Architect-developer’s first homes crafted with ancient Indian design

Aparna Patil discusses the house’s two-story living area, based on the “air” zone in vastu shastra. (Jonathan Spiers)

A local architect’s foray into residential development is introducing a home design concept that’s new to the Richmond market but has been in use for centuries on the other side of the world.

Aparna Patil, owner and principal of Glen Allen-based Mansara Architecture, has been turning heads in western Henrico County with the first of two new homes she and her husband, Nitin Patil, are developing at 4525 and 4529 Springfield Road.

The contemporary-style homes, featuring single-sloped roofs and hardieplank and brick facades, are the Patils’ first attempt at residential development since they launched Mansara in March last year.

The homes also are apparently the first of their kind in the Richmond area to have designs based on an ancient architectural practice called “vastu shastra” that originates from the Patils’ native India.

Aparna, who has been practicing in the Richmond area for more than a decade, previously as a project manager with nbj Architecture, said the concept is based primarily on a home’s orientation with the sun, with spaces divided into zones that then determine its layout.

The home’s orientation and room layout is based on the position of the sun. (Jonathan Spiers)

“Each of these zones is attributed a certain quality, based on the rays of the sun, the quality of the light and the temperatures that this particular zone receives,” Aparna said. “Then you place the different functions of the building accordingly.

“For instance, southwest is where the master bedroom should be, because of the temperature. That is the zone that receives the maximum sunlight and is most heated and is therefore the most comfortable in the nights and evenings.”

She said vastu shastra has origins that date back as far as 3000 B.C. And according to members of AIA Richmond, the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects, Aparna’s homes appear to be the first residential structures in the Richmond area to be built with the concept. They said nbj Architecture designed the nearby Hindu Center of Virginia in accordance with the concept as well.

“It is absolutely new to Richmond,” said Aparna, who studied vastu shastra while in architecture school in India.

Each totaling 3,600 square feet, the homes – only one of which has been constructed so far – feature floor plans and rooms designed to maximize usage without wasting space. With both footprints aligned north, the front door opens up on the north side of the house, into a two-story-high living area – the zone of the home representing air, Aparna said.

With the master bedroom in the southwest corner, the rest of the ground floor includes a kitchen in the southeast corner, with windows positioned to take advantage of ambient light. The main living area will feature bamboo flooring and a limestone hearth.

Up wire-supported stairs that project from the wall – one of several carpentry details that Nitin designed and made – the second floor consists of three additional bedrooms and full bathrooms, as well as a rec room above a double-car garage. An additional room on the first floor also can be used as an office or extra bedroom.

Nitin and Aparna Patil.

The homes are being built on a subdivided 1-acre parcel that the Patils purchased in 2013. Aparna put the overall development cost of both homes at $1.2 million.

Aparna said they selected the site after considering others in Henrico, Hanover and Ashland. She said the site was preferred because it didn’t have water and sewer hookups, allowing for the northern alignment the concept needed.

She and Nitin, who serves as managing partner and shareholder of their firm, hope to sell the first home and use the proceeds to help fund the second home, for which foundation work has begun. They plan to list each home at $550,000, with the first one hitting the market this month.

Since construction on the first home started in February, Aparna said they’ve received considerable interest from neighbors and observers passing by.

“They are very curious,” Aparna said.

Laughing, she added: “We’ve had people who are just curious wander inside the house, so we’ve posted a sign saying ‘No trespassing,’ because sometimes it’s not very safe to just walk inside a construction site. We tell people: ‘Give me your email address and when we have an open house we’ll let you know so you can come and visit.’”

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5 Comments on "Architect-developer’s first homes crafted with ancient Indian design"

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Marcos Silva

As an architect who has at times dabbled in residential work, I have advised people looking to purchase or build a home to look at solar orientation. Most developer homes do not take this into account as the most important factor to them is street frontage. What I found interesting is that they recommend the master bedroom in the Southwest corner. Most people tend to want their bedroom cool and a northern location is usually best in my view.

Terry Wyllie
In 2013 our firm, Beyond Ordinary Boundaries Architecture, worked with two brothers and their wives on designing two houses in the same development in Mcabbes Grant , Henrico county. We used the practice of vastu shastra in the design and development of both their homes. They are the homes of Niraj & Ankita Patel and Kamal & Amir Patel respectfully with the first being completed in early 2015 and the second being completed early this year. Earlier this year, a student intern Callie Loveland working with us from Maggie Walker during her work study program, wrote her project thesis on… Read more »
Terry Wyllie

How wonderful it is to see more examples and uses of cultural concepts in residential architecture.

CM Reynolds

This is a very interesting concept, and has certainly piqued my curiosity (apparently along with many others too). This is the new kind of growth and development in the area that is exciting to see. Good Luck to them!

Phillip Skaggs

I have heard rumors that Lewis Ginger used similar solar layouts for the North Side. The north facing frontage really does give spectacular morning and evening light.