Make your own Perfect House! | Daily News

Make your own Perfect House!

Let’s face it, we live in a world where the stakes are high and individuals respond to it in different ways. Today a home is more than a place that gives you aesthetic pleasure. It is a place that needs to give you a ZEN state of mind. ArchWorld speaks to Associate Member of the Sri Lanka Institute of Architects and International Charter Member of the Royal Institute of British Architects, Chartered Architect, Archt. Malisha Kodituwakku on designing houses that makes you ZEN.

Kodituwakku points out that for her the perfect house is one that evokes a sense of contentment. It should fit into your routine seamlessly. If you find yourself running around the house to get ready for work on a busy Monday morning you’d be pretty stressed. On the other hand, if everything you needed was close at hand you’d have more time for breakfast perhaps. It’s not something you actively think about, but a perfect house should be a place that you can’t wait to return from work to! No one is a stranger to stress these days. We know what stress can do to our psyche.

If an architect wants to create the perfect home for his/her client, the architect needs to connect with the client at a deeper level. Call it a communion. The meeting of souls.

“We need to get to know our clients first. Our built environments are an extension of our lifestyle. And the way we design their spaces should facilitate their everyday routines allowing them to go about their day without the flow of the building disrupting them. One client can love the outdoors and want open spaces and enclosed areas should be minimized. Another can hate insects and mosquitos and want everything closed up,” explained Kodituwakku.

The level of competition in the 21st century has really intensified to a level where your home has become more than a home. It has almost become a sanctuary! However, the way each individual responds to stress is different. Some people like to party while others like to meditate in silence.

Safety , first and foremost

“Some clients love to entertain, so then we focus on making those areas shine. While for others a home is a personal place of reflection – a sanctuary. Understanding your client or end user’s personality and lifestyle are essential to designing a fitting space for them,” pointed out Kodituwakku.

She adds that a beautiful piece of architecture should never come at the cost of safety. Even if the family you’re designing it for don’t have small children, they could have pets or other children visiting. Safety railings for balconies and staircases should be secure and not leave room for accidents. Every home should ideally have at least one room and bathroom accessible by wheelchair or at least placed on the ground floor that is perfect for the elderly or someone with a temporary disability.


Archt. Malisha Kodituwakku

Normally when it comes to personal housing you need to take into consideration the climate, client’s personality, technology, budget and client’s needs and wants. But architecture is multi-faceted. You can’t cater to one or two of the factors that govern building design, such as climate or client preference.

Holistic approach

“The architect would need to take a holistic approach balancing out the various factors to achieve the perfect design solution. As an example, we avoid large windows facing the west to minimize the heat gain in the afternoon. But this could also be the direction that offers the best views. In such a case we would still open the house up to that direction but look at other solutions such as pergolas or awnings to minimize the undesirable heat gain. We do a lot of research and background studies into all these factors before we start to design so that we can take the best decisions on how to move forward,” added Kodituwakku.

Not even the most beautiful house will be appreciated if it’s not practical to live in. Most impracticalities stem from Sri Lanka’s very tropical weather. At worst, heavy monsoon rains beat hard against even the most stunning works of architecture, and if it isn’t practical, it is going to leak, flood or discolour. Extreme weather aside, even large panes of glass which require constant cleaning and high maintenance finishes can add stress to the occupants.

“Having said that, if everything is entirely practical, we would lose all sense of interest. My advice to designers who venture into adventurous features to create statement works is this - make sure your client is aware of the maintenance involved with that design feature. Let them take the decision to go with it because they love the idea despite its maintenance cost. That way, mopping up some water is a happy trade-off for a stunning open verandah and not a nasty surprise.”

No two clients are alike. Some want exactly what they want. They have a range of ideas and want every single one of those ideas added. Some leave it entirely in your hands. Some are in between. It’s difficult to categorize since all the factors at play vary widely (personality, lifestyle, requirement and budget). She has met people who want a tiny house as well as people who want a mansion. “I think any Architect would agree that the clients who give you a free hand are always the best ones. I think it’s also because it leaves us with the freedom to come up with new ideas and innovative solutions rather than something that has been done before. I’ve found that those projects are always the ones that come out the best,” said Kodituwakku.

Finding solutions

She points out that all houses should inherently be as sustainable as they can within the parameters surrounding it. There is no excuse for limited natural light or ventilation except lazy designing. No matter the location there’s always a way. Gardens in the city however have become more of a luxury. But even the tiniest of urban plots can have a rooftop garden at least. If you’re passionate about the environment, as a designer you can always find a solution. Gardens on a 46 story apartment tower for example shouldn’t even be possible, but Architects like Milroy Perera found a way of creating the world’s tallest vertical garden ‘Clearpoint’ right here in our city. There’s always a way!

“Minimalism, simplicity, uncluttered - they all sound the same, but there’s a tiny line of separation. Minimalism is a style – it can sometimes be clinical and sterile. Simplicity can offer more in terms of textures and visual interest. Either of these spaces can get cluttered if too many personal belongings accumulate. I think it’s unfair to design a minimalist space and expect a client to keep it that way. Over a lifetime a person accumulates stuff - your fishing gear, baby’s first pair of shoes, your employee of the month certificate. They all need some place to go. The trick is, clever storage. Careful planning of plenty of storage space, and organization of those items are the key to an uncluttered home. Boxes and baskets are a neat and clever way of keeping the things you need, without being an eyesore.”

Evolution

The average architect takes seven to eight years to qualify. In that time they’ve been equipped with the tools needed to foresee problems and design accordingly.

“I believe it must be quite rare for grave mistakes to happen. I would urge clients to not rush Architects during the design stage. I’ve seen clients in a hurry for drawings which result in half-baked solutions which may create problems later. Taking time to complete all the drawings and specifications before proceeding to the construction phase would be your best chance of minimizing issues at site,” said Kodituwakku.

“Personal housing throughout the centuries has changed over the years and I think the biggest change is the style. They’ve evolved from ornate, to modernist, to sculptural, to experimental – every so often and some of these styles get revisited much like fashion. The biggest change however, comes with cities growing denser as plot sizes reduce and land prices rise. Homes are growing smaller, and more compact.”

Her practice takes a holistic approach to design going beyond the aesthetics to keep occupant wellbeing and sustainability at the heart of everything they do.

Unconventional

“We focus on resource and energy efficient design, and our work is quite unconventional in nature. The Box house was an experimental piece of architecture – a luxury villa constructed of discarded shipping containers. It was the first time something of that complexity had been attempted here in Sri Lanka, five forty foot containers were cut and welded together to form a single house. For me it was an attempt to say that luxury need not be wasteful. The structure uses over 90 percent of recycled material and occupies only 2080 square feet of internal space despite having five bedrooms, five bathrooms, a living-dining and kitchenette.

The Box house was awarded an honorable mention at the prestigious ARCASIA Awards in 2020 (International), a merit award at the SLIA Design Awards (National) in 2021 and was the winner of the sustainability category of Metal Architecture Awards USA in 2018.

We’re currently working on another adaptive reuse project where we’re converting a derelict toy factory that was due to be demolished, into a luxury home!” (Photo credits – Malaka MP)