Modern Residence | By Nasir Designs | Islamabad Pakistan

Project House design
Client Mr. & mrs. Nasir iqbal
Architect Mr. Nasir iqbal
Location F-8/4, Islamabad, Pakistan
Plot area 622 square yards
Footprint 250 square yards
Photo credits Ali pasha

The house is a temple, its architect, a worthy priest. In all fairness, it is not a temple to honour any great sacrifice nor is it to commemorate the great events of history. Rather, it pays a solemn tribute to the splendour of creative achievement, to the triumph of man over his internal struggle as a creator and to his ability to rise above natural limitations to take his rightful place as a vanguard of nature. The space demands contemplation, where the ambience is imbibed indirectly, in a manner of spiritual osmosis, taking the viewer through a multitude of experiences, compelling them to interact with nature and to wonder how they ever managed to live in the absence of such solitude.

The volumetric arrangement is somewhat peculiar, if referred to the context. It is as if the house consciously refuses to impose itself on the milieu, rather choosing to create an internal environment and energizing it – a rarity in today’s commercially driven real estate market. If one was to approach it from a distance, it would prove hard to distinguish the auspicious form, since the architect has established the conception of an internally inclined atmosphere by use of a potent tool, the foliage. Not only do the trees and shrubbery act as a screening buffer between the public and private, they also give shape to a unifying design principle, allowing elements of nature to engulf the structure, eventually crafting a symbiotic relationship. The architect’s premise on this decision was evidently clear, which was to disengage the house from its disorderly urban surroundings, since the residence rests on a relatively small plot, at the intersection of two active streets, and enliven the space within by embedding it in nature.

“I have a limited predisposition towards material usage, leaning more towards nature, such as brick, stone and wood, rather than artificial materials”, says Architect Nasir Iqbal, who exemplifies his focus on creating rational yet rooted structures, with the design of his own residence. After tearing past the veil of foliage and vegetation, the spectator is entranced in a state of reverence, beheld by the volumetric interplay of the house. Cubic volumes seemingly arranged in a spatial grid, float mid-air and spontaneously break the grid and monotony, exhibiting cladding in fair-faced concrete and stone. Bamboo clad balconies upheld by steel girders protrude at a skewed angle.

The house is not an autobiography, neither is it readable to the observing majority. “It is the self…” says Nasir Iqbal, “…it is a space of your own, that you own”.

His personality suspended in brick, wood and stone, speaks of colours, humility, and sensitivity to nature. A private person possessing and earthy confidence, the architect is the prime force behind the creation of landmarks such as the Babri Mosque in Islamabad and AIR University. It would suffice to say, that the architect has constantly searched for methods of intelligent innovation, at the same time staying rooted to a self-defined contextual creed, causing his residence to be one of his finest works.

The elementary design motivation was not a concept, but a brief. From the get-go, the architect was very clear about the manner in which the project was to develop. Perhaps this is the sole reason that he consciously took his time, over a period of 2 years, to finalize the design brief, contemplating every decision. The design brief took a holistic approach of how to utilize a plot of 622 square yards, in order to serve the purposes of a residence, a commercial office and a commercial rent-out apartment. The architect emphasizes his clarity about the spatial requirements, taking three different functional spaces and assembling them in congruence, which could simultaneously function as independent units and as parts of a whole.

A rough study of the ground floor layout, exhibits lucid and coherent planning. There are three separate entry points, serving the three different spaces, taking full advantage of its location at a corner-plot, positioning the commercial uses to one side and the private residence on the other. One enters the office space, from the main road on a path of stone pavers and is greeted by a double-height reception, which simultaneously acts as an atrium, creating a vertical communal zone between the multiple levels of the house. Vertical wooden beams adorn the staircase, rising from the ground floor through the conference room on the mezzanine towards the architect’s office on the first floor, accentuating the upward expanse of the space.

