Neelam Manjunath’s house is a wonderful example of air, water, light, space and earth coming together to create a haven of peace and contentment. Sudha Jain takes a tour and returns energised with positive vibes.
Neelam Manjunath’s home in Aditigreenscapes in Jakkur is an amalgam of creativity, practicality and sustainability. The house embraces me with its openness and certain warmth I cannot put a finger to. There’s a calm and peace that it envelopes me with as I walk towards the house. The pathway to her house, adorned with blooming temple trees and creeping bougainvilleas, with bamboo railings is a precursor to the ingenious things to come.
As I enter her home through the bamboo plywood door, my eyes remain fixated at the stunning scene ahead of me. Large open space bathed in sunlight and cool air, bamboo roof and rain chains, all create a synthesis that instantly connects you to the surroundings. There can be no suitable name for it than “the house of five elements” as it is called. The five elements of nature—air, water, light, space and earth dance in complete synergy here.
The architecture of this home resembles what is locally called as Thotti Mane, in which the house consists of a central square area resembling a Thotti (pond) that is open to the sky and surrounded by a courtyard. The central courtyard extends from the first floor to the basement. The double ceilinged open kitchen, the dining and the living room flow harmoniously into each other. The white walls, bamboo mat curtains, the high ceilings with skylights and the jaalis give the place an expanse with a suffusion of light and air that runs through the entire house. The rain chains too, strategically placed around the house, make sure that rain water trickles down symphoniously into the large urlis placed for that purpose.
There are three rooms and a drawing room in the ground floor around an open courtyard. Each room in the house represents one element of nature. The large and spacious master bedroom is the earth element, with its connecting room representing the water element. Overlooking the room is the plunge pool and an interesting addition is the glass floor in the corner of the room which shows the mesmerising lotus pool. The guest bedroom exhibits the fire element- lemon yellow walls and orange curtains highlighting the theme in this room.
The first floor has a small seating area in the landing and houses two rooms, one each for her daughter and son epitomising the air and space element respectively. Neelam says, “I tried to create each of our spaces based on our personalities. The rooms are our private haven and I have designed them according to our specials needs and ideas.”
Built using locally sourced and eco-friendly material, this north-facing house has a shell-shaped bamboo roof running from east to west. The bamboo lattice grid is supported by a large green shell with bamboo for support. Here, I must add that bamboo is a sustainable and sturdy building material. Bamboo is heartier than oak and stronger than steel. Flexible and lightweight, it is water-resistant. It is easily grown and harvested, making it one of the most cost effective construction materials available. Not surprising then that Neelam, a renowned green architect herself, chooses bamboo in such large measure for construction as much as she does stabilised mud blocks. The walls in her home aren’t concrete. The stabilised mud blocks used in the walls were manufactured on site from the basement soil.
The skylights and large windows ensure zero use of power during the day. Even the basement is well lit with natural light. It saves the owner from ever rising energy bills while at the same time providing an aspirational eco-friendly lifestyle of the future. It also has a rainwater harvesting sump and recycled, treated water is used for watering the garden and flushing every day. Solar energy is utilised here, taking care to use less electricity. It should be noted that even the grilles for the staircase that leads to the first floor and basement have been made from the extra bars in construction sites, thus finding a worthwhile use for the redundant iron bars.
Neelam says, “As a design philosophy for buildings, a building is a living entity and not just a physical requirement of man but it is a psychological and spiritual faculty of man too. If you are close to nature and its five elements all the time, you can experience peace and harmony. This is why I chose to design my home incorporating the five elements of nature. Through this design I achieved what I wanted, my peaceful, private haven amidst nature where I feel completely de-stressed”.
She has played around with loose pieces of furniture and artifacts and there is very few fixed furniture.
Most of her furniture is made from recycled material which is easy to maintain and which is visually very earthy. No fancy and expensive décor for her! The beauty of this house lies in its simplicity. One does not feel the lack of huge chunk of furniture here. It is the design and the layout of the house that arrests your attention and envelopes you in its spell.
She says, “I can change the décor and the furnishing of the house with very little expense. The house can be totally new with just the change in the curtains or a placement of few artifacts around the house. I wanted a sustainable structure which would not clash with its surroundings. We have worked with humble materials such as mud, bamboo and stone, built a contemporary house without compromising on quality.
We have used as much construction waste as possible. There has been no waste and almost no water runoff. This home stands as an example of traditional mingled with modern cutting edge technology in terms of mud and bamboo and a lot of experimentation has gone into creating this space for me and my family.”
She has one regret though. The flooring in her home is that of granite, not the choice she has been happy with. She explains, “I wanted cement flooring but could not take my idea to fruition. There weren’t work force available to execute my idea and I had to use granite for the flooring.” But even this imperfection adds to its beauty.
“The house of five elements” exemplifies how traditional can be married with the modern without compromising on quality while creating an eco friendly, sustainable abode.