Weekend Retreat / Lightscape Architects

22 December 2021 -
Tom Will

This project embodies a combination of rural-urban environments. It caters to the needs of a small family currently living in the middle of urban chaos and feeling deprived of fresh air, freedom, and bucolic life. The principal idea behind this weekend retreat was to reserve the essence and simplicity of ancestral living and transfer some of that to future generations via contemporary design distinguishing regional culture, context, and vernacular approaches. 

The building has an east-west orientation, allowing maximum airflow from the south, reducing solar heat gain, and exposing the retreat to the south sun during extensive monsoon rains. The verandas and balconies also serve a crucial buffering role for the indoor living space by offering protection from direct sunlight and showers. Such semi-outdoor spaces are extremely important in warm and humid regions for additional comfort and for creating a channel between the indoors and outdoors. Moreover, the verandas and balconies constructed at different levels facilitate various spatial experiences and scenes.

Moving into the retreat, there is a kitchen, three bedrooms, and a study room, two living spaces of which one is on the ground floor, and the other is on the mezzanine level, a dining area, and a caretaker room. The master plan has been outlined to preserve all the presently planted trees. Also, the compact design reduces the building’s original footprint, leaving the whole site extremely green and natural-looking.

The core of the building is the dining area and central living space, which owing to its double-height volumetric construction, is always naturally cool. There are operable tall windows located on the northern side, which allow heavy heated air to escape and create a pressure difference inside, producing continuous cross-ventilation, which is vitally critical in a humid atmosphere. The traditional concept of a "Kachari Ghar" in Bangladesh architecture was adopted for the library – a single study room with book storage that superficially floats on top of the designed water body, generating feelings of tranquility. Overall, the entire landscape was refashioned with locally-sourced vegetation.

The core structural system is based on a column-beam frame accompanied by supporting load-bearing walls.  To retain the true essence and look of brick throughout the landscape, a compound column was constructed using RCC enclosed by a single layer of bricks. Inverted beams provided support for the roof with a twofold benefit; first, it provided a beam-free clean ceiling, and second, it helps sustain packed earth for rooftop vegetation.

The main building material used was locally-sourced gas-burnt brick; the exposed brick look means to induce robust tactile feelings. The furniture and door windows were made using local wood. To reduce material waste, unused broken bricks were utilized as brick chips for casting work in landscape pavement blocks. Moreover, locals were prioritized during the procurement of materials and workforce.

All in all, the landscape, via its detailed expression, evokes feelings of belonging to its residents, whereas the architectural concept, spatial experiences, and formal expression, are intensely motivated by regional context.

Photos by: Noufel Sharif Sojol