The entrance to the residential area from the adjacent street is slightly subdued in comparison, permeating a sense of enigma and solace. The car porch, which albeit is a relatively substantial form, fails to command the scene, instead becoming categorized in the same morphology as the office entrance space, due to exhibiting the same material finish. This is an important aspect to consider, that the mutually exclusive functional zones are interrupted in their perpetual rhythm and instead interrelated to develop the attribute of conjoint regions, by means of material finishes. Upon entrance through the gate, the observer is impressed upon by the contextual circumstance, when they witness the skewed bamboo-clad balconies, suspended by steel girders, imbuing in them a sensation of spatial transition, or rather, spatial transcendence. The ground floor façade facing the residential entrance primarily consists of full-height glass windows, validating the architect’s aspiration to “drink” the maximum amount of light during the day. From the inside these windows permit a vibrant view of the garden, adorned with a curvilinear water fountain, which endeavours to blend the various linear angles coming together. “God’s materials are self-synchronizing…” says Nasir Iqbal, “…wood, stone, water, earth, come together in perfect rhythm”. It is self-evident that the architect has consciously attempted to employ the use of organic and natural materials, but it must also be considered that a strong emphasis has been paid to how and where the materials would come together, in order to achieve the correct balance. The transition from external to internal is seamless, the change in materials and illumination a steady process, gradually impressing the fertility of space upon the viewer.

“I consciously opted for the absence of a drawing room. I tend to question the notions of what a house is and what it should be. I believe design growth lies in such queries”, says the architect, when asked about the spatial planning of the residential zone. The windows looking onto the garden serve an unobtrusive TV Lounge with a low-height ceiling, principally intended for the purpose of entertaining a small and comfortable group of people. It is only after enquiry that one learns that the seamless arrangement and placement of furniture in the space is positioned in order to draw in the maximum amount of light at different times of the day. To achieve the spectacle of uniting diverse spatial functions, the low height space is engaged in stark contrast with a double height Lounge which, due to its gallery spaces, visually continues to the mezzanine floor, harbouring a variety of activities. Both lounges can be seen together as one large comprehensive space, said to easily accommodate over 60 people, acting as the spatial core of the residential zone, accentuated by wooden pergolas and in-door balconies being integrated into its region. The layout suggests an uncluttered and minimalist approach, heightened by the use of pacifying materials and warm colours in the choice of furniture and lighting. Yet, for the entire expanse and its austere occupancy, the architect divulges a thorough understanding of scale, by achieving a tranquil and cosy atmosphere by the employment of refined and subtle forms inhabiting the space.

Due to its double height attribute, the ground floor and its mezzanine counterpart are generally regarded as a massive open space; however, upon reaching the mezzanine, one is captivated by an invasion of natural light pouring in through the windows of the most notable element of the house; the skewed balcony. An apt portrayal of the morphology would be, to consider the form of the house to be oriented in one direction, and from the origin point a subsidiary volume aspiring to expand on a track of its own, determining its own evolution. It is pertinent to typify the balcony as an entity rather than mere space, since the achievement of distinction from its parent structure seems to be a conscious undertaking, without which the structure itself would be rendered incomplete. Walking through the balcony on the gravelled walkway, one is greeted by floating steel girders adorned with bamboo-shoots, fastening the balcony to the brick-clad facade of the house.

Passing through the mezzanine towards the upper floors, one senses the absence of clear and legible patterns of circulation, possibly due to the complex program. One could justifiably question the use of multiple staircases through the structure. Judging from the layout and interconnected vertical movement it can be arbitrated that the three different programmatic elements of residence, commercial office and commercial apartment are effective as individual units, although cause perceptive dissonance when considering the transitional movement between them. Nasir Iqbal responds to the query with equal gusto, “It was a higher priority to execute a diverse programmatic scheme, catering to various requirements of a complex brief on an equally complex site, rather than adhere to seemingly essential planning elements. Besides, it is important to decide whether an architectural element is aiding in your development of the program or not”.

