Located in Chennai on a spectacular site along the Bay of Bengal Shanthi Nivas is a private beach residence designed to maximize its unique landscape setting. The house being conceived as a pavilion and set against a vast garden of contrasting beauty, the landscape becomes the primary design driver. Inspired by the idea of creating gardens of contrasts, the distinct west and east garden become spaces with diverse character and experience linked with a feature central axis.
The east garden faces the sea and is designed to celebrate the uninterrupted view of the spectacular seascape. Incorporating the main pool and associated large party lawns it is a series of spaces with a combination of hard and soft surfaces. The pool forms the heart of this space with a small pavilion acting as an anchor. Hovering above the pool is the dramatic cantilever deck – element of the key feature axis connecting the east garden with the west garden. Conceived both as an outdoor feature dining space and a viewing deck the timber deck floats above the pool extending indoor spaces to outdoor and beyond.
Another feature of the east garden is the linear terraced lawn at the north of the site. Integrating traditional Indian Vastu principles to create the lowest point of site at north east corner, the terraced lawn addresses the change in level through series of sculptural steps and green terraces.
In complete contrast to the east garden, the west garden is conceived as a green oasis with its vast lawns and planting areas. The geometry of the landscape here is dynamic and fluid unlike the orthogonal geometry of the east garden. The extensive greening of the west garden with minimal hardscape is also a response to the harsh west sun of Chennai as the softscapes significantly reduces the reflected surface heat making the building cooler. Dotted with native and shade proving trees the west garden is about bringing natural landscape into the garden and creating a dense vegetal edge to provide privacy from neighbouring properties.
A small linear garden to the south of the plot connects the west garden with the east. Designed as a secondary entry to the grand party lawn of the east garden it is planted with a series of flowering trees framing a feature sculptural seat set in the landscape. This journey also features the auspicious Tulasi Madam – the traditional beautifully sculptural planter for Indian basil plant. Meant to bring good luck and fortune to the family Tulasi Madam remains an example of poetic integration of traditional element in a contemporary setting.
The west and east gardens are linked internally, through the house with the central axis. At the either ends of the axis two Buddha sculptures create dramatic termination of the vistas – one with the sea as the backdrop and the other lush greenery. This central axis connects the outside with inside in an overall design where architecture and landscape are harmoniously integrated with the site’s unique context and setting.