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From a tight Bohra house, to a spacious vast Haveli

Translating the existing narrow structure into a site based, open one, the house was rearranged from a vertical to a horizontal spread.

The process of work

"For us, it was an opportunity to reflect on the contingencies of the design process—where they happen and how, at what scales they interact,” Melissa shares.

Laying out the pieces from the Bohra house

With the risk of damage or theft associated with antiques, most of the wooden elements remained untouched till the columns, roof and plinth were finished.

Adding the old elements

But as new elements were being uncovered, the project was being regularly tweaked to accommodate them. This fashioned the project to shift from drawings to on-site decisions.

Repurposing and handling 300 year old wood

This was successful, only with the help of Prabhubhai Mistry, their 88 year old carpenter, who was skilled and knowledgeable enough to lead the reconstruction project.

Going back to hand-drawings

“The old needed conversations, placements, and at most, hand drawings. Their unique form and dissimilarities rendered digital drawings complicated and unnecessary."

The new plan

"The unique form and dissimilarities rendered digital drawings complicated and unnecessary. While the new elements, inserted alongside old in the structure, were designed, drawn and executed according to a more typical practice of construction drawings and site checks.”

Old elements, new setting

In order to sustain it’s transformation at the new site, the old the wood carved columns were restored with tel-paani finish and organised into the new structure of 18 inch brick walls in concrete frames.

Some old wood, repurposed elsewhere

Since the old pieces were made from 300 year old Burma Teakwood, the new wooden elements – windows and doors – were also constructed from old teakwood, but was sourced from elsewhere.

Polished and renewed

In terms of finishings, there were 3 different types of wood – pieces with old polish, pieces with paint and pieces with polish and paint.

An amalgamation of the old and new

The haveli dealt with influences from 2 different eras and is thus separated into the main house and the annexe.

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Workspace 09 May 2018

Repurposed: banduksmithstudio turns a compact Bohra row house into an expansive ‘Regenerate’ Haveli

Northern Gujrat sees entire townships of abandoned, old Bohra houses. Houses that boast of delicately ornamented wood, brick and plaster elements arranged in a tight, urban environment. But the passage of time deteriorates these culturally-rich structures to become decrepit, termite-infested and eventually demolished and bygone. banduksmithstudio was approached to turn one such 300-year-old Bohra row house, into a sprawling haveli set in a never ending stretch of landscape. CQ speaks to Melissa Smith to understand more.

The tale of the Regenerate Haveli began when the owner of a beautiful but termite-damaged row-house in North Gujarat, videotaped the house right before its demolition. When such houses with abundant intricately carved-on wood features are demolished, their parts of value are sold across the state to various antique dealers. Instead, the client acquired the elements of the house from the owner, stored all of its parts and approached banduksmithstudio. The team at banduksmithstudio, then transformed the salvaged elements of the Bohra house into an expansive Haveli in an entirely new setting.

From a tight Bohra house, to a spacious vast Haveli

Translating the existing narrow structure into a site based, open one, the house was rearranged from a vertical to a horizontal spread.

A compact urban configuration to an open one

The first and foremost intention of the Studio, was to maintain the integrity of the elements and reflect the elegance of the 1.5 storeyed Bohra house. To translate the existing narrow structure into a site based, open one, the house was rearranged from a vertical to a horizontal spread. “In many ways, this project is more about its making than anything else. For us, it was an opportunity to reflect on the contingencies of the design process—where they happen and how, at what scales they interact,” Melissa shares. 

The process of work

"For us, it was an opportunity to reflect on the contingencies of the design process—where they happen and how, at what scales they interact,” Melissa shares.

Laying out the pieces from the Bohra house

With the risk of damage or theft associated with antiques, most of the wooden elements remained untouched till the columns, roof and plinth were finished.

The bedroom, kitchen and mezzanine flanked the courtyard as they did in the original layout. While the terrace and sunken entry extend on to the spaces outside, transforming the row house layout into a part of the vast landscape.

Going back to hand-drawings

“The old needed conversations, placements, and at most, hand drawings. Their unique form and dissimilarities rendered digital drawings complicated and unnecessary."

The original Bohra house required an ornate doka baari to separate the mardana and janana segments of the house. The height of the ground floor was lifted up halfway, and the elegant doka baari inserted. “Here too, all the levels of the new project come back to that particular relationship between janana, mardana, and the doka baari that connects them,” Melissa explains. In some traditional Indian households, the inner apartments of the house is where the women of the house reside and is called the janana, whereas the outer apartment for men and guests is called the mardana.