The arrangement of a commercial rent-out apartment on the first floor is rather appropriate, especially due to the residence being located on a corner plot, making it possible to provide a completely exclusive entrance and parking area to the rented out space. In the commercial volume, the first floor comprises of the architect’s private office, decked with minimal furniture asserting an understated elegance, befitting to the architect. Not much effort has been exerted on the application of decorative elements, which may have led to the office being rendered prosaic; however, it is such integrity and simplicity that has to be characterised as the binding principle of the building. The office is a cosy space with the staircase from the mezzanine floor placed at an imperceptible side, lit with natural light flooding in through the windows. Although it is suitable for the ground floor and basement, the substantially large fenestrations which allow the incursion of sunlight during the day, seem to be debatable on the first floor. This lends largely to the prevention and management of glare and intense heat during the summer, which even in Islamabad can reach up to excruciating levels. It also leads to the inquiry into insulation against the cold weather during winter season, the sizable windows acting as a disadvantage in this respect. Further analysis of the first floor layout seems to ans wer the query: with the presence of a greenhouse on the south side of the house, created by carving out an inward veranda from the façade, which acts as a buffer against the summer heat. In addition the large fenestrations are primarily arranged on the elevation which allow the passage of natural light, but prevent to their full extent, the intrusion of glare and direct sunlight. Upon inquiry into the insulation method during winter, a cross-section of the wall reveals cavities carved out in the 9 inch wall, in essence a vertically placed waffle slab, due to which the transference of heat in and out of the building is greatly reduced.

In addition to the aforementioned facets, the architect has driven to achieve an energy-efficient design, addressing it as an important factor of the brief. Due to an energy efficiency precept, passive solar gain through the greenhouse and balconies has been achieved, allowing light to flood into the space, through a controlled medium. The architect has also actuated methods to harness solar energy by the use of solar panels on the roof, which are the primary source of energy for running his office, rendering him independent of the public utility service when conducting his practice. It is the blend of current methods of construction and spatial activation coupled with a sensitivity to nature and materials that makes the architect a designer worthy of the name, and the residence a masterpiece.

“I am not conscious about my identification. I love the creation of space, I love to energise it. Other than that, I do not like stamps or pre-determined decisions”, said Nasir Iqbal, when asked about whether his design process is contextual or more on the lines of a developing vocabulary. In such essence he exhibits an outlook on the profession similar to the likes of Renzo Piano and Peter Zumthor, where the context and the programmatic relationship of the brief with the site take precedence over other aspects. It is perhaps due to this pro-context stance that the finished projects exhibit a diverse array of forms and volumes, even though the overarching principles of nature and efficiency of space lay untarnished. The architect’s comment on the matter, seemingly answered all questions that had risen before and the ones that had not risen yet. “People tend to continue with their comfort zones, when something goes well. I force myself to constantly jump out of it, to experiment, to innovate. It allows me to expand my creative capacity while keeping a flexible outlook on design problems. A creative person is the most flexible person in the world, because they can constantly come up with alternate solutions to a problem”.

 Floor Plans 

About the Architect 

Nasir lqbal graduated in Architecture from National College of Arts-NCA in 1990. In 1994, he won “Foreign & Common Wealth Scholarship Award” and proceeded for Post Graduate studies in Architecture at Bartlette DPU, University College London – University of London UK. During the stay in UK, he attended projects/seminars at University of Wales and University of Yorkshire, He represented University of London team of Post Graduate Architects in an International project in Morocco, sponsored by Govt. of Morocco. With the training of Architecture in UK and subsequent international visits to study development in the regional and international architecture, Arch. Nasir lqbal returned to Pakistan with an objective to strive for producing creative yet rational, indigenous yet internationally competitive architectural work for his home land. He started Architectural practice in Islamabad in partnership with Arch. Tariq Mehmood (MSc.Arch.,MAIA) in 1996. In 1999 he became the sole proprietor of NASIR’S DESIGN and by 2003 NASIR’S DESIGN, was successful in completing projects for quality conscious clientele of multinational corporate sector and developers. In 2003, NASIR’S DESIGN was commissioned to design Faysal Bank Building at Jinnah Avenue Islamabad, which in 2005 received the “IAP NATIONAL AWARD OF EXCELLENCE IN ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN”, declared as being a trend setting building for the Architecture of Islamabad.


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