When it comes to architectural design, a small urban lot often limits creative solutions. But Wallmakers, an Indian architectural studio, accepted the challenge for Pirouette House, which is located in a crowded area of Trivandrum, squeezed in on all four sides by surrounding housing. This didn’t stop the team from creating a dynamic design, with sustainability at its core through the use of locally sourced brickwork and upcycled materials.
The design begins with the idea that this residence would be an inward facing house opening onto to a central courtyard, to provide privacy and respite from the crowded city. For natural cross-flow ventilation, the home was built with an east-west position to allow for fresh air to naturally cool all rooms.
Wallmakers have a devoted history of building with mud bricks and building waste. They typically make their bricks on site but sadly this site didn’t offer the opportunity to excavate, so instead they focused on using local materials along with upcycling building waste.
Bricks were used to build the rippled and wave-like structure of the home, which the team sourced locally. Brick kilns are becoming rare in the region so the project aimed to support the local endangered industry.
The design and construction style was influenced by British born Indian architect Laurie Baker, whose many buildings are common to the area. Considered “masterpieces” by Wallmakers, a signature of his buildings is the Rat Trap bond brick wall. The Rat Trap bond is a wall construction method in which bricks are stacked vertically instead of horizontally. The practice requires less materials and creates a cavity within the wall that increases thermal efficiency. These cavities also allowed the architects to easily conceal ducts and other infrastructure for a better finished look. Wallmakers pushed the construction style a step further and discovered that it gave them the ability to create slanting and contoured walls, with a pirouette-style movement.
To create the rest of the elements in this truly unique home, the architects flexed their creative thinking in a determination to let nothing go to waste.
Winding its way up through the centre of the house is a dynamic staircase, sitting proud of the brickwork, constructed from upcycled scaffolding pipes used in the building of the brick walls. These pipes have also been used to create various privacy screens throughout the home, with a full height version creating a dramatic backdrop to the stairs.
Cane, sourced in the local neighborhood, was treated and wound around the scaffolding pipe grillwork to create privacy screens, the stair balustrades and handrail, as well as various pieces of furniture throughout the house. Even the flooring was partially constructed from waste wood scraps that were joined together into panels. Those floors and select walls were then finished with grey and yellow oxides.
In other areas of construction, the team was able to significantly reduce materials waste. For example, in the concrete slabs they introduced MMT ferro-cement shells which reduce the overall cement consumption by 40% and steel consumption by 30%. Wafer-like structures of steel reinforced arched shells provide strength, while reducing the amount of materials used.
– Cooled by cross flow ventilation and ceiling fans
– Constructed using locally sourced bricks, in rat brick bond style to conserve bricks and provide thermal insulation
– Concrete slab construction techniques saved 40% concrete and 30% steel than would be typically used
– Locally sourced cane was used to make privacy screens, stair balustrades and handrail, and furniture
– Flooring made from waste wood scraps
– Thermal insulation from brickwork, upcycled materials
The Pirouette House features the “Last of the Mohicans” fired bricks as an ode to the stellar practice of Laurie Baker with spaces that are made beautiful by the pure geometry and patterns created by the walls that seem to be coming alive and pirouetting around.