Bellevue is an all-day dining restaurant at The Oberoi Amarvilas, a luxury hotel facing the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Taj Mahal on the bank of the river Yamuna in Agra, India. In keeping with the Mughal influences, this refurbishment project creates a rhythmic, bright and luxurious space. The original Thasos marble and red sandstone flooring is preserved, leaving all interventions suspended above ground. The main feature of the design is its cross-vaulted ceiling, which seamlessly merges into flared columns and fluted wall panelling and is executed to precision using computationally designed moulds and white plaster. Warm tones of timber and splashes of royal blue animate the pristine interiors. The restaurant also opens out into an alfresco dining area with panoramic views of the hotel’s lawns and the Taj Mahal.
Completed in 2019
The Oberoi Group (East India Hotels)
Bellevue is the all-day dining restaurant of Oberoi Amarvilas, a luxury hotel facing the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Taj Mahal that lies on the banks of the river Yamuna in Agra, India. The only property in the vicinity offering uninterrupted views of the 17th-century Mughal mausoleum, Amarvilas offers a singular experience to its guests. The interiors of Bellevue were redesigned by Architecture Discipline as a contemporary reimagining of this experience.
Opened in 2001, the beige sandstone-clad Amarvilas forms an opulent yet unassuming backdrop to the Taj Mahal—equally beautiful and memorable without being overwhelming. The erstwhile restaurant of the hotel had outgrown the functional and aspirational requirements of the space in comparison to its timeless counterpart, requiring a complete overhaul. Architecture Discipline envisioned the refurbished space as a contrasting response to the hotel’s ornate architecture, designed to offer unique experiences at all times of the day. The new restaurant adopts a language that is responsive to today’s changing palates, instead of borrowing from tradition. Through this approach, Bellevue seeks to be a truly memorable space for its guests, embodying the values of romance, beauty and elegance that the Taj symbolizes. Leading off the lofty entrance lobby of the hotel, Bellevue is more intimate in nature, imbued with a dynamic sense of scale. The design approach aims to create a polyrhythmic composition suspended above the ground—this was done to preserve the exquisite Thassos marble and red sandstone flooring in its former state. It also envisions a single, monolithic skin enveloping the ceiling, walls, and columns of the space. Together, these features create a timeless statement akin to the Taj, but vividly different in its aesthetic. Functionally, the spatial interventions of the refurbishment sought to increase the restaurant’s capacity and create greater connections to the outdoors. Seating layouts were reconfigured to accommodate more diners, and openings were punctured into the walls to create separate service entrances. Full-height double-glazed windows were introduced to allow generous daylight into the restaurant, changing interior hues as the day passes. A sliding glass door on the western face now opens out onto an alfresco seating area overlooking the Amarvilas’ landscape and the Taj Mahal beyond its lawns.
The establishing element of Bellevue’s visual identity is its cross vaulted ceiling—inspired from
Mughal architecture, the sixteen feet-high cross vaults merge into flared columns to create a monolithic expression finished in white plaster. Created using prefabricated moulds for precision, the vaults and columns blend a handcrafted approach to building with computational design, resulting in tactile surfaces with subtle undulations. Together with fluted wall panels, prefabricated coves, and handcrafted relief work also articulated in white plaster, it renders the space with a sculpted appearance. The ceiling discreetly houses the lighting fixtures of the restaurant—uplights are concealed at the springing point of the arches and the vault scallops have recessed adjustable downlights. The HVAC registers are also concealed within decorative service grilles, filigreed in patterns evocative of traditional jaali screens. Smart automation
controls allow the services and lighting systems to self-adjust according to external stimuli, maintaining optimum levels of occupant comfort. The seamless composition of the vaulted ceiling is interrupted by Art Nouveau-inspired aged brass chandeliers designed in collaboration with Mandala, the project’s lighting consultant. Incorporating recessed downlights with lamps, the chandeliers create pools of light over table tops while lighting up the restaurant in a subtle, ambient glow. The chandeliers and the sculptural ceiling become the defining elements of the minimal space, with windows framing the Taj on one end and a royal blue wall embellished with a hand-painted gold leaf mural on the other. Thus, a dramatic yet sophisticated spatial experience is created using a very limited material palette.
Bespoke furniture continues this visual narrative, animating the pristine skin of the restaurant. The royal blue accent wall creates directional hierarchy in the space, with its gold mural and a pizza oven with beaten antique brass cladding. Square and circular tables made in oak wood and finished in open-grain French polish comprise a large portion of the restaurant’s decor, with sculpted flutes on the base and veneer-brass embellishments on the tabletops. Juxtaposed with Gio Ponti-inspired rattan chairs and teak banquettes upholstered in royal blue velvet, the seating clusters are oriented towards the restaurant’s interior, allowing the Taj to form a backdrop to the conversations and experiences occurring at the tables.
The buffet counters and service stations of the restaurant have been designed as monolithic blocks of colour, clad in back-painted curved glass panels with laser-engraved motifs. A teak credenza stands across the main entrance, topped with a brass-framed, pleated fabric partition for privacy and sound control. Mirrors placed at the end of a series of cross vaults add depth to the space and reflect the rhythmic perspective of the ceiling.
In addition to its pre-existing program, the restaurant now boasts an alfresco seating area for open-air dining during favourable weather. The outdoor furniture features chairs with antique brass frames and teal upholstery and vibrant, Mughal-inspired canopies. Instead of being a temporal space with obtrusive and ephemeral elements, Bellevue at the Oberoi Amarvilas is imbued with timeless qualities, expressing a contemporary visual language that stands in understated contrast with its surroundings. Creating a memorable dining experience for every guest who sets foot inside, Bellevue defines a distinctive image for Oberoi’s award-winning property, blending the essence of its coveted location with a redefined standard of luxury.