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A village to retire in Peace with Nature

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Ar. Prof. K Jaisim of Jaisim Fountainhead, egged on by his wife’s cherished dream of a place to quietly retreat at the ripe age, took on the project of designing a retirement village Suvidha – Sushrutha Vishranthi Dham. During the process he found that the challenges the project posed came in myriad forms from political, physical and social to anything imaginable. Here’s an account by the architect himself.

With India moving away from the joint family concept into a world of singular and micro-urban family relationships, the elderly and the retired no longer appear to fit into the vibrant buzz of the house. Nurseries and day care centres look after and teach toddlers and unfortunately old grandparents are no longer required. Since these changes did not appeal to the elderly, they sought repose. This was the genesis of an idea and an abstract concept was conceived to create a safe and secure haven for the elderly and retired.

The Design

A short drive away from Bangalore city on the Kanakapura Road, the site slopes down towards a large sea of water. An artificial lake at a short distance, fed by rain water streams forms the focus of the Suvidha – Sushrutha Vishranthi Dham. Two hundred units, some shared and some individual are spread over 30 acres of virgin land.

There are many features that at the moment appear hidden but can be realized as the Suvidhaites start living and evolving to a new life style of their own. This will take time but there is the potential.

To comfort the senses, the built form was restrained but allowed to play with the terrain which was groomed to ensure that it offered easy walking from place to place. Various sectors were created to ensure a sense of identity and ease of communication as well as to foster a sense of relationship. However, during the forming of overall setting, it was paramount to ensure that no unnecessary interference or probity with other occupants occurred. Thus, the units designed are single floor structures that may initially appear a little expansive and expensive, but when one reflects who the occupants are, it is well worth the extra space.

All individual cottages conform on the exterior but within they are as individualistic as the occupants. Even though none of the occupants own any property (they are only share holders), they have the right to expression. To explore this sense of pride, it was also decided to make the daily chores minimum and maximize common facilities on the site.

The buildings use a lot of day-lighting through glass blocks in the roofs and walls. The large floor-to-wall sliding windows play with light and brighten the other spaces in the houses. A sprawling club house, interactive spaces, quiet lake side walkways and communication within and outside are made a part of the scenario. The Club house is spacious and can be useful for multi task functions. It has a unique folded slab structure which gives fascinating roof skyline.

The highly active spaces are very clearly marked away from the more personal spaces. Daily essentials and weekly demands are met in the form of laundry, bank, medical centre, health and yoga facilities in addition to internet and library as also a travel boutique. It is possible to have conventions, seminars and other performances within the village.

A set of green contractors coordinated with the project management team and over time, enthusiasm built with the excitement of doing something unique and nature-friendly.

To ensure that there is an overriding sense of responsibility and discipline, the economics of maintenance is part of the theme. A state of the art waste treatment system integrated with recycling, landscaping, Solar water heaters for each home and LED lighting to ensure safety and security of the premises are some of the special features. Moreover, the entire Sushrutha Vishranti Dhama is encircled with a high security wall.

The Construction

The artificial lake, three to four acres designed and created amidst this village is for rainwater harvesting. A sewage treatment plant is both localized and centralized with separation for waste and soil inflows and is used for landscape and green pasture spaces.

The building materials comprise stilts and two slabs (floor and roof) with infills and walls with hollow concrete blocks. The final roof structure of the cottages is a folded hexagonal slab (filler and normal slab depending on preferences) with horizontal projections over the verandas which act as stiffeners. Theoretically this reduces the steel requirement to minimum and is practically very easy to form and cast. The floor is an RCC filler slab supported on pillars. The composition of the pillars varies from sector to sector. Some sectors use vacuum drawn filler pipes, while some are composed of concrete blocks and some are stones.

The stilts serve the fundamental purpose of lifting the cottages away from the ground thereby achieving the basic contour and grading issues and also allowing free circulation of air below. This type of construction is very useful in turbulent wind and storm conditions as it acts on the theory of flight stability. Gravel is spread below the cottage to prevent movement of snakes as also to prevent growing of weeds.

The external walls are designed with grooved or textured hollow concrete or hollow clay blocks. These eliminate the necessity for external plaster, as also allow the surface temperature to even out. Good external grade cement paint is used to add colour and moisture proofing. The internal partitions are left to the individual occupant’s specific requirements.

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