Rising sea levels in Mumbai threaten to submerge the metropolis by 2050, displacing the millions of people who live and work along its vast coastline. But the team behind a new artistic oasis hopes to turn the tide—creating a climate-resilient structure using future-ready construction methods.
Local studio Architecture Brio designed the Mumbai Artist Retreat south of the city as a place for artists to live, create and workshop in a natural environment, away from the demands of urban life. But given the structure’s location on a low-lying coconut palm plantation near the beach, the team need a way to create the structure while having minimal impact on fragile ecosystems and accommodating rising sea levels.
“In this project, there was one more major concern: how do we deal with lands in coastal areas considering the threat,” said Architecture Brio owner Robert Verrijt in a video interview with Mazzocchioo journal.
The team could have chosen to build inland, of course. But they instead saw an opportunity to address an issue impacting construction projects around the world. “Coastal areas are naturally some of the most desirable places to settle, either because of the livelihood or because of the environmental qualities,” Verrjit explains.
So the team looked for new ways to approach the work by turning to the past. Inspired by the Sri Lankan ambalamas or historical rest stops, the team built a small collective of sheds raised on stilts to ensure the structures could withstand encroaching tides. Basalt stone boulders and steel columns anchor the structure into place. But the sheds can also be moved to higher ground, allowing the retreat’s owners to respond and adapt to threats in real time.
“Because regulations don’t actually allow us to build permanent structures near the coast and to reduce the impact of these structures on the site, the steel components are completely manufactured off site,” Verrijt says in the video. “Hereafter they are assembled with nut and bold connections on site, allowing them to be disassembled and reassembled elsewhere.”
For added flexibility, there are movable wall panels within each modular bay of columns that allow the spaces to be customized.
The team also reduced the project’s carbon footprint—and budget—by opting out of importing bamboo from Indonesia. Instead, they sourced the materials locally, despite construction woes posed by uneven local bamboo lumber.
“We like to transform typologies to establish relationships of continuity with the locale, but also to address the realities and challenges of a rapidly changing world,” Verrijt says.