An upcoming residential project in Vagator, Goa, champions sustainability with the use of mass timber. It is the first residence in India to be built using glulam, a structural material from the mass timber family that sequesters or stores atmospheric carbon dioxide instead of emitting it. The design consists of a single linear block composed of 11 glulam portal frames, sitting lightly on the site supported on stilts and retaining walls. The functions of the home are organised in a flexible open-plan scheme, with large double-height volumes, ample daylighting and vast vistas.
Timber Residence in Vagator, Goa
Framed in mass timber, this house for a young techpreneur is wrapped in charred wood panels to blend into its forested surroundings.
An upcoming residential project by Architecture Discipline in Vagator, Goa champions sustainability with the use of an underrecognized sustainable material called mass timber. It will be one of the first residences in India to be built in mass timber. The home is situated among verdant landscapes adjacent to the Chapora river with views of the Arabian Sea. The design consists of a single linear block composed of 11 glulam portal frames, sitting lightly on the site supported on stilts and retaining walls. Glulam or glued laminated wood is a structural material from the mass timber family that sequesters or stores atmospheric carbon dioxide instead of emitting it. The functions of the home are organised in a flexible open-plan scheme, with large double-height volumes, ample daylighting and vast vistas.
Contemporary architecture in India is taking a conscious approach towards aesthetics and design, focusing on progressiveness and environmental sustainability. New projects, especially residences, are playing host to small-scale experiments with new building technologies that optimize construction and new materials with a low carbon footprint. This sea-facing residence in the tranquil Goan village of Vagator is shaped by such experiments; the result is a focused and ordered home that is a direct reflection of the personality and interests of its young owner.
The house sits at the highest point of a steeply sloped site and is oriented towards the Chapora river on the northwest. Perched upon stilts and concrete retaining walls, the house’s foundation is minimally invasive, anchoring it to the site while preserving the landscape surrounding it. “The way a building touches the ground is important, as this is the level at which the user first establishes contact with the building,” adds principal architect Akshat Bhatt. The raised ground floor also protects the house’s foundation from moisture and capillary action that can damage it over time. The existing entrance to the site is borrowed as the main vehicular and pedestrian entrance, with the rear setback offered to the adjoining village as a common pathway for movement.
With only a set of functional requirements as his brief, the client gave creative freedom to the architects to explore various design iterations and material options. Having spent his childhood in the Louis Kahn-designed IIM campus in Ahmedabad, he had an intrinsic appreciation for materials and seamlessly-integrated indoor and outdoor spaces, both of which were eventually expressed in the final design output.
The client’s focused nature inspired the unidirectional form of the house — a single, linear block with a sloping roof tailored to Goa’s heavy monsoons. Visitors enter directly into a soaring living room with a double-height glass wall at one end that fills the hall with daylight and frames expansive views of the sea. An open plan with minimal walls and an untouched external envelope, the living area is planned as a flexible, adaptable space. Across the entrance lies the kitchen and dining space, a deconstructed volume that breaks the linearity of the rest of the house. The rear end is segregated as a private zone with two bedrooms and attached bathrooms.
At the centre of this free-flowing volume is a hydraulic platform that is inspired by the Maison Bordeaux, a residence designed by OMA in France. A movable workspace with a study desk, the platform abuts a double-height bookshelf and a staircase connecting the house’s three levels. It descends into a private wood workshop on the lower level, a glass-lined volume naturally lit by clerestory windows. The platform also travels upward to the mezzanine level, opening onto the client’s private lounge and bedroom. The mobile workspace acts as a connector between the distinct experiences of the house’s three levels, allowing the client to move seamlessly between them and work from his preferred zone.
The house is designed with several outdoor spaces connecting the resident to Goa’s tranquil environment. On the ground floor, the double-height glass wall opens out onto a metal deck facing the sea and the site’s verdant landscape, while the kitchen connects to an outdoor deck of its own. The mezzanine-level lounge extends into a gallery overlooking the living area, culminating in a suspended metal deck also oriented towards the seafront. On the lower ground floor, the workshop opens out to a partially shaded timber deck that acts as an extended outdoor activity space.
As the material palette was left mainly to the design team’s creative vision, an opportunity to explore unconventional and sustainable materials emerged. This resulted in a decision to build the house’s structure out of glued laminated timber (glulam), a form of mass timber known for its structural integrity and low carbon footprint. Mass timber is rapidly gaining ground as a sustainable and viable alternative to concrete and steel, two of the construction industry’s biggest contributors of carbon emissions. Being the founder of a leading tech-based startup, the client had a penchant for innovation and was keen on exploring the potential of this pioneering material in his new home. Once completed, the house will be one of the first residences in India built using mass timber.
The house’s superstructure, including the glulam structure, is entirely prefabricated in Delhi and assembled on-site at Goa. A series of eleven glulam portal frames with diagonal steel connectors form the house’s primary structure. A wooden lattice grid in the form of a bookshelf wall also occupies the space between the portals, housing the client’s vast collection of books. A continuous skylight runs along the sloping roof’s ridge, letting in a dramatic sliver of natural light and releasing exhaust air from vents.
The house’s interior design strategy brings the warm tones of wood into focus, balancing them with metallic textures and spartan surfaces. The white walls are envisioned as a bare canvas that can be overlaid with memories over time, contrasted with charcoal-stained door and window frames. The floor is similarly covered in white granite and juxtaposed with grey metal railings for the staircase and hydraulic platform.
The refined interior of the house belies its stark external expression of charred timber. Created using an age-old Japanese preservation technique known as yakisugi, charred timber panels are known for their durability and resistance to heat and moisture, apart from their striking appearance. This property made them ideal for Goa’s tropical weather, resulting in a façade that would react uniquely to natural elements and age gracefully with time. The distinct charcoal grey façade also sets the house apart from its natural surroundings while being visually harmonious with it. However, the kitchen and dining volume expresses a different material vocabulary through its zinc-clad roof, with the metal also covering a small portion of the main house’s roof.
The wild, bohemian landscape of the site was the perfect environment for the client, a triathlete who prefers running outdoors to training in a gym. A 25-metre-long rectangular pool, running along the length of the house, was also created as an outdoor exercise pool. A large part of the site’s landscape is occupied by kitchen gardens, where the client can grow his own food. Most of the site’s trees are retained to form a soft boundary that demarcates it from the public street and village.
The house is a tranquil sanctuary for the client to retreat to and recharge his creative energies, nestled between Goa’s tropical greenery and the sea. A space focused on fostering his varied pursuits, it merges unconventional materials with cutting-edge technology to form a minimal, yet progressive resid