"This project presented us with an opportunity to create a model for development that is as much about cultural sustainability, and the focus then was not merely inclusivity, but rather celebration of the context,” says the architects of the Pune-based firm, PMA madhushala, whose design of a boutique resort in the hilly terrain of Maharashtra’s Maval region is an alluring nod to its context.
“The client,” they add, “originally from Maval, chose to return with a business model that would also create livelihood opportunities and stimulate the local economy.” Their idea was to intervene in the context, which despite being populated by a scenic landscape and a series of man-made lakes that serve water and hydroelectricity to urban areas, remains fairly remote and inadequate in terms of basic facilities.
The architects’ vision went beyond just developing a hospitality programme with contemporary amenities as it involved a conscious response to the site's social, regional, and environmental concerns. Located on a slope along the backwaters of a lake, only half of the 30-acre property has been developed, with the resort facilities being restricted to 16 percent of the area, 10 percent for rainwater harvesting and power generation, and 23 percent for reforestation.
The resort's architectural form is reminiscent to the imagery of historic citadels with a series of eight intersecting walls that define public and private spaces. The 5600 sqm retreat has been realised as an interweaving of enclosed, semi-open and open public spaces that depict a unique character in the most natural way. The zoning of the new spaces either contain or reveal views of the abundant existing trees and natural waterways dotted in and around the landscape.
Visitors enter the site via an access road that runs alongside a kund (stepped reservoir).
A pramukh dwar (ceremonial gateway) leads them to the reception area where an experiential connection between the public and private zone is formed through a narrow, gently elevated and introverted lane. The lane opens onto the restaurant’s main deck – the heart of the retreat – anchored beautifully with views towards the nearby Thokarwadi Dam.
The residential zone is composed of Aamrai and Tarangan. The former is a series of four multi-level suites that sit in a mango orchard, while the latter includes six cantilevered cottages overlooking a grove frequented by fireflies. Spaces within Aamrai suites are connected to one or more inward looking courtyards that make room for a more intimate sojourn amid the greens.
Other spaces include a health club and spa that opens onto the forest, and a pool that traverses organically through the clusters of trees, culminating into an infinity edge on the east.
The fact that much of the building material was sourced from around the site, speaks volume for the resort’s rich aesthetics. Stones extracted from neighbouring water bodies are employed in an array of vernacular techniques that range from dry pack and dressed masonry to composite boulder concrete. Objects such as stone light fittings were sourced from artisans from nearby villages, giving boost to the local craftsmanship.
“The walled campus lends its periphery to various elements of traditional public spaces that facilitate interactions and transactions between visitors and the local community,” says the architects. Other than the kund, the site is flanked by a bazaar (traditional shopping street) with workshop programmes for the artisans, an orchard that doubles as a weekly farmers’ market, and a multi-purpose hall to host conferences and informal gatherings.
The project lead by architect Prasanna Morey seeks to highlight regional identities and traditional wisdom in the face of common global expressions where rigid concrete buildings are unfortunately the reality today.
Name of the project: Kondan - The Retreat
Location: Maval, Pune, Maharashtra
Client: Green Resorts Developers
Site area: 20000 sqm
Built-up area: 5600 sqm
Architect: PMA madhushala
Design Team: Prasanna Morey, Gaurav Bhangre, Sanjay Verma
Time taken for completion: 48 Months
Structural engineer: Subduction Zone Engineers
Contractors & civil work: Narayan Tandale
Electrical consultants: Ravindra Bomble
Pool consultant: Veeke Pools N Spa