When it came to designing a private residence for four generations of the same family in Mumbai, India, S+PS Architects was instinctively drawn to the idea of blending past and present, combining vernacular materials with a modern aesthetic that would reflect the evolving nature of the city.
This was achieved through a process of “upcycling,” salvaging architectural elements and incorporating them into the fabric of the new building in a plethora of different ways. With these collaged elements left exposed, the house reads as a patchwork of textures that each tell a story of their own. Collage House is a poetic amalgamation of the surrounding urban landscape.
“The front façade sets the tone for what lies within,” explains S+PS Architects. A wall of windows and doors — recycled from demolished houses around the city — gives new life to Mumbai’s redundant architecture without disguising its original texture or stylistic quality. These salvaged windows and doors were carefully collated and interlocked in order to form a weather-tight building envelope. Behind this collaged façade, columns provide structural support for the floors and roof.
Windows and doors were carefully selected from architectural salvage.
Construction progress on the “window wall”
The finished façade
Key to deciding which salvaged elements would be included in the window wall was each window’s or door’s individual finish, wood quality and glazing type. Fading paintwork and warm timber breaks up the large expanse of the elevation, providing a more domestic sense of scale in contrast to the exposed concrete walls that wrap around the structure as a whole. Different opacity levels and colors of glass across this façade mean that the house obtains a whole new quality after dark, subtly glowing like a stained-glass lantern.
Sectional details of the “window wall” on the front elevation
Due to the proximity of adjacent properties, the architects delineated an inward-looking layout, providing the client with a courtyard space with a high level of privacy. Within this courtyard, further recycled materials are used in a way that celebrates their history while forming a striking, contemporary focal point. “Metal pipe leftovers pieced together like bamboo form a ‘pipe wall,’” explain the architects, “integrating structural columns, rainwater downtake pipes and a sculpture of spouts that in the monsoon are a delight for all the senses.”
Details of the rainwater-collecting “pipe wall” in the courtyard
Courtyard with “pipe wall” visible on the right
Throughout the courtyard, many more salvaged materials including metal, stone and tile are harnessed to reinforce the idea that the house is a collage of many previous structures. The architects continue: “On one side, scrap rusted metal plates are riveted together, kitsch colored tile samples retain a planter in the middle, and the third side is a wall clad in cut-waste stone slivers lifted off the back of stone cutting yards and waste generated on-site.”
The court is raised a floor above the ground level with a large rainwater harvesting tank below. Excess water from the lap pool also flows into this tank, together with water from the gently tapering roof, which flows through the pipes running the length of the courtyard wall. Rainwater is also funneled into the toilets throughout the building, in keeping with the principals of reuse and energy efficiency embedded within Collage House.
Rainwater collection and water system diagram
Exploded axonometric of Collage House
Inside, the list of reclaimed materials goes on: Flooring is constructed from old Burma teak rafters and purlins, while traditional elements and materials like carved wooden moldings, beveled mirrors and heritage cement tiles are used on interior elevations. As the building is composed of so many disparate materials and textures, S+PS Architects opted to unite all three stories with a raw concrete envelope — a “garb of modernity,” as the architects call it — displaying a rough aggregate finish on the exterior and a smoother finish on the inside.
Finally, on the terrace level overlooking the hillside, a highly contemporary steel and glass pavilion is juxtaposed with a set of ornate, hundred-year-old columns, recycled from a dismantled house elsewhere in the city.
Reclaimed columns support the pavilion roof at terrace level.
These columns encapsulate the ideas present in details throughout this idiosyncratic residence. While Collage House is undoubtedly a one-off, it forms a precedent for other architects considering using recycled materials on a large scale. Through carefully considered detailing, the architects at S+PS have proven that the inherent imperfections of salvaged materials can be factored into a modern, energy-efficient design.
For more on architectural details, check out our in-depth feature on the acoustics of Herzog & de Meuron’s Elbphilharmonie, the iconic I-beams of Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House, the flowing concrete canopy of Toyo Ito’s Meiso No Mori Municipal Funeral Hall and the patchwork brick walls of Elissa and Alvar Aalto’s Experimental House.