Talapady house is constructed through a process of making from breaking. The building emerges from the remains of demolished tile factories – the material residue and ideas stimulated by the factory environments and their demolition. These materials and ideas are moulded to create a refuge from residue.

Talapady House: Wall Casts to test the design, seen in the context of a factory in the process of demolition
Talapady House: Wall Casts to test the design, seen in the context of a factory in the process of demolition: These casts themselves may be stacked to form part of the final construction. Configure   © A Chatterjee & A Sumra

Adjacent to the Talapady River, the site of the house is a coconut grove with sporadic jackfruit, mango, chikoo and cork trees. The river feeds into a lagoon, which is separated from the Arabian Sea by the sandbank of Batapady beach. The beach straddles the border between Kerala and Karnataka. During the monsoon the lagoon spills into the Arabian Sea through an opening in the sandbar, and the site, which sits perilously close to sea level, is susceptible to flooding. The construction seeks to simultaneously enjoy the benefits and mitigate the risks of close proximity to river and sea. 

    Wider Site Plan of the Talapady House
    Wider Site Plan of the Talapady House © A Chatterjee & A Sumra

    Site conditions place tight constraints on fundamental decisions of the project. Boreholes were sunk to depths of up to 10m at 1.5m intervals to conduct soil testing. This revealed a top layer of loose sandy soil followed by soft marine clay and silty fine sand and suggested deep friction pile foundations with casuarina poles. But even shallow digging brought up large quantities of water, showing just how close the ground is to the water table. Through discussion with the soil and structural engineer foundations were designed to limit disruption to the water table and to reduce the cost of deep excavation. 90cm wide strip foundations were built with 70-100cm of ground improvement through rubble soling and the surrounding ground stabilised. The risk of flooding requires raising the plinth to a safe level without being intimidatingly tall or far from the ground. As a result, the levels of the surrounding ground have to be moulded to mediate between built, un-built spaces and the water bodies. Although the site itself is approximately 1.88 acres, required distances from the railway line (30.5m) and the river (50m) confine the buildable area to a small portion of the site. Here, the house is designed as two units for a large extended family: 

    1. A Garden within a House

    2. A House within a Garden