CW Interiors |
Luxe Life | January 2013

Breaking the mould

Ranakpur in Rajasthan celebrates the modern take on traditional design at the Mana Hotels property designed by Delhi-based firm Architecture Discipline.

Visualise a hotel in Rajasthan and you are immediately flooded with pictures of gorgeous properties that are either forts or palaces converted into hotels, or brand new hotels that pick up cues from these traditional structures. Breaking this cliché is this breathtaking property at Ranakpur, a small town nestled in the Aravallis between Jodhpur and Udaipur. Contemporary in appearance but vernacular in concept, the Mana Hotels property in Ranakpur, designed by Delhi-based firm Architecture Discipline, is like a breath of fresh air.

Vernacular influence

The property, unorthodox in design, is like a glass house in a jungle. It stands out from its surroundings yet allows one to experience them in the best possible way. Explaining the design of the hotel, Akshat Bhatt, Prinicipal Architect, Architecture Discipline reminisces, "We explored rural settlements within the Udaipur valley, and found that the vernacular setting forms a stoic backdrop against a dramatic change of season, where forests change from lush green to bare and arid. The hills turn red during spring when the Tesu trees come in full bloom. This vernacular setting is a mere canvas that reflects the beauty and harshness of the extreme weather and reflects the colours, and textures of nature through its minimal and strong vocabulary." Reverberating on this idea, is the shell of the hotel, with materials such as stone masonary that reflects the colours of the Tesu trees.

Tradition marries contemporary

At first glance, the hotel seems to be a modern shell exploring the use of glass, steel and concrete with gypsum board and vinyl sheets used to accentuate the countenance of the buildings. Looking closer, the property presents a game of hide-and-seek, blending traditional and modern facets of design.

For a traditional take, there is the stone masonry, sandstone floors and landscape that has obvious roots in Rajasthan. "The jaali patterns in the glass and fabric panels are a hat-tip to tradition," shares Bhatt. The spanning system is made with Kashia stone and sandstone that can span upto three metre. "This is the vernacular method, we have developed using a structural system that allows us to create larger spans using these slabs of stone," he adds. In fact, there's minimal roller-compacted concrete work that has been used in constructing the resort. Concrete has been used only for building the vertical columns and beams, and masonry has been kept to the barest minimum.

The glass used in the property lends a modern look; it allows light into the building and reduces the pressure on artificial lighting. However, it's tricky because it traps heat. To solve this problem, the architects have used multiple layers of glass to generate draughts of air and to filter sunlight. The minimal heat transmitted through the glass is used to induce the displacement ventilation system.

Contributing to the environment

All efforts are focused towards making the building as sustainable as possible. Extensive use of glass reduces the need for artificial lighting during daytime, and during the night the landscape is lit with borrowed light from the cottages and hotel buildings. The landscape is irrigated with grey water from the sewage treatment plant; trees selected for planting are local, hardy varieties that do not require too much water.

The most significant of all sustainability measures used here is the HVAC system. Conventional air-conditioning systems consume 40 per cent of the energy used in a building. For this property, the architects have developed and implemented a system that uses earth cooling, thermal storage and displacement ventilation to reduce energy consumption. It also ensures better indoor air quality. Several materials that were unearthed while excavating the foundation of the resort have been reused and not a single tree was cut while developing this property.

Design within

Moving indoors, one is not isolated from the outdoors and the shell. As you walk through hotel, the structural system and construction techniques are expressed clearly, (in contrast to conventional practice wherein most internal surfaces are concealed by cladding, plaster etc). The steel joists that hold up the Kashia slabs are visible within the guest rooms, the main load bearing wall of the hotel cuts through the corridor on one side, contrasting with fabric panels on the other side. The furniture was designed to reflect the environmental concerns of the hotel and the linen mimics the perforated patterns in colour. An unusual design for a Rajasthani hotel, this property clearly celebrates architecture instead of mimicking it.

Meet the designer: Akshat Bhatt

Firm: Architecture Discipline, founded in 2007.
Firm specialisation: Architecture and interior design, sustainable practices, cost-effective architecture, building technology, design within and outside the metropolis, product design.
Design philosophy: The quest for tradition is a myth, our identity lies before us.
Favourite architect/Designer: CLaurie Baker and Renzo Piano.

Total Area: 65,000 sq ft
Total Cost: Rs 14.5 crore


Architectural: Architecture Discipline team: Akshat Bhatt, Sneha Gurjar, Nidhi Khosla, Stuti Sahni and Debbayoti Dey.
Structural Engineers: Isha Consultants: Project lead: V P.Aggarwal
Electrical Engineers: Lirio Lopez: Project lead: Linus Lopez
HVAC Engineers: Gupta Consultants & Associates: Project lead: Nirmal C Gupta
Plumbing Engineers: Deepak Kumar & Associates: Project lead: Deepak Kumar
Landscape Design: Plan Loci: Project Lead Gauri Gandhi
Furniture Design: Architecture Discipline / Produced by: Ahuja Furnishers
Lighting Design: Rahul Singh and Akshat Bhatt / Produced by: Decon Lighting
Acoustics Engineering: Viren Bakhshi and Akshat Bhatt

Text: Sumisha Arora


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