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villa fagu with jagged roof 'choreographs' rainwater flow in arid western himalayas

Villa Fagu by Under Mango Tree Architecture

 

Nestled within the Western Himalayas, Villa Fagu, designed by architecture practice Under Mango Tree, showcases a distinctive angular roof design that ‘choreographs the flow of rainwater,’ using it to its advantage. Positioned on a slender plot along a mountain ridge, the residence is strategically divided into two separate volumes, each featuring angular mono-pitched roofs. This location holds particular significance as it serves as a watershed for both India and Pakistan, with limited access to piped water outside of the monsoon season.

 

To address this scarcity, the project incorporates an innovative rainwater harvesting system comprising catchment pools and tanks, providing a sustainable water source for the villa. The design pays homage to local architecture, integrating elements that blend harmoniously with the surrounding environment.

villa fagu with jagged roof 'choreographs' rainwater flow in arid western himalayas
the angular roof blends with the mountainous surroundings | all images © Edmund Sumner

 

 

distinctive mono-pitched roofs direct rainwater strategically

 

Villa Fagu, located at an altitude of 2,510 meters, has been designed by Under Mango Tree (find more here) as two separate volumes, preserving the pre-existing vegetation of the narrow site. One volume houses the main rooms, while the other accommodates the guest room and study. These two volumes are interconnected by a shared outdoor court, centered around a majestic deodar (Himalayan cedar) tree.

 

During their extensive research on the site’s geological and ecological context, Under Mango Tree found out that the site serves as a remarkable ‘drainage divide’ between India and Pakistan. This unique characteristic inspired the design choices, particularly the implementation of mono-pitched roofs, which play a crucial role in directing the flow of rainwater. The southeast sloping roof channels rainwater into the Ganges river basin, allowing it to traverse through the plains of India and eventually reach the Bay of Bengal. Similarly, the northwest sloping roof directs rainwater into the Indus river basin, enabling its journey through Pakistan and ultimately leading it to the Arabian Sea on the other side of the sub-continent.

villa fagu with jagged roof 'choreographs' rainwater flow in arid western himalayas
the residence sits on a slender plot along a mountain ridge

 

 

efficient water harvesting system and ‘soft tresholds’ 

 

Both Fagu and the neighboring city of Shimla, which experienced a severe water crisis in 2018, face a scarcity of piped water supply outside the monsoon months. In response to this challenge, the project at Villa Fagu showcases an effective water harvesting system that involves filtering and storing a substantial amount of rainwater, totaling up to 55,000 liters. This is achieved through surface pools and an underground tank.

 

To capture rainwater efficiently, the water cascading from the corrugated roof edge is intercepted and collected in shallow catchment pools. These catchment pools not only serve a functional purpose but also enhance the landscape, providing visual delight to the users. Moreover, they create habitats for local fauna and attract migratory birds, contributing to the ecological balance of the area. The ‘soft thresholds’ of the house are a place of pause and rest for the local community and their cattle who use the adjoining mule track and the motor road below.

villa fagu with jagged roof 'choreographs' rainwater flow in arid western himalayas
the residence is strategically divided into two separate volumes, each featuring angular mono-pitched roofs

 

 

paying homage to the Himalayan vernacular

 

The design of the villa avoids cutting existing trees by utilizing skewed volumes that generate trapezoidal plans. These forms, adorned with carved voids and recesses, create enigmatic shapes that interact with sunlight and shadow, reflected in the surrounding still water. These forms and architectural elements pay homage to the local Himalayan vernacular. Meanwhile, the interior features a sunken open-plan living area on the ground floor, with floor seating around a central stove, while the upper-floor bedrooms connect to verandas that provide sunlit spaces and frame stunning mountain views.

 

The house is engineered to resist lateral earthquake forces using tie beams, and regional materials, such as oiled deodar wood for doors and windows, are used to weather naturally and acquire a unique patina. The external walls are finished with a locally sourced roughcast plaster made from crushed stones.

villa fagu with jagged roof 'choreographs' rainwater flow in arid western himalayas
carved voids and recesses create enigmatic shapes 

villa fagu with jagged roof 'choreographs' rainwater flow in arid western himalayas
the catchment pools enhance the landscape, providing visual delight to the users

villa fagu with jagged roof 'choreographs' rainwater flow in arid western himalayas
the residence offers impressive mountainous views

mountain-house-under-mango-tree-edmund-sumner-full-width

the ‘soft thresholds’ of the house are a place of pause and rest

villa fagu with jagged roof 'choreographs' rainwater flow in arid western himalayas
the house is engineered to resist lateral earthquake forces using regional materials

villa fagu with jagged roof 'choreographs' rainwater flow in arid western himalayas
the project’s location holds particular significance as it serves as a watershed for both India and Pakistan

mountain-house-under-mango-tree-edmund-sumner-full-04

the striking jagged roof against the mountainous landscape

villa fagu with jagged roof 'choreographs' rainwater flow in arid western himalayas
the residence peeps out of the surrounding vegetation

mountain-house-under-mango-tree-edmund-sumner-full-02

view of the rooftops from above

villa fagu with jagged roof 'choreographs' rainwater flow in arid western himalayas
side view of the angular roof

mountain-house-under-mango-tree-edmund-sumner-full-03

the characteristics of the area have inspired the design choices of the villa

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