Playing With Light in Lucknow: 18 Screens

Located in northern India, the multicultural city of Lucknow has long been a hotbed of arts and culture. The region is also rich with religious significance; the Gomti River, which meanders through this populous centre, is proclaimed by the Bhagavata Purana to be one of the country’s transcendental rivers. This tributary of the Ganges is, according to Hindu tradition, the daughter of the Hindu sage Vashist. Bathing in its waters on certain days in the lunar phase is said to wash away sins.

The city itself is rich with architecture dating back to the 18th century. The task with 18 Screens, as the project has been named, was to create a traditional Indian courtyard house — ideal for the climate of the region — in a newer area, as the plot of land is located on a bustling arterial road on the peripheries of a neighbourhood filled with new private dwellings.

Sanjay Puri Architects was the firm hired to create this 6-bedroom home. The 2-story structure is positioned around an internal courtyard, which is naturally ventilated and offers a welcome reprieve from the sweltering summer heat (with temperatures regularly in excess of 35°C). Sheltered open terraces and landscaped gardens also help to create a comfortable flow between the interior and exterior spaces. A large garden on the north side, which penetrates the internal courtyard, enjoys partial shadow at most times of the day.

The structure is built primarily from raw concrete. The living spaces within are divided into varying volumetric proportions, each section boasting its own individual identity. The courtyard, which connects them all, offers a cohesive unity. The materials chosen for the project also serve to unify; a natural palette of sandstone and wood with muted colours is integrated throughout each space in varying compositions. This provides a quiet backdrop for the vivid Indian artwork that hangs throughout the home. On the north side of the structure, large glass windows infuse the interior spaces with indirect light, which helps the house feel bright and airy without the stifling heat of the sun.

Two key components of the home nod to traditional Indian architecture and craft. In Hindu temple architecture, a jali or jaali is a perforated stone or latticed screen. These are often found to display ornamental patterns derived from calligraphy and geometry. Far from being purely decorative, however, they have traditionally formed an important function; the holes in the latticework compress air and help to lower the temperature of the rooms or transitional spaces beyond.

The project 18 Screens has, of course, been named for its contemporary approach to this traditional building practice. Patterned screens are strategically placed on the exterior of the home to offer a distinct profile and lend a touch of heritage to an otherwise modern dwelling. On a practical level, these screens provide shelter from the sun and mitigate traffic noise from the busy arterial road on the south side of the property. The effect these screens have on the interior spaces give it a distinct identity; as the light changes throughout the day, different patterns are cast on the floor and walls. Indeed, in spaces where the screens comprise both walls and ceiling, the resulting shadows create an optical illusion of sorts that makes it hard to gauge the original light source. Walking through these spaces, it is easy to feel that one is treading through an otherworldly realm.

Lucknow is also known for its ‘chikan’, a traditional form of embroidery that potentially dates back as early as the 3rd century BC. This delicate textile art is found on the outdoor furniture for each room on the south, west, and east sides of the home.

Sanjay Puri Architects has created a calming home that marries past sensibilities with a forward-facing overall identity. The result is a light-infused house that allows its inhabitants to enjoy the beautiful landscape in cool comfort.

Images via v2com
Photographer: Mr. Dinesh Mehta