Surat's Hive House Is A Sublime Intersection Of Biomimicry & Engineering
As is commonly known, the science of flight was modelled upon the biomechanics underpinning the wings of birds and dragonflies, this biomimicry today extends to the principles of architecture as well. Finely attuned to the imminent need for climate sensitive buildings, OpenIdeas Architects is a visionary young studio based out of Ahmedabad, that has designed a 7,000 square feet private residence drawing inspiration from nature to regulate its thermodynamics and ventilation.
Reminiscent of a beehive, the Hive House sits blinking and shape shifting as it overlooks the upcoming suburbia of Vesu in the city of Surat; its hexagonal windows opening and retracting with a curiously robotic agility.
Helmed by principal architects Monarch Champaneri, Nilesh Gajera and Niralee Champaneri — three college friends who worked in different countries across Asia, Europe and North America — the portfolio of OpenIdeas is awash in crosscurrents of cultural legacy and technological innovation. Fiercely loyal to the requirements of its clients, the studio excels in balancing its own aspirations for avant-garde design and moulding the constructed space to the personality of those who would be inhabiting it in real life. The owner of the Hive house, Kamalbhai Mistry, was looking for an amenable abode with structural efficiency and sustainability at the fulcrum of his vision. Given his proficiency in mechanical engineering for the diamond industry, the client was well researched upon how to go about 'manufacturing' a smart structure that would be endowed with uniquely striking elements.
The most efficient shape found in nature, mathematically speaking, is the hexagon that fills any surface with equal size units and leaves no wasted space. Thus the evocative geometry prevalent in pineapple skin and honeycombs, was inculcated not only in the solar powered kinetic façade but also in the latticework of the jalis or screen walls, conspicuous in some of the rooms and walkways. Loosely inspired from the doors of airport buses and the ancient khadkis in homegrown forts, the hexagonal windows synchronise their motions in response to susceptible changes in light exposure and thermal comfort levels of the interiors, enveloping the house in an energy-saving second skin. This would also make it seem to a passerby as if the house were a living, breathing entity.
Bearing a preponderance of metal, the form of the house is streamlined and almost subversively angular, flanked by green pockets and covered with a walkable roof of varying elevations creating a general impression of a stepped rice terrace. The entrance beguiles one's senses, ushering the visitor through a linear vestibule into an open plan living area and like water finding its way, the flow of one's movement is not delimited by partitions. The modulations of the outer envelope create a sensory experience, demarcating the ground floor into public or private zones, depending upon the diurnal rhythms of the sun. All the while, the honeycomb shadows lengthen or widen upon the floor, this elegant play of light and shadow transforming the interaction between people and the built environment into something more meaningful.
The upper level can be reached by a sculptural staircase spanning seven metres, which is somewhat of a statement piece in itself, leading to a pair of bedrooms each opening to their own gardens. Though the envelope is metallic, the interiors of this sumptuous home are entirely furnished in wood and stone, clinging to the ideals of familiarity and comfort. The vegetated roof serves the dual purpose of being an insulator and a gathering space. Completed in 2019, this structure could never have materialised were it not for the steadfast dedication of the client to build something that was an integral part of the ecosystem around it.
Regenerative architecture is the practice of engaging with nature to create a built environment that utilises the resources found on site and does not disturb the fragile balance existing between the local flora and fauna. Owing to its mechanised, solar tracking façade and self-insulating roof, the Hive house is an unprecedented development in a country where the perils of overpopulation entail unending construction. As the urban sprawl grows denser by the year, the pressure we exert upon our already beleaguered planet could forfeit our chance at a sustainable future. It is, therefore, mildly reassuring to know that a Hive house exists in India.
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