Inspired by the sun, sand and the best of Rajputana traditions, Suryagarh weaves magic into its design by Architect Ravi Kumar Gupta and renowned fashion designer Raghvendra Rathore.
Suryagarh, a hotel in Jaisalmer, oozes old-world charm from every nook and cranny. Such is the finesse of its detail and faithfulness to the period’s architecture that it comes as a surprise to learn that the structure has been built from scratch in recent times. The hotel has become something of a landmark in the city – a new structure whose spaces are designed to celebrate the glory of the Suryavanshi Rajputs.
Suryagarh draws its inspiration from the majestic Sonaar Fort (Jaisalmer Fort), and to this end it makes the most of the natural elements it basks in – the sun and the stark desert landscape. “The earthy colour palette follows a ‘back-to-the- asics’ theme and is brought alive by materials chosen for their richness and authenticity,” says Manvendra Singh Sekhawat, Managing Director, Suryagarh, and a member of the design team. Architect Ravi Kumar Gupta adds, “We endeavoured to use local yellow Jaisalmer stone to create a simile with the majestic Jaisalmer Fort, from which Suryagarh draws its inspiration.”
Speaking about its layout, Gupta says, “Private rooms of the property look out onto the desert while corridors running by the manicured green central courtyard offer residents some respite from the undulating sandy terrain. The drive leading into the property slopes upwards; the structure was purposely elevated to replicate the nostalgic feeling of driving into an ancient fort.”
The grand reception makes a statement by using darker shades of the earthy colour palette. Brownish water paint was applied with a jute cloth to render the space an aged texture. Carefully chosen paintings, original copies of old stamp papers, and period teak furniture accentuates the old-world look.
The ceiling is possibly the most dramatic element of the reception, conceptualised by designer Raghavendra Rathore. “We arranged sixty four box-shaped light pieces – each made of pieces of sheesham wood intricately carved in jaali-style, covered with an acrylic sheet and tightly wrapped over with jute cloth – in a reverse pyramid order to look like a large chandelier,” says Rathore. Velvet tassels hang from the edges of the boxes.
The dark tones of the walls and ceiling contrast beautifully with the white makrana marble flooring. The flamboyant centre piece – a fountain intricately hand-carved from three big blocks of white marble – accentuates the white spread.
Brownish hues continue through to the waiting lounge where they are complemented by teak wood flooring, the wood having been reclaimed from old ceilings of havelis and mills in Mumbai. Here, the walls display the armour of Rajput kings while shlokas (religious sayings) inscribed on the walls add a unique touch.
Raising the Bar
Draksh, the bar, celebrates elements of the desert landscape – an oasis, the sun beating down upon golden ochre sands and the endless expanses. The display counter depicts an artistic impression of a local tribesman, created by blowing up an actual photograph, which was then traced on and carved out of sheesham wood and painted in gold.
The onyx facing of the bar counter is laid out in a snappy symmetrical pattern and lit up with high-powered LEDs. “Terrazzo flooring was chosen for its authenticity – it’s used in older buildings in the area, not without reason – the lime in it helps keep spaces cool,” shares Rathore. An imprint of the sun bears down upon the seating area of the bar while a procession of camels painted on the golden highlight wall at the far end of the space completes the detailing.
The billiards and cards room, Taash, is inspired by the woody flavour of colonial clubs. Wood panelling on the walls and teak wood flooring laid out in an intricate design lend the space a warm feeling. Contrast comes from the section of the floor in dark Emperador marble and the beige tones of the ceiling - this dark centre of the room and the touch of light above also help bring out the length of the room. Two small chandeliers over the billiards table complete the décor.
Suryagarh’s signature Jaisalmer suites offer a panoramic view of the desert, both from the room and from the plunge pool on their private terrace. The bed and lounge area are separated by jaalis made of intricately hand-cut sandstone. “We also used Jaisalmer moondri stone in an innovative manner - to create a self-on-self pattern on the floor,” adds Gupta. The furnishings in the seating area at the window showcase the famous taanka work done by local artisans.
The gymnasium, done up in brown and burnt orange (geru), is inspired by traditional Indian akharas or wrestling rings. Two mudgals (exercise tools) tied with a saffron cloth are placed in the central sand-filled depression symbolising a wrestling ring. The murals depicting wrestlers, which adorn the pillars, were created using a two-step process - graphics were first digitally generated and then hand painted by artists from Jaipur.
“Spotless Jaisalmer sandstone flooring skating through the corridors is one of several design features and materials used to create a sense of homogeneity between the public service areas and the rooms,” says Gupta. Intricate traditional jaalis is another such unifying element seen here.
The theme is carried forward with artefacts and priceless antiques like old doors, weapons, antique locks and paintings and stone pillars, all sourced from rundown havelis in the Shekhawati, Marwar and Mewar region. Sheesham wood furniture and fixtures dotting public and private areas is another binding factor.
Attention to detail
The finer aspects of design have been paid a lot of attention. For instance, traditional block printing techniques were used to create gold motifs on focus walls in bedrooms. Furnishings in rich silk velvet and raw silk are fittingly opulent. The same attention to detail is seen in the brass installations on one of the walls of Neel, the indoor swimming pool. For this feature wall, images of the monsoon and peacocks were laser cut on sixteen gauge brass sheets and pressed against foam-backed rich turquoise cloth.
Splash of Style
Light and dark 4 x 4 inch tiles, similar to those used in swimming pools constructed during the British Raj, create a vibrant pattern on the floor of the swimming pool. “The element of fire has been pitted against water since times immemorial - this inspired the positioning of rustic cast iron candle stands on the walls of the space, which also create beautiful patterns on the ceiling when lit,” shares Rathore.
Truly, Suryagarh showcases the best of Rajputana – its traditions and techniques, materials and artisans skills.
Ravi Kumar Gupta
- Firm: Ravi Kumar Gupta founded in May 1974
- Firm specialisation: Heritage properties and traditional architecture.
- Design philosophy: Honest expressions are the best creation.
- Philosophy towards life: Do unto others as you would like others to do unto you.
- Favourite architect : Amongst Indian architects I admire Achyut P Kanvinde and amongst international, its Frank Lloyd Wright.
Text: Charu Bahri
Photos: Charudutt Chitrak
Architect: Ravi Kumar Gupta, Jaipur, Tel: 0141 2360825, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Interiors: Ravi Kumar Gupta, Jaipur.
Aparna Kakrania, Design Dimensions, New Delhi. Tel: 011 29212517, 011 29228689. E-mail: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Raghvendra Rathore, Rathore Studio, Jodhpur. Tel.0124 44385917. E-mail: email@example.com
Manvendra Singh Shekhawat, Managing Director, Suryagarh. Tel: 02992 269269. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org