Repurposing and handling 300 year old wood

This was successful, only with the help of Prabhubhai Mistry, their 88 year old carpenter, who was skilled and knowledgeable enough to lead the reconstruction project.

“In many ways, this project is more about its making than anything else. For us, it was an opportunity to reflect on the contingencies of the design process—where they happen and how, at what scales they interact.”

From drawings to site

The team began with unpacking and drawing up the elements from the Bohra house. And then coming up with a basic design plan. With the risk of damage or theft associated with antiques, most of these elements remained untouched till the columns, roof and plinth were finished. But as new elements were being uncovered, the project was being regularly tweaked to accommodate them. This fashioned the project to shift from drawings to on-site decisions.

Adding the old elements

But as new elements were being uncovered, the project was being regularly tweaked to accommodate them. This fashioned the project to shift from drawings to on-site decisions.

This shift was furthered by the contrast in the processes of making the old and new elements. “The old needed conversations, placements, and at most, hand drawings. Their unique form and dissimilarities rendered digital drawings complicated and unnecessary. While the new elements, inserted alongside old in the structure, were designed, drawn and executed according to a more typical practice of construction drawings and site checks,” the team elaborates.

The new plan

"The unique form and dissimilarities rendered digital drawings complicated and unnecessary. While the new elements, inserted alongside old in the structure, were designed, drawn and executed according to a more typical practice of construction drawings and site checks.”

Repurposing the structural and the spatial elements

The Regenerate haveli, as the name suggests, preserves the old structural and spatial characters of the Bohra house. But in order to sustain it’s transformation at the new site, the old the wood carved columns  were restored with tel-paani finish and organised into the new structure of 18 inch brick walls in concrete frames. The heavy, ornate and intricate old elements contrasted fluently with the light, flat, clean new ones.

Old elements, new setting

In order to sustain it’s transformation at the new site, the old the wood carved columns were restored with tel-paani finish and organised into the new structure of 18 inch brick walls in concrete frames.

“The old needed conversations, placements, and at most, hand drawings. Their unique form and dissimilarities rendered digital drawings complicated and unnecessary. While the new elements, inserted alongside old in the structure, were designed, drawn and executed according to a more typical practice of construction drawings and site checks.”

The haveli dealt with influences from 2 different eras and is thus separated into the main house and the annexe. The staircase and rolling courtyard glass cover were crafted out of mild steel. The walls were constructed in fly ash brick and finished with gutai (marble dust and slaked lime) plaster. Since much of the old wood was termite damaged and could not bear load, a concrete frame was built as the basic load bearing entity. This also helped the structure occupy a bigger span.

Polished and renewed

In terms of finishings, there were 3 different types of wood – pieces with old polish, pieces with paint and pieces with polish and paint.

All of the wood was re-inserted into the new structure with the original placement methods. In case of a missing or damaged element, a new substitute was crafted. Since the old pieces were made from 300 year old Burma Teakwood, the new wooden elements – windows and doors – were also constructed from old teakwood, but was sourced from elsewhere. However, even in these, a distinction between the carvings were maintained – both for aesthetic as well as practical purposes. “While we wanted to ensure the different treatment of old and new, there were also no carpenters with the skill to create pieces as elaborate as the originals,” Melissa explains. This was successful, only with the help of Prabhubhai Mistry, their 88 year old carpenter, who was skilled and knowledgeable enough to lead the reconstruction project.

Some old wood, repurposed elsewhere

Since the old pieces were made from 300 year old Burma Teakwood, the new wooden elements – windows and doors – were also constructed from old teakwood, but was sourced from elsewhere.

In terms of finishings, there were 3 different types of wood – pieces with old polish, pieces with paint and pieces with polish and paint. Polish only pieces were lightly, finely sanded to remove accumulated dirt, and prepare the surface for polish. On pieces with only paint, the paint was lightly removed, re-painted and polished for restrained paint-polish look. Pieces with polish and paint were sanded with medium to fine grade sandpaper wherever paint was too thick –but not so much that the character of the fine carving would be lost – and then polished.

An amalgamation of the old and new

The haveli dealt with influences from 2 different eras and is thus separated into the main house and the annexe.

Old character – new setting

With all of the wood from the Bohra row house preserved, and the planning directly reflecting that of the original house, one could say the character of the house was successfully preserved and further expanded into a new setting.

To know more about banduksmithstudio’s work and observations, hop on to their website.

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