by Jerry ElengicalFeb 28, 2023
Representing the pinnacle of luxury living in India’s National Capital Region (NCR), the new DLF Camellias residential development is the Delhi-based real estate developer’s latest venture into high-end living, following their earlier endeavours with the Aralias and Magnolias properties. Nestled in the DLF Phase 5 Golf Links in the heart of Gurugram, this rich landscape of soaring residential towers and lush vegetation is the first residential development in India to obtain a LEED Platinum certification from the US Green Building Council. Continuing his long standing association with DLF, Mumbai-based architect Hafeez Contractor was the chief designer enlisted to realise the organisation’s bold vision, bringing his wealth of expertise within the arena of large-scale housing projects to the table. Reflecting on his involvement, Contractor describes the Camellias in an official release as “a product that is undoubtedly one of the best in the world.” Named for one of Asia’s most captivating flowering plants, the development is blessed with breathtaking views of the DLF Golf & Country Club, which blends into the vast expanses of the Aravalli forests nearby. Spread out over an immense stretch of land ripe with flourishing vegetation, DLF Camellias establishes a new paradigm for urban living, creating a lavish, secluded bubble amid the everyday din and chaos of India’s ‘millennium city’.
The Residences and Lawns
The Camellias comprises 429 residences spread out over nine towers with 4 and 5-BHK units that each occupy an entire floor. Aakash Ohri, Group Executive Director and Chief Business Officer at DLF Home Developers Ltd., comments on the uniqueness of the towers' design in a webinar stating, “These are bungalows stacked on top of one another, offering a lifestyle that only 429 people in India can have. The Camellias integrates the most evolved and sophisticated technology, sustainable practices, facilities, amenities, and services, and is a testament to DLF’s larger vision of having 90 per cent of its portfolio to be LEED certified by the US Green Building Council by 2030.” Intricate lattice patterns in glass-reinforced concrete (GRC) dress the façade designs of the towers, accentuated by subtle lighting and swooping canopies. The porte cochère for each tower boasts an elaborate camellia-shaped water feature preceding ornate lattice work elements that further reference the development’s namesake flower. Warm lighting bathes these zones in a pale golden aura to welcome residents through the bronze cast glass doors, which radiate an air of grandeur. Inside the lobby, crystal pendant chandeliers are suspended from the lofty ceilings - covered in Pama veneer and wallpaper sourced from Italy. White buttery marble from Greece is used on the floors, with borders of grey marble.
The Camellias integrates the most evolved and sophisticated technology, sustainable practices, facilities, amenities, and services, and is a testament to DLF’s larger vision of having 90 per cent of its portfolio to be LEED certified by the US Green Building Council by 2030. – Aakash Ohri
Floor areas within the units range from an estimated 7,350 sq ft to 16,290 sq ft, having been developed with an immaculate eye for detail, utilising resplendent stone, wood, and metal textures sourced from all across the world. Additionally, some of the largest and most sought-after penthouses in the country have been realised as part of the project, including 12 penthouses offering 13,000 sq ft of floor area and two penthouses taking up 16,000 sq ft. High ceilings, column-free spaces, natural light, and ventilation were given precedence throughout the residential design, alongside the segregation of private and communal spaces to aid with easy internal circulation. Large, sweeping balconies extend from the living spaces to overlook the verdant landscape of the nearby golf course.
In keeping with the project’s strong commitment to generate a sustainable community that prioritises the well-being of its inhabitants - particularly in the wake of the global concerns for public health in cities raised by the pandemic, the Camellias features extensive lawns replete with vibrant plant life and water features. According to DLF, over 1200 trees were planted throughout the construction process, along with 16,000 sqm of grass and 22,000 sqm of shrubs that constitute the project’s landscape design. Moreover, an estimated 1000 planters scattered across the complex’s grounds house flowering plants that accompany the project’s horticultural themes. Co-CEO of the SWA Group, Gerdo Aquino, who helmed the project’s landscape design, mentions in an online discussion, “It’s appropriate to talk about nature in a project like this because, with so much green surrounding the outdoor spaces, it really starts to become like an oasis in its context.” He elaborates, “My role in this project was firstly to really understand DLF’s vision for the outdoor spaces in this project, but then also collaborate with the creative group of people involved, and through that collaboration, understand how we can shape the outdoor spaces, make them vibrant, ecological, and sustainable and also create a series of experiences that are varied”.
It’s appropriate to talk about nature in a project like this because, with so much green surrounding the outdoor spaces, it really starts to become like an oasis in its context. – Gerdo Aquino
The Camellias Club
Perhaps the crowning glory of this monument to high-end urban Indian living is the landmark Camellias Club, designed by six world-renowned professionals, whose collective efforts have yielded a truly remarkable space that is said to marry sustainable design with inimitable standards of hospitality and amenities. Leading the group of designers is Shawn Sullivan, a Partner and Studio Leader at the New York-based Rockwell Group, alongside the lighting design talents of Arnold Chan of Isometrix Lighting + Design based in London, The Wright Fit CEO Jay Wright for the fitness centre’s design, Ingo Schweder - Founder of GOCO Hospitality for the spa design, and Co-CEO of the SWA Group Gerdo Aquino, who developed the project’s landscaping. All of them worked in close conjunction with architect Hafeez Contractor in bringing the clubhouse’s design to life. Having set challenging goals for themselves at the outset, the six collaborators strived to develop a solution that would put any premium resort or hospitality design venture across the world to shame. The result, as described by DLF in an official statement, is a “distinctive world in itself,” that separates its uber-affluent residents from the urban landscape beyond its bounds.
