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A conservation project throws across a series of alliteration: restored, re-purposed, recycled, up-cycled. The Villa Chorao revamped by Goa-based Studio MoMo falls under all these brackets of conservation and more. The villa takes conservation a notch higher with most of its furniture up-cycled, restored and sourced from across the country while the villa itself was stripped, opened and redone to its current order.
Villa Chorao is more than a century old Indo-Portuguese home. The architects at Studio MoMo, Benjamin Robb and Gurmeet Akali perceived that the structure needed light, openness and a sleeker demeanour to suit the client’s affable personality. They decided to add punctures and openings to let in natural light and cross ventilation. The villa constructed in laterite stone posed structural challenges. Every wall bore the loads transferred by the roof. Puncturing such walls could collapse the structure. Hence the architects propped up sections of the roof on steel jacks, chipped off the laterite and casted each RCC lintel in parts. The puncture was created in the wall under the lintel. At some places, entire walls were dismantled and reconstructed.
The sleek and curvilinear laterite columns that flank the courtyard are a new addition to the ancient villa. The plastered columns formerly had a hexagonal profile with rounded edges and a square capital. The architects deemed their aesthetic overly ‘masculine’ and ‘bulky’ and decided to recreate shapely columns in their place. They devised soft and earthy columns to complement the owner’s personality.
The roofs were propped-up on jacketed beams. Laterite blocks of 300 X 450 mm sourced from the Goa-Maharashtra border were transported to site. Each block was carved on site and numbered for assembly. For pieces that needed chamfering, a softer laterite was used. The mortar had to be indiscernible for the columns to appear seamless.
A mixture of crushed laterite, cement and water was devised after trial-and-error and used for the grouts. The laterite columns were left un-plastered to offer a subtle character of the material used to construct the villa. The roof is primarily subject to maximum weathering. Each roofing member was checked and replace with Burma teak members. The roof slope angle was increased to 23 degrees from 21 degrees to facilitate rain water drainage.
The interior of the villa is an eclectic mix of Colonial furniture, vintage pieces, junkyard discoveries and products manufactured in the architect’s studio. But every piece is up-cycled, restored or carpentered from recycled wood.
For example, the spiral staircase in the courtyard was found dismantled in a junkyard in Gujarat. The pieces were brought to site and assembled meticulously. The handrail had rusted entirely. Straight wooden strips were connected piece-by-piece to create the curved handrail. The staircase has a central metal cylinder as its structural member. An extension was created from this member and the staircase was fixed onto the ground.
Since the staircase was one riser smaller than the required height, an additional step in laterite was constructed and finished in red oxide. The staircase was installed using nuts and bolts to fix it in place. The piece was originally built sans welding and the architects wished to stay true to its original form.
Much of the furniture was sourced and restored in a similar fashion. The library door was found in an old Gujarat haveli (a traditional mansion). The door was 6 inches higher than the villa’s door opening. To adjust its height, 6 inches were cut off from the frame. The door was disassembled in 3 parts and each part was strategically chipped off by 2 inches. This ensured that the proportions were not drastically hampered.
Similarly, the crockery unit in the living room was a cupboard found in an old wares store in Goa. The wood had disintegrated owing to termites. They were replaced with Burma teak. Hard-wax oil with clove oil was applied on the newly assembled furniture and left to dry. All restored furniture; the library door, bar, chest of drawers, wardrobes, etc. followed the same course using Burma teak or local ‘kinnad’ wood.
The beds were constructed from recycled wood and finished in natural pigments with a coat of hard-wax oil and clove oil which would help combat humidity and termites. There exists no wall between the master-bedroom and guest-room. A cement ‘jaali’ made by local artisans and finished in blue paint separates the rooms. ‘Mul’ curtains behind the jaali ensure privacy.
The blue paint was used given the villa’s part Portuguese antiquity. To create this blue, Indigo dye was mixed with lime and water and painted on the jaali. The blue adds a vibrant pop of ‘youth and freshness’ amidst the classic woods, the whites and the laterites. The home showcases a young spirit in an old body or perhaps an old world charm in parts of its new avatar!
Studio MoMo is not just a design firm, but have inculcated the spirit of travel, explorations and experimentations into their work! Do have a look at more of their work here!
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