At the end of an hour-long journey, travelling through rain-lashed streets, narrowly missing an uprooted concrete block and delicately dipping into deep-seated potholes, the black-and-yellow of questionable ability I was riding in lumbered to a stop. Finally, I’d arrived at my destination— Architecture BRIO’s office in the buzzy Mumbai suburb of Bandra. And there it was, an absolute dream of a house, scaled down to size and on the desk of its creators—Shefali Balwani and Robert Verrijt.
The real version of this model home is interesting real estate, located in the foothills of the Western Ghats, in Karjat, a small town on the outskirts of Mumbai. On a one-acre parcel of land, the house is not easily visible to prying eyes or even casual onlookers—unless they really stare at the flat grassland that resolves itself into what seems to be the roof. “The site is mostly a hill, and just at the top, the land starts flattening out into a plateau, from where you have this view of the river winding past, the mountain range surrounding the area and Matheran further into the distance,” explains Verrijt.
In the Wilderness
That the river and the untamed landscape dictated the way the structure would evolve was a given, and not just because nature had such a dominant voice, given the location. This project was a serendipitous coming together of the two involved parties: a client who wanted the “house to blend into the landscape. Have a lot of open spaces, And a modern aesthetic”, and a firm that believed building was as much about being respectful of the surrounding landscape as it was about a strong aesthetic. “Creating a view facing the river and extending the flat land on top above the roof—those were the two dominant themes that defined the architectural language. The house sort of sits like a box that is protruding out of the land, with a very open front,” Balwani explains.