Wooden cabins at the Cardamom Club in Kerala float on a sea of green
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Wooden cabins at the Cardamom Club in Kerala float on a sea of green

Designed by Bengaluru-based firm Kumar La Noce, the Cardamom Club offers scenic views of the hillside landscape, with the built-up structures adapting to natural environments.

by Meghna Mehta Oct 14, 2019

The Cardamom Club, designed by Bengaluru-based architecture firm Kumar La Noce, is a project set in a steep terrain where the building attempts to almost stand aloof in a natural setting while respecting its fellow accompaniments - the trees and the plantations. Located amid expansive active cardamom plantations in Thekkady in the state of Kerala, a set of immaculately designed cabins - by principal architects Bhavana Kumar and Nicola La Noce - nestle within a sea of green.

Discussing the initial ideas and brief, Kumar and La Noce mentioned, “There was an existing set of rooms with a basic reception structure, and three existing cottages in traditional style. For the new additions to the club, we wanted to keep it raw and fresh, placing the objects in the landscape as gently and carefully as possible, replacing the traditional with something more contemporary that would enhance the wonderful surroundings.”

  • The cabins surrounded by trees and cardamom plantations | Cardomom Club| Kumar La Noce | Kerala | India | STIRworld
    The cabins surrounded by trees and cardamom plantations Image Credit: Courtesy of Kumar La Noce
  • Exterior deck of the cabin | Cardomom Club| Kumar La Noce | Kerala | India | STIRworld
    Exterior deck of the cabin Image Credit: Vivek Muthuramalingam

Responding to the brief as proposed by boutique resort company Niraamaya Retreats, the club added five independent cabins, an outdoor pool with adjacent stepped decks, and a spa block. The entire club has been divided into three inter-connected volumes that are spread organically across the site, based on the open areas that were left untouched so as to not damage any vegetation.

Kumar further explained the idea that went behind designing the club, “We created a basic masterplan and went to visit the site with it. (While) addressing the conditions on the site we realised the minute differences on paper, and then made multiple changes to heights and locations that would capture the best views and intervene with the landscape as minimally as possible.”

  • Cardamom Club – The Masterplan | Cardomom Club| Kumar La Noce | Kerala | India | STIRworld
    Cardamom Club – The Masterplan Image Credit: Courtesy of Kumar La Noce
  • Plan - Spa and pool area | Cardomom Club| Kumar La Noce | Kerala | India | STIRworld
    Plan - Spa and pool area Image Credit: Courtesy of Kumar La Noce
  • Plan – cabins | Cardomom Club| Kumar La Noce | Kerala | India | STIRworld
    Plan - cabins Image Credit: Courtesy of Kumar La Noce
  • Elevation of cabin | Cardomom Club| Kumar La Noce | Kerala | India | STIRworld
    Elevation of cabin Image Credit: Courtesy of Kumar La Noce

Responding to and respecting the green natural surroundings was the primary intention throughout the design and the execution of the entire project. All the cabins have been raised on stilts to make one feel as if the buildings are floating on a sea of green. One may also interpret the idea of the cabins acting as sailing ships being reflected here. This metaphor has been replicated in multiple ways. Large angular decks have been provided to each of the structures to make sure that the rainwater does not enter inside. The ‘porthole’ windows in the shower areas add to the nautical feel and frame the views beyond. This may be a subconscious reflection of the designers towards creating the ‘floating’ effect they have mentioned.

  • View from the large decks | Cardomom Club| Kumar La Noce | Kerala | India | STIRworld
    View from the large decks Image Credit: Courtesy of Kumar La Noce
  • Night view of the cabin with the ‘porthole’ windows in the shower area | Cardomom Club| Kumar La Noche | Kerala | India | STIRworld
    Night view of the cabin with the ‘porthole’ windows in the shower area Image Credit: Vivek Muthuramalingam

Each of the 40-sqm cabins feature floor-to-ceiling wood framed openings, designed to enhance the impact of the dramatic views while ensuring privacy between the units. The cabins open out to generous decks to embrace and experience the feeling of belonging to the surrounding plantation. 

“It was our constant effort to create an ‘element of positive’ through the façade and exterior of the cabins. The windows are created using a grid of large and small openings. In our intention to make the cabins as open as possible, the openings are customisable and can be opened or closed as per the weather and requirement,” explained La Noce.

  • Nature has been incorporated with utmost attention to detail | Cardomom Club| Kumar La Noce | Kerala | India | STIRworld
    Nature has been incorporated with utmost attention to detail Image Credit: Courtesy of Kumar La Noce
  • The architecture camouflages with the surrounding | Cardomom Club| Kumar La Noce | Kerala | India | STIRworld
    The architecture camouflages with the surrounding Image Credit: Vivek Muthuramalingam

Going by the philosophy of the resort to use indigenous elements, cook traditional food, and adapt and enhance the home-grown culture, the architecture also brings in these local essentials through its design and interiors. They are crafted primarily out of rich red hardwood, sourced from sustainably managed plantations. The inspiration comes from quaint shops and structures dotting the plantation landscape surrounding the property, which feature framed glass enclosures and simple wooden furnishing.

The interiors are minimal yet sophisticated, keeping the focus on the dramatic setting. Hand-crafted teak wood, rattan furniture, and rice paper light fixtures complement the rich wood panelled surfaces. The structures are envisioned as light and elegant floating volumes in order to not disturb the natural harmony. The en-suite bathroom is compact and raw, with locally sourced black granite counters.

  • View of the spa and pool area overlooking the valley | Cardomom Club| Kumar La Noce | Kerala | India | STIRworld
    View of the spa and pool area overlooking the valley Image Credit: Salim Pushpanath
  • Windows that can be used as per the requirements | Cardomom Club| Kumar La Noce | Kerala | India | STIRworld
    Windows that can be used as per the requirements Image Credit: Vivek Muthuramalingam

“We strongly wished to bring about the experience of the plantation being a seamless extension of the architectural landscape. The overall design has been an exercise in balancing luxury and elegance with quietness and restraint,” concludes Kumar.

This project sets an example of how architecture - primarily a shelter for human existence - must respect nature and exist with its context in subtlety. Here it has been done with utmost elegance by creating metaphors of the structures we adapt to, in varied natural terrains.

  • External façade of the cabin extending out to the deck | Cardomom Club| Kumar La Noche | Kerala | India | STIRworld
    External façade of the cabin extending out to the deck Image Credit: Vivek Muthuramalingam
  • External façade of the cabin extending out to the deck | Cardomom Club| Kumar La Noche | Kerala | India | STIRworld
    External façade of the cabin extending out to the deck Image Credit: Vivek Muthuramalingam

Project Details

Name of the project: Cardamom Club
Location: Thekkady, Kerala, India
Year: 2017
Architect: Kumar La Noce
Lead architects:  Bhavana Kumar, Nicola La Noce
Gross built-up area: 500 sqm
Structural consultant: Manjunath & Co
Landscape consultant: Earthline Consultants

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About Author

Meghna Mehta

Meghna Mehta

An architect by education and a journalist by passion, Mehta pursued a crossroad between her two interests. Having completed an M.Arch from CEPT University in Ahmedabad, she has worked in the field of architectural journalism for over 5 years. Besides content generation for STIR, she continues to teach in architectural schools in Mumbai.

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