Architect Rajeev Agarwal designs a picturesque holiday destination amidst profusion of lush greenery, lakes and mountains for Gateway Resorts Damdama Gurgaon
One thing that all city dwellers dream of is the escape from the city humdrum and into the arms of nature, a whiff of pure air and perhaps, solitude. Add all of the above plus a stunning view of the Aravalli Range and Damdama Lake, and you have The Gateway Resort, Damdama Lake, Gurgaon. Designed across a land parcel of 20 acres, the resort, set amidst a scenic destination, is rich in captivating and functional design.
The site was originally a botanical park; on conducting a ‘horticulture survey’ of the land, 1,790 full-grown trees of varying heights and girths were documented. The primary design decision was to retain the full-grown trees at site and evolve an architectural, interior and landscape design which would be planned around these.
“The clients desired a resort that would be something akin ‘a walk in the park’,” states Ar. Rajeev Agarwal, Principal Architect of his eponymous firm. Working along the brief, Agarwal and his team set to demarcate the main building and created villas that are scattered in apparent random pattern but are located within the interstitial spaces between thick plantations. The rooms are organized in segmented ‘villas’, four rooms to a villa.
The main building is fragmented and interspersed with existing tree cover. ‘The guest is made to wander through the resort alternately moving between interior and exterior spaces, thus, always maintaining a connection with the landscaped outdoors,’ avers Agarwal. The interior spaces are separated from the outdoor courtyards (with existing trees) by large sheets of glass.
Pre-engineered to perfection
A study of the site indicated that the mountains were hard and rocky while the soil had a sandy, grainy texture with very high pH. The architects could not directly set up the resort on site since that would require quarrying and damaging the environment. So they resorted to manufacturing pre-engineered framework in the factory and then transporting and later erecting it on the site, thus minimizing the site level wet work, helping preserve the existing plantation. Steel was shortlisted as a structural system for framework as it has slimmer sections, lighter structure and consequently smaller foundation footprints.
The structural steel has been simply painted and juxtaposed next to rough stone cladding or random rubble stone masonry from nearby quarries. The team has taken efforts in using materials in their natural, raw and ‘unprocessed’ form for construction finishing. Raw, quarried Jodhpur stone are used for the exterior finishing, whereas the landscape walls are made with local Delhi quartzite random rubble stone masonry. Throughout the resort, various sandstones and lime-stones are used for flooring and wall cladding, with their natural textures intact.
The courtyards are punctuated with the presence of existing beautiful green trees lining the entrance to the resort. These courtyards are enclosed in clear-frameless glass to get an uninterrupted indoor-outdoor connection. The construction of the hotel poses little constructional intervention in the existing landscape.
The external landscape serves to form an extension of the enclosed interior spaces and largely influences the interior design. The interiors are separated from scenic outdoors by large sheets of glass. The green hills and the lake serve to be an intrinsic part of the design and the architects were resolute in assimilating these strong, nature-inspired elements within the spaces to celebrate the theme of nature.
A large suspended light installation in the 9-meter high cube-shaped reception is symbolic of a banyan tree. The F&B areas are subdivided by a doubly curved partition inspired by the geometry of the snail and profile of tree branches covering a pathway resulting in a multi-dimensional element. Water reflections and ripples inspire the pre-function lobby ceiling and banquet carpets respectively.
Beautiful upcycled art elements line the walls of the resort; these artworks were commissioned during the construction phase to empower local artisans and to encourage beautification through recycling. Serving as conversation pieces, scrap metal sculptures, waste material collages and craft panels from all parts of India were used to reinforce the nature-inspired theme of the resort.
The larger-than-life scrap metal sculptures are strategically placed throughout the landscape, reminiscent of the village life that once existed. The natural flora and fauna are recreated in some sections to bring the nature indoors. The ‘objet trouvé’ or ‘found object’ collages are used along the walls in public spaces which are reflective of the eco-friendly theme while large appliqué panels in myriad colours and forms –hand-crafted by rural women – are seen suspended in the reception lobby.
Fundamentally, all the rooms in the resort display four defined art-and-craft forms namely, Kalamkari, Gond, Mata-ni-Pachedi and Phad. All of these are hand-painted on fabric using either mineral and stone colours or vegetable dyes. Even Warli inspired graphics are hand-carved on rough stone obelisks to create rustic looking signage in the hotel.
Ethnic and natural, the picturesque Gateway Resort Damdama Lake integrates the nature’s magnificent beauty into its very element of design.
Design Team: Rajeev Agarwal, Nisha Badri, Nitika Agarwal, Retheesh, SaundaryaMehtani
Area: Land – 20 acres, Built up: 100,000 sq ft
Project Cost: Over Rs 100 crore
Photo Courtesy: Kedar Malegaonkar, Dioxide Photography
Rajeev Agarwal, Architect
J – 1963, C R Park
New Delhi 110019