When a family of six approached Indian architectural practice Wallmakers for a low-cost home, the architects saw the limited budget as an opportunity to innovate and experiment rather than as a drawback. To keep costs low, recycled and natural materials were prioritized in the design of the Debris House, an approximately 2,000-square-foot dwelling that makes the most of its compact site. In addition to locally sourced materials, the environmentally sensitive home includes a rainwater harvesting and recycling system as well as passive air circulation.

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brown bench and table in outdoor space of rammed earth home

Located in Pathanamthitta of Kerala in the south of India, the Debris House derives its name from the site that was peppered with the remnants of many demolished buildings, elements of which were recycled into the new construction. Although smaller towns like Pathanamthitta have increasingly looked to building homes out of glass, concrete and steel in an attempt to mirror their urban neighbors, the architects resisted those trends in hopes that their site-specific design could inspire “the towns to find their own language.”

tan walls, concrete ceiling and tan floors of rammed earth home

curving brown wall with plants growing through open middle space

As a result, the architects built the home’s rammed earth walls using soil that was excavated onsite. Recycled materials, also salvaged from the immediate area, were used to form a spiraled wall — dubbed the Debris Wall — that serves as a focal point defining the central courtyard, which allows cooling cross-winds into the home. Furniture was also built from reclaimed wood, specifically from the client’s storage boxes. To protect against unwanted solar gain, the windows are protected with meter boxes sourced from a local scrapyard. The concrete roof and slab were mixed with coconut shells, thus reducing the amount of cement used.

Related: Rammed earth walls tie this modern home to the Arizona desert landscape

cube seats arranged around wood table

blanket and pillow on floor of rammed earth home

“While the house uses numerous alternate technologies, there is a certain whimsy and playfulness in its design,” the architects said. “Looking at the local context, the project strikes out, humbly maintaining its commitment to the society and the environment.”

+ Wallmakers

Photography by Anand Jaju via Wallmakers