- Architects: Robert Verrijt, Shefali Bałwani, Harsh Soneji, Dipon Bose
- Landscape Design: Kunal Maniar
- Structural Design: Rajeev Shah
- City: Mumbai
- Country: India
Plantation Retreat in Alibaug – Building a large house on a sea-facing hillside in Mumbai is both exciting and daunting. On the one hand, the prospect of a panoramic ocean view is thrilling. On the other hand, it undoubtedly adds to the growing cluster of self-important villas in these, which were uninhabited, natural landscapes not so long ago. Rather than fighting its presence, however, the plantation retreat in Alibaug emphasizes the profile of the built form. It is not much unlike the Portuguese chapels scattered around the rolling hills of nearby coastal Goa. In their pure white brilliance, these chapels do not shy away from their existence with their characteristic axial orientation and dominant silhouette. Similarly, this retreat attempts to lend a comfortable scale to its surrounding landscape.
The house finds alternative ways to settle in the landscape. Half of the rooms are buried inside a solid “hook” shaped stone plinth. This stone base acts as a retaining wall. At the same time, it supports a vegetated green roof terrace. At the lower level, it forms a semi-open courtyard. This orients towards the view and provides a sense of protection. Interstitial landscape elements, such as a series of stepped-down plinths and platforms, reverberate the architectural intervention down along the slope. A curved infinity pool wraps around the covered outdoor lounge and living spaces. The sinuous lines echo the shoreline a few kilometers away.
Silhouette – Two staggered linear pavilion-like structures directed towards the view define the house’s character. The pavilions are made of white “Dhrangadhra” limestone walls. White painted timber shutters shade the deep recessed steel framed windows. The site offers truly spectacular views of Bombay Bay and the vast ocean beyond. But we wanted to avoid making this house all about a single mega-panoramic gaze. A single linear volume built along the contour of the site would have done just that. Instead, we replaced this one-dimensional panorama with a variety of multi-dimensional viewpoints to appreciate the property and its surroundings in sequence—a multitude of micro-panoramas and telescopic views, one for each season and each moment of the day.
By breaking up the program into two linear forms positioned as telescopes perpendicular to the contours and connecting it underground, the complex started to orient itself towards the hillside and established interstitial spaces with unique vantage points in between. Moving through these two elongated volumes feels like walking inside a telescope’s tube. Transitioning from the narrow tube at the entry hall into the wider one through a series of lenses, one experiences something different at every instance, culminating at the end of the walk into the final panoramic bay view.
The first of these forms features a light, plantation-style louvered volume projecting out from atop a stone retaining wall. This pavilion houses the living spaces, seamlessly blending with the outdoors and the surrounding pool, creating a harmonious connection. The second gable roof structure is positioned above the bedrooms, culminating in the master bedroom. It is strategically placed to offer an intimate and framed view of the landscape designed by Kunal Maniar. As you ascend the grand steps leading to the bedroom, you’ll notice a deep recess nestled between two stone walls, evoking a unique, almost fortress-like ambiance within the space. It’s a space that reminds us of our travels to the enigmatic Buddhist caves in Ajanta and carries a similar meditative quality.