Express News Service
KOCHI: Spending a fortune on savings for a house is and is religiously followed by many Malayalis. However, the need to build a house on a large piece of land now seems to belong to the past. With the price of building materials, land and wages skyrocketing, many now prefer to build houses on smaller lots – as small as 2.5 cents of land!
According to architects, the demand for building innovative homes on a small plot of land, sometimes under 10 cents, has risen over the past five years. However, building a house in a minimal space is a challenge in itself. It calls for unique designs. In Kochi there is such a house that would turn quite a few heads – the dream home of the famous architect L Gopakumar. He came up with the idea to design a house in the city on 6 cents.
“People who want to build houses on small plots is not a trend, it is a mandatory option. The affordability factor is an issue, especially if you live in the cities,” says Gopakumar. Complementing the unique layout of the plot, which was more on the sharp side rather than ninety degrees, Gopakumar added an oblique element to the height. Although the structure looks boxy from the outside, it is designed in 2944 sqm and more spacious than seen from the outside. “The biggest challenge was to design a building that is comfortable, airy and spacious. To achieve this, I had to divide my designs. Inside, it is well protected with minimal gaps, which is why it has a boxy design,” adds Gopakumar.
The common areas are designed in a semi-open style. Family home, dining space, kitchen, home theater and laundry room are all visually connected. The family living area and dining area form part of a spacious open hallway. In the formal living area, instead of a concrete wall, the space has been transformed into a chic curio shelf with a veneer beam to ensure privacy. The roof covering is made flat for solar panels. The house is also known for its minimalist interiors. The bedrooms are also spacious and well furnished.
Gopakumar’s house questions the stereotype associated with houses built on small plots. “There is a social stigma that when you live on a smaller plot, your social status also goes down. More than utility, a house is seen as a symbol of social status, this has led many to opt for large houses. If you’re a family of three, design it accordingly and don’t waste resources for the occasional guests,” he says.
According to architect Arun TG of Graphite Homes, people are now accepting the concept of using space. As families go nuclear, the homes are designed to bring their members together. If the spaces are connected, it saves time and the family has the advantage of being closer,” he says.
The architect suggests the idea of multifunctional spaces. “In this way, construction costs are reduced. A room with a folding door can be a living space during the day. At night it can be a bedroom by making changes to the same door. Similarly, convertible furniture is also another idea – a sofa can be converted into a bed to our liking,” says Arun.
Arun says that by avoiding many walls and adopting an open concept, interiors can become spacious. Avoiding dead spaces and using them in a more useful way would be another viable idea. “For example, the space under the stairs is a dead space. So you can use it as a washbasin top,” he says. Avoid bulky furniture and heavy curtains, he adds. People used to prefer large bedrooms. Now many are looking for sophisticated spaces by reducing the area by adding walk-in closets.
Of the many small plot projects that Arun has done, the four cent modern style house in Nemom, Thiruvananthapuram, is a special one. The house appears to be a cubicle at the front. “The cab is cost-effectively shaped as an outside seating area. The sitting area is on the first floor, this gives members the freedom to sit outside fearlessly at night as it gives a sense of security,” he says.
Young people prefer small plots
According to Santhilal, coordinator of the Center for Science and Technology for Rural Development (COSTFORD), young people, unlike the older generation, opt for such minimal plots. “They are not interested in investing much of their income into building a house, so four cents of land is ideal for them. This demand increased when working from home came into place. After spending a lot of time inside the four walls, the thought arose of having a house of my own,” says Santhilal.