Lead ArchitectsManit Rastogi, Sonali Rastogi
Text description provided by the architects. The Woodside is a low-density luxury residential mountain villa development comprising of 37 villas built on a 12-acre site in the picturesque environs of Kasauli, India. Kasauli falls in an interesting topographic and climatic zone where one needs to deal with mountainous terrain and cool winters, while summers can get as warm as the plains. The site is a highly contoured piece of land with level differences of about 100 m within the site. The neighborhood is predominantly used for agriculture and vegetation, and hence the site exists within a vast green and mountainous landscape. The organizing principle for the development is formalized keeping in mind natural swales and ridges.
The villas and the internal road networks are strategically placed in order to minimize the amount of cutting and filling to the natural terrain as well as to retain maximum existing vegetation. Morphogenesis designed each cottage in a two-wing format that is connected at a pin joint, which can swing open or close, depending on how and what the ground would allow one to engage with at that point.
This leads to some level of uniformity even though all these houses are different from each other. The cottages are positioned on the slope in a manner that ensures unobstructed panoramic views of the scenic hills of the Shimla valley; the largest ones enjoy a view right up to the city of Chandigarh on a good day. This is achieved by maintaining a minimum height difference between the roof level of each cottage and the ground level of the preceding cottage uphill.
Generous living spaces with apertures that maximize the panoramic views extend into lawns, plunge pool decks, and wide balconies. Various environmental strategies are adopted to secure water and energy conservation throughout the development. The water supply and replenishment system are designed to minimize wastage of water and to utilize rainwater harvesting systems, while process wastewater from the sewage treatment plant supports irrigation needs for all the landscaping.
The 350- mm-thick outer walls of the cottages provide thermal mass that keeps the cottages cool in the summers and traps much-needed warmth in the winters, considerably reducing energy consumption. The site is well equipped with rainwater harvesting facilities that help to reduce water wastage. Rainwater harvesting pits are established at regular intervals within the site, which further helps in the storage of surface runoff. The collected water is then used for the purpose of irrigation downhill and the remaining water is channelized further downhill to be collected in a sump to be reused later.
This project also aims at developing a community and hence, special features have been incorporated to pledge the exclusivity of the site. For example overhanging cliffs, and a glass Tea House on the summit referencing the British legacy of the area and the evening tea ritual. The clubhouse affords 360-degree views on all sides. An existing water body on the site is retained and the onsite vegetation is maintained as well in order to preserve the sanctity of the site. In addition, locally available materials like stone, timber, slate, and rubble are used for construction.
The Morphogenesis approach to this design was to change very little in the land formation–to “touch the earth lightly,” quoting Glenn Murcutt. The unusual site and unique brief elicited a design response that is intrinsically rooted to the high specificity of the site’s topography, geography, and immediate context; it aspires to visually engage with the end user’s imagination by creating a unique identity amidst a serene landscape.