the ground and they were ready for execution.
  • Design inspirations came from this time spent with F.L. Wright – open plans and projects blending with the existing surrounding.
  • He did not like to publicize his work but rather, he built strong relationships with the few that he worked for.
  • Materials used for his projects were usually locally sourced and sustainable.

Principle Design Ideas of Nari Gandhi

1. Acquiring Maximum Natural Lighting and Ventilation

Alibag House - Openings that allow ample sunlight and ventilation
Alibag House – Openings that allow ample sunlight and ventilation
  • Climate, local culture, and environmental surroundings were the key points that were considered during the design of his projects.
  • Detailed studies were used by him to determine the sun path and wind direction – plans for projects were made accordingly, to maximize both sunlight and ventilation.

2. Strong Structural Geometry

Revdanda House - Different openings in walls
Revdanda House – Different openings in walls
  • Geometry can be noted as the underlying structural principle of all his projects – making the building stand even with its unconventional form.
  • Openings of different shapes and sizes punctured perfectly in the walls showing his ingenuity towards structural integrity in a building.

3. Use of Local Sustainable Materials

Jain Bungalow - Use of locally sourced stone
Jain Bungalow – Use of locally sourced stone
  • It is notable among Nari Gandhi’s projects that he was particular in using locally available materials for the construction of his projects.
  • The use of such materials made the project blend in with the surroundings and also brought an organic feeling to the interior spaces.
  • He allowed the material to dictate the form of his projects. 

4. Blur the Interior – Exterior Boundary

The Exterior Connection in Nari Gandhi's Alibag House
The Exterior Connection in Nari Gandhi’s Alibag House

  • Nari Gandhi was known to bring nature into his designs – one of his methods included providing large openings and open spaces within his projects.
  • Semi-open spaces, skylights, and openings (other than simply just windows) allow a user to experience the immediate surroundings without stepping out of the building.


Salient Features of Nari Gandhi’s Projects

1. Arches and Openings in Brick and Stone Masonry

Brick Arches in Alibag House
Brick Arches in Alibag House

     

  • One of the features that stand out in Nari Gandhi’s projects is certainly his use of arches and openings in brick and stone masonry.
  • The extensive use of arches and other organic-shaped openings in brick and stone walls depicts how well versed Nari Gandhi was in the use of those materials.

2. Extended Roof Slopes          

Extended Roof in Nari Gandhi's Projects
     Extended Roof in Nari Gandhi’s Projects
  • Pertaining to the type of climate –  Nari Gandhi introduced dramatically sloped roofs to some of his projects. 
  • These roofs slope all the way to the ground level and create an interest in the elevation of his projects.

3. Free-flowing and Open Plans

  • Taking inspiration from F. L. Wright’s flowing spaces, Nari Gandhi’s projects consisted of open plans – with one space effortlessly flowing into another.
  • The concept of open plans also allowed him to create various spaces that allowed his clients to interact with the surroundings.

Mehta’s Bungalow – Alibag House

Nari Gandhi's Alibag House
Nari Gandhi’s Alibag House

One of Nari Gandhi’s best-known projects – Alibag House in Korlai is situated on the coast of Maharashtra, the site chosen by the architect himself. Using the site to his advantage, he played with open spaces and wall openings to capture the view from the building.

  1. The service spaces such as the kitchen, bathrooms, and bedrooms were placed on the ground floor, whereas the living and dining rooms were placed strategically on the first floor such that there was a clear view of the sea.
  2. The building is a contrast of angular and curved shapes – in both elevation and form.
  3. Repeated use of arches sets a unique style for the bungalow.
  4. An organic pattern is added to the wall of the pavilion creating a play of sunlight within the interior of the building. Some of the openings were also sealed with stained glass.
  5. Red country bricks were used as the base for the construction, along with hollow machine molded bricks to create the gravity-defying forms in the project.
  6. Flying buttresses were also added to support the load on the arches from the walls and asymmetrical roofs.

Nari Gandhi’s attitude towards life translated directly into his projects – though unconventional, they are certainly beautiful and stand in contrast among the other seemingly mundane projects in comparison. He let the environment around him speak for itself and did not disturb its beauty rather, he embraced it – one of the reasons why is one of the most prominent architects from India.

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