Containing 160,000 sq ft of functional area, the Camellias Club is divided into seven energy zones, with each section of the structure housing amenities that correspond to their respective themes. As shared by Aakash Ohri, Group Executive Director and Chief Business Officer at DLF Home Developers Ltd. in a press statement, “We have put together amenities and services that outclass most such clubs anywhere in the world. Fine dining, sports, fitness, relaxation, entertainment, and more – will make the clubhouse a second home for them, an extension of their residences. It has been designed for today’s globe-trotting families and there is something for every age group.”
A 1.3-acre Water Garden serves as a buffer between the residential towers and the structure of the clubhouse, with fan-shaped reflecting pools that host inlaid fibre optic points which light up to create the illusion of a starry sky when seen from the housing units. In a press statement, Gerdo Aquino commented, “We think that water in this project really becomes the heart of the open space design.” Meandering, sloped pathways cut across the blue-glazed tiles of the Water Garden to provide access to the club from the residences. The SWA Group imagined residents interacting with the pool’s design at different levels through the walkways, which create an effect reminiscent of walking along the water at different elevations.
Decorated with plants and shrubbery, the seven roofs of the clubhouse have been arranged to resemble a camellia flower, with petal-shaped skylights. Past the marble-clad entryway, a sculptural bronze-finished spiral staircase forms the main attraction within the grand lobby. A product of innovative structural design, the monolithic RCC structure flows freely throughout its vertical run, supported only from the top and bottom landings. Its serpentine form hosts grey marble treads with brass accent strips and LED lights inlaid within the handrails. The structure’s lower bound extends into a shallow water body finished in Moroccan black stone, while the ceiling above its upper end features a 3D-installation of a camellia.
Shedding light on the intent behind the clubhouse’s design, Shawn Sullivan states in a public discussion, “We decided early on in the design process to find ways of organising this collection and eventually settled on calling them zones of energy. We organised the program in areas and put it together in ways that extend the energy and create an even deeper connection. It isn’t just one place. It’s multiple options that leverage each other to create a stronger experience.” To this end, the clubhouse’s seven zones have been designated as Active (gym), Social (ballroom), Regenerative (indoor pool), Renewed (spa), Creative (screening room that can host live performances), Competitive (sports bar, karaoke), and Relaxed (yoga). Outdoor active areas consist of an all-weather sports field, a mini soccer field, tennis and squash courts, and a plastic-free children’s play area.
We organised the program in areas and put it together in ways that extend the energy and create an even deeper connection. It isn’t just one place. It’s multiple options that leverage each other to create a stronger experience. – Shawn Sullivan
A wide assortment of marble and stone finishes have been implemented throughout the various functional zones, including blue Palisandro stone in the Pan-Asian private dining room, a Lapis Blue marble counter at Intimo - the private dining and party suite, green sukabumi stone from Indonesia lining the outdoor swimming pool, as well as Italian travertine marble and Bianco Cavalli marble in the Vitality pool and 25m heated indoor pool respectively. The entire structure uses over 600 different materials, embodying the grandiose aesthetic and eclectic, variegated experiences the designers sought to imbue into the clubhouse’s design.
Treatment rooms in the 30,000 sq ft spa area open up into sunken private gardens, while the 12,000 sq ft gym area provides a luxury fitness platform inspired by the industrial material palette of raw concrete, white-washed brick, and blackened steel that is typical of similar facilities in New York. The club also accommodates a business centre, a 65-seater movie theatre, a sports bar, a cigar bar, a karaoke space, wine bars, a bakery, and a bowling alley as part of its curated selection of food and beverage spots and recreational zones. Towards the structure’s eastern end, a hand-painted jungle mural decorates the walls of a private dining room, which overlooks the Water Garden. Within the clubhouse's 400-capacity ballroom and banquet hall, white carved stone complements scalloped gold-washed wood panels and champagne-coloured leafing, to create a refined ambience that aligns with the underlying spirit of the Camellias.
The best thing to be seen over here is that a private developer, DLF, has contributed to the city through this intervention. – Hafeez Contractor
While recounting his experiences of working on the project in an online discussion, Hafeez Contractor shares, “I can undoubtedly say that from all of the residential buildings we have worked on throughout India, the Camellias are much better than anything else we have done. The best thing to be seen over here is that a private developer, DLF, has contributed to the city through this intervention.” From Contractor's bold assertion, it can be ascertained that the Camellias' distinctive character as an urban island of thriving greenery, bespoke design, and marble opulence, places it at the vanguard of advancements within the typology of gated communities in India, offering international standards of luxury and supplementing levels of biodiversity within the tumultuous atmosphere of the country's present day urban realm.