Smriti 57 – Architect Nitin Killawala’s residence

Battling the space constraint in the densely crowded city of Mumbai, ‘Smriti 57’ designed by Mumbai-based Group Seven Architects, rises vertically within the urban landscape as a residential villa which, at first sight, is reminiscent of a chest of drawers. 

Project Details:

  • Year of Completion: 2015
  • Design Team: Nitin Killawala, Nimit Killawala
  • Structural Engineers: SACPL
  • Client: Killawala family
  • Location: Juhu
  • Project Area: 930 sqm
  • Permissible FSI: 2.7
  • Project Duration: 3 Months

Site Location:

Smriti 57 is located on a small plot of 470 Sqm within the residential neighbourhood of Juhu, a western suburb of Mumbai.

Site Study –

Weather Conditions:

Climate Type: Hot & Humid Climate

May is the hottest month in Mumbai with an average temperature of 30°C (86°F) and the coldest is January at 24°C (75°F) with the most daily sunshine hours at 10 in May. The wettest month is July with an average of 640mm of rain. The best month to swim in the sea is in June when the average sea temperature is 30°C (86°F).

History & Evolution:

The land for Smriti-57 is inherited by the family for over five decades. However as an architect or a business entrepreneur, the architect & his family thought they could have never afforded to buy a house in the city at prevailing market rates, but certainly could afford the construction cost. Therefore a conscious family decision was taken to put zero value to this small piece of inherited land and re-construct the house for self-use, without any temptation to sell or rent-out any part of the property.

Concept & Development:

Owing to the project being the Architect’s own residence, the building is an exploration in alternative technologies of construction, challenging norms, time cycles as well as affordability of traditional R.C.C structures as against structural steel.

The video below courtesy Buildofy, highlights the concept of the residence as narrated by Architect Nitin Killawala, the principal of Group Seven and resident of Smriti 57.


After basic conceptualization of the structure, individual floor plans are drawn up as per end users requirements, which not only gave flexibility in planning, but, spellbound spatial feel. The complexity of internal walls and partitions, configuration of windows and voids, need for safe and secured spaces, private and open areas were all built into the grid, enabling the structure to perform as a ‘Home’.

Given the simplified appearance of the external structure, the interiors are fairly deceptive. The Grid over six floors in broken down into a guest floor on the first level, a duplex over the next two levels followed by a triplex over the subsequent floors.

The ground and the first floor are common floors, shared by the architects family and that of his brothers. The lower common floor holds a covered driveway and drop off, along with an entrance lobby; with the first holding a large multi-functional hall and a common guest room.

The next set of two floors belong to the architect himself. A double height living room dominates the lower floor, revealing glimpses of the private quarters that lie above. The architects master suite, in addition to his open study, overlooking the living room under, takes up the bulk of the upper level, with the residual spaces being primarily circulation.

The three floors above are home to the Nitin Killawalas brother, who has for himself taken the floor in between, and with each of his children occupying a floor adjacent, above and below.

Structural Aspects:

Steel as a construction material offers tremendous flexibility in planning, speed of construction as well as an opportunity in expressing ‘structural aesthetics’.

The basic structural components of six floors of 10 mtr x 16 mtr spans of beams, columns and slabs consists of just four columns of 450 diameter made out of 19 mm MS plates welded helically, braced with 600 mm deep ‘I’ beams fabricated from MS plates and readily available galvanized deck slabs by JSW duly stud welded. The entire structure may be imagined as a ‘chest’ with four legs and six shelves.

The erection of 450 diameter columns above pile caps are 12 metre in length (which is the length of a trailer truck) and ‘I’ beams placed at a specific grid are fabricated by PLC at their factory in Daman and transported through trailer trucks. The entire erection process of over 900 sq. mtrs. in six levels executed within 14 weeks. It is worth a mention about the hydra and crane operators that they are exceptionally skilled in maneuvering their machines in extremely congested spaces with many impediments including trees and narrow accesses.

Below is a time lapse video documenting the sequence of construction, involving erection of prefabricated steel columns, beams with corrugated deck sheets replacing traditional RCC slabs.

All the steel structural components are welded and finished with high quality epoxy primers and PU paints. They are intentionally kept exposed and blended with plastered masonry, aluminum windows, steel railings perched within the lush green foliage of peltophorum trees. Even many elements of interiors such as staircases, beds and tables, storage units, pipe shafts, etc are made out of steel which further accentuates the use of steel in the project. There is always a concern for junctions in such type of composite structures such as between ‘I’ beam and masonry where ‘I’ beams are overlapped with concrete coping which totally overlaps the web of these beams.

For the requirement of internal stairs or double height ceilings, cutouts are simply created by not fixing deck slabs. Also the lateral beam at 3rd floor level is pushed back to create absolute double height for the terrace in plan as well as in section. Another feature in this building is that all the six mid-landings of the main stairs are cantilevered out to the bays of 3.5 x 1.6 mtrs. These are the spaces to accommodate store rooms, washing machine, and maid/staff rooms. Each of these are also attached with toilet bay of 1.6 x 1.8 mtrs. at every mid-landing.

Steel, as a prime structural material, is presumed to be expensive over conventional RCC structures. True, the numbers in the construction of these structures are on higher side by about 10 per cent, but, the end product compensates the costs by virtue of saving in time and strength despite its slenderness and organized work ethics. This project is a humble experiment in using steel as a structural material for residential typologies and promises to go a long way.


A striking aspect when walking through the home that one cannot but help notice and enviously admire is the extremely impressive art collection the owners have lovingly curated, across the multiple floors and at times adorning parts of the facade. Of importance, and relevance to the architect here, is the fact that this collection has been a personal hobby and a work in progress for the last 30 years, and not simply a collection of bought out pieces to adorn the new home with.

Living area with double height bringing in exteriors with hues of beige-grey flooring, fawn shaded sand face plastered walls and dark grey PU-coated structural steel members. A floating settee set in a glazed alcove and glimpses of the study corner seen while sitting on understated sofas.

A Cantilevered low height wenguey wood table top- used formally as dining and informally for work, gossip, sit around and so on. Projecting out from a high gloss white and angular baffle storage/ partition.

Old jute weaved chairs repainted and studio lights completes the corner.

Shimmering natural light penetrating through peltophorum trees into glazing and its impact is dynamic throughout the day. Karl Antao’s figurative wooden sculpture and in stone by Shanko Chowdhary sits calmly on the floor, while canvas by Charan Sharma adorns the wall in the background.

A floating element to clear the flooring for Kitchen counter with back painted glass top and facia and combination of muted and pastel coloured shutters and drawers along with suspended overhead unit above the sink.

A confluence of three flooring element wooden landing-steel bars bridge-beige/ grey vitrified general flooring visually connecting exteriors through large opening as well as wider ‘book wall’ in the study.

Experience of vertical space of the living area at different perspective while going up or down the steel & wooden stairs.

A steel bars bridge enhances width of the void which is flanked from ‘I beam’ connecting bedroom and study while purple coloured cylindrical wall shields bathrooms behind.

Reflecting mirrors enhance the spacious qualities of the bathroom, thus making the space look bigger.

Options for view frame of the street side surrounding- through a small triangular ledge or from a larger door-cum window of the wooden slatted jarokha.

“The residence is indeed a Smriti for Architect Nitin Killawala.”

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