camouflage architecture

The Arch Daily Building of the Year 2024 in the houses category is a project that explores what can be built on sites that are generally deemed unsuitable for construction. Situated in a gated community called Sanctity Ferme in the picturesque location of Shoolagiri in India, the owner had several unwanted, obscure plots at the periphery of the community. Characterised by steep rocky topography, huge trees and thick vegetation, people were reluctant to make homes there, as the buildable area seemed less. 

Hidden treasures 

The challenge was delivering beautiful scenic views from the home, but it shouldn’t look like an unnatural eyesore in the virgin landscape. The concept of camouflage architecture, where the buildings stay hidden and merge seamlessly with the existing topography, seemed apt. 

camouflage architecture

The cross-section shows the house has no elevation, tucked beneath and around three large tamarind trees.

The word “Chuzhi” refers to a whirlpool in Malayalam, as the house is constructed in swirls of precast composite bottle beams, fashioned from 4 000 discarded plastic bottles filled with concrete and covered with earth. The idea was to make a subterranean home that would originate from the rock bed, forming multiple whirls around the tree and adjoining to create a secure private space below for the residents, and a space around the trees above that ensures that the thick vegetation and ecosystem continue to thrive undisturbed. 

Spiral design 

The swirls of Chuzhi start as walls and spiral all the way up to form the roof. Perched in-between the three large tamarind trees, the house has been designed with a glass roof to give the feeling of living underneath the canopy of trees. Although the house has no elevation, it defines the public space from the private space with the roof doubling up as a seating area around the tree. 

camouflage architecture

The swirling structure is reflected in the name Chuzhi, which refers to a whirlpool in Malayalam, a classical language in India.

The concept was to allow the natural ecosystem of trees and the surroundings to be retained as it is above the house, without compromising on the comfort of the inhabitants. Chuzhi is a two-bedroom residence designed with an open layout and minimalistic interiors, and it has floors that have been made of reclaimed wood that has been pieced together. But the surprising fact is that the building manages to tuck itself away into the landscape like a snake curling up under a rock on a hot day. 


Project details: 

Name: Chuzhi House. 

Location: Shoolagiri, India. 

Architects: Wallmakers. 

Area: 2 122m². 

Photographs: Syam Sreesylam. 

Design: Vinu Daniel. 

Project architects: Neeraj S Murali, Rajesh Khanna, Shrijeet Redekar, Rakshita Kumbari. 


Full thanks and acknowledgement to: for the information in this editorial. 

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