A hill retreat that maximises the stunning panoramas of Coonoor, the form of the Stepped House is arrived at from the attempt to make it sit quietly in the context as a response to the contours of the land and through simplicity in architectural expression.
The brief was to build a simple retreat house in the hills with a program of large living areas, a master bedroom, two guest bedrooms, library, kitchen and other utilities besides an organic garden and landscaped outdoors that overlook Coonoor’s blue mountains and lush estates.
The concept evolves from its context, integrating site and weather conditions and the ubiquitous beauty of its surroundings with indigenous building vocabularies and materials. The slope of the site allowed for the house to step down, while the south and east faces opened it up to the stunning vistas of the coffee plantations around the valley. The design team worked around the existing levels: placing the house on the flattest part of the terraced site and then staggering requirements to minimise damage to the site's ecology and reduce the construction duration.
The house is based on a structural grid of retaining walls: a main wall that spans the entire length of the project along with intermittently-spaced walls across its width. The large retaining wall, which is usually used as a crude landscape detail such as boundary walls, was interpreted into a dramatic expression inside the house. This in-turn provides for a continuous backdrop to the entire house and allows for minimal finishes and treatments to generate a strong personality and warmth for all the spaces in the house.
The primary level comprises living areas with a long verandah opening out to the scenic south views. A retaining wall cuts off the master bedroom from the public areas on this level to separate the private zones from the common. Inserted between these two areas at the intermediate level, a double-height study/ library is flooded with natural light from a skylight in the roof. Although initially only two levels were planned, another level developed naturally during the laying of the foundation to create room for an extra space that opens out to the lowermost green.
The house has a straight-forward, no fuss approach with attention to functional aspects, details and choice of materials. The neutral character of the architectural materials allows for varied pieces of furniture and art to sit effectively over it. There is a strong element of individuality and warmth woven into the spaces with the architectural interaction of the volume and materials. The house offers itself as a canvas for the clients to animate it with their choice of Art, Furniture and Objects.