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Mana

Jun 11, 2019 // Akshat Bhatt

Traditional Indian architecture is typically associated with ornamental detailing, and more specifically in Rajasthan, the architecture connotes the forts and palaces through techniques that are resonant of the wealth and culture of the region. Typically,people engage with tradition in a superficial manner in ways that are ordered, orthogonal and more often than not,a contemporary take on Indo-Saracenic architecture. Architectural experience is about creating memories, and often, in an attempt to insinuate traditional architecture in order to create a lasting image while adopting a universal aesthetic, intervention ends up being kitschyand pastiche. Techniques, Technology and methods of construction that draw from the region and are ‘of the earth’ get lost in the midst of mainstream processes. Within this context, the design of Mana Ranakpur attempts to demonstrate the studio’s agenda of regional expression within a global context while being environmentally conscious, without adopting a kitschy intervention and predictable construction techniques. The local and regional forms of expression are explored as vital resources to create an architecture that engages with the future and is of a progressive disposition.Sited in the vivid, enchanted Udaipur valley in the Ranakpur province, the hotel as a public space with a service-intensive program is conceived to celebrate order and dissonance,continuity, stability, the experience of slow-moving time and the vernacular as an imbibedethos. These values are celebrated through an architectonic intervention, form and material-play in a region with a stark change of seasons and landscape, where the forest changes from Lush Green to bare and arid and the hills turn red during spring as the Tesu trees come to fullbloom. Amidst the hills, with a clean, shallow river in the front, a km away from the famed Jaintemple and adjoining a reconstructed old haveli, the client brief called for a boutique hotel that offers a unique, iconic experience for travelers in all seasons. Through this apparent harshness,extreme weather and striking landscape, the vernacular acts as a bare canvas and forms a stoic backdrop for this dramatic change of seasons. Amidst the vernacular milieu, the site was extremely challenging as a reclaimed river bed with the water table at 600mm. While local sites represent solid stone in an intense and intricate manner in the form of Paleolitic monumentsor pathological homes or as boundary walls that segregate the farmlands, the hotel is evocatively fabricated in the frugal stone masonry which is locally available as an expression of timelessness, space and contrast, old vs new, and the light vs heavy expressing the changing landscape throughout the year.

Introducing the design intent to the visitor by creating a reading of the building as it is unraveled, allows for moments and spatial intervention. Layering is adopted to restore the notion of the collective memory, and repetition is used as a technique to establish the contrast and difference. The site's planned in a manner that upturns the land, as it opens up to the river on one side, while establishing contrast with the old Havel and the temple. The plan is derived from the time-honored 9x9 grid and the site was dotted with points that would then goon to become trees. Normalcy is achieved through the grid, and deviations are used to breakthe order. Aligning the grid with the north-south axis through the linearity of the site, a 1.8 m wide sliver is fashioned for pedestrian movement that reinforces the linear planning on the site and brings in a strong order. Settlements happen along these linear walls, crafting straight views to the outside, helping the visitors orient themselves within the site. Superimposition of these various layers establish dynamic between architecture (constant) and the landscape(in motion through change) and leads to chance encounters and moments of rest. A huge,existing Budh tree on the site with its unique characteristic of a large spread of about 25-30 mdia, is identified as a focal point for the alignment of linear vistas. Views and movement are orientated towards this tree, which is a remnant of the customary tree-chaupal that would provide shade under a large tree to a communal space. Unlike mainstream hotels, some rooms also look out into this public space using a modern, glassy interpretation of the traditional jharokha (overhanging enclosed balcony), while other room ceilings look up to the underside of the tree.