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The Dasavatara Hotel
 

Hospitality I Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh

Area 1.15 Lakh Sq. ft

Status Completed 2015

Photographer Rajesh Vora, Himanshuu Sheth

Team Shimul Javeri Kadri, Sarika Shetty, Michelle Pereira

Located in the serene suburbs of Tirupati in the foothills of the Saptagiri range, the Dasavatara Hotel is one of the very few projects in the country that strikingly takes after the Hindu Temple design in organization and experience.

Nestled in the foothills of Saptagiri hills, the 121 key boutique Dasavatara Hotel is an ode to the restful experience of divinity. Set on a 13150 sq.m site, the hospitality project’s planning responded to the serene vistas through a progression of public to private spaces. The design strategy of using local materials in a contemporary way helped redefine a conventional pilgrimage-based hotel into a contemporary, comfortable cultural destination. A central water body, overlooking which residential, leisure and restaurant functions are located, infuses life and vibrancy in the experience. The use of local stone cladding and touches of traditional craft creates relationships with the local, while using clean lines and uncluttered edge details. Dasavatara’s uniqueness also lies in the material storytelling of its interior spaces, drawn from spirituality, mythology and symbolism. Rich traditional crafts of India offer myriad expressions, which have been amalgamated across the hotel in functional and contemporary ways. 

Tirumala - the sacred abode of Lord Vishnu

The boutique property is soaked in an understated elegance, abound with a tranquil waterbody and hints of mythological elements throughout its spaces. 

The Tirupati temple is a highly venerated, wealthiest temple in India. Tirumala is considered to be the sacred abode of Lord Vishnu, one of the three supreme deities in the Hindu Trinity. The region is sacred and integral to the faith, with a steady footfall of over 20 million devotees annually.  The Dasavatara Hotel is a 121 key boutique hotel, set on a 13150 Sq.m site amidst the lush hills around Tirumala. The orthogonal site plan with the foothills towards the north, led to a schematic planning of spaces, moving from the public to private along this axis.  
 

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The Dasavatara Hotel in essence, is designed as a meaningful, progressive and effortlessly luxurious stay to return to, blessed by the presence of divine surroundings.

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A contemporary and comfortable cultural destination

Within this context, the hotel was envisioned as a place of rest and retreat for pilgrims, temple-visitors and discerning business travelers with an affinity for leisure and temple visits. The brief also extended into accommodating wedding celebrations in the auspicious vicinity of the temple-town. As a context-driven response to the client brief, the design strategy redefined the concept of a conventional pilgrimage-based hotel into a contemporary and comfortable cultural destination. Informed decisions regarding the hotel’s overall plan and use of resources helped elevate its status and ratings in a positive way.

Design programme

The design programme encompasses Guests rooms & Suites, Banqueting facilities, a Business centre,a Health centre with a Spa, Gym, a Games room, a Swimming pool and 2 specialty Restaurants. All public and social functions are located on the ground level, for easy unhindered access as well as granting privacy to the guest rooms.The site planning emerged as a response to the spectacular views of the hills in the north, where the multi-storey residential block was placed. The five-storey residential block overlooks the central court with a serene waterbody and amenity buildings, while offering views of the hills from the rooms on the other side. The service core towards the eastern edge conceals adjoining buildings, while public amenities and spacious corridors invite guests in along the south-west. The central presence of a vibrant all-day dining restaurant infuses life in the plan. As a conscious design decision, most public and transition spaces are kept un-air-conditioned and open to the elements, further reducing the hotel’s environmental footprint. The inward looking layout, traversed by open corridors brings a sense of ease and slowness while walking across, open to soft evening breeze and summer light. The central waterbody forms the spatial and experiential soul of the hotel, creating a relaxed, tranquil ambience.

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The central waterbody forms the spatial and experiential soul of the hotel, creating a relaxed, tranquil ambience.  

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Material storytelling of the spaces, drawn from spirituality and symbolism

Apart from the expansive spatial layout, the hotel’s uniqueness lies in the material storytelling of its spaces, drawn from spirituality, mythology and symbolism. Structural and interior elements are highlighted through a minimal yet impactful palette of black and gold, representing the all pervading black and gold of the Tirupati idol. The materiality of concrete and steel, punctuated by glass and handcrafted interior elements all together point towards a contemporary yet rooted way of composing spaces. Moreover, visual lightness is an important design consideration, made apparent through the minimal edge details of the seemingly ‘floating’ corridors and the Lotus Cafe. Structural columns along the open corridors are made of black painted steel, strategically illuminated in warm hues to further accentuate the sense of weightlessness. The thin concrete roof slab over the walkways too is optimally designed as an unimposing, structurally light covering, further accentuated by reflections in the waterbody. The interface between the waterbody and built spaces are clean, minimal yet allow for infinite reflections. The central restaurant, the ‘Lotus Cafe’, with a composite geometric folded plate roof appears to sit lightly on the waterbody. From the ground level, the restaurant's undulating roof is experienced as an exercise in abstraction, in conversation with the surrounding hills in a unique, contemporary way. The custom-designed roof-details, composed of corrugated metal sheeting, plywood and ferrocement layers are a design innovation for the project. The central restaurant, the ‘Lotus Cafe’, with a composite geometric folded plate roof appears to sit lightly on the waterbody. From the ground level, the restaurant's undulating roof is experienced as an exercise in abstraction, in conversation with the surrounding hills in a unique, contemporary way. The custom-designed roof-details, composed of corrugated metal sheeting, plywood and ferrocement layers are a design innovation for the project. The storeyed residential block is designed in concrete, with terraces mirroring the profile of surrounding hills and also of lofty temple gateways or gopurams. Apart from the ground level, all upper floors have rooms on either side, allowing for courtyard views or hill views. To facilitate seamless glazing, the windows are recessed within the grid of the elevation, also doubling up as weather protection during rain. Within the facade, gold-speckles in the black material too take the references to the primary color palette forward. The simple, clean stacking of the rooms in the residential block almost ‘steps back’ from the other parts of the hotel, creating a restful visual balance for first time guests.

Mythological underpinnings

Emerging from a deep study of Hindu mythology, each spatial zone in the hotel is conceptualized as per the essence and attributes of ‘Dasavatara’ or the 10 avatars of Lord Vishnu. Each space, in thought, form and function is imagined to hold the qualities of each evolving incarnation of the divine; spanning across references to water. The significance of this concept lies in its relatability to devout guests and in defining the aesthetic and functional value of each spatial zone. Levels of privacy, from the intimate to the public are also subtly demarcated through these spatial ‘avatars’ or incarnations.These avatars also represent the evolution of humankind and each embodies character, stories, colour and emotion. The interiors of all the public spaces have been designed to represent an avatar, replete with character, colour and symbolism. For instance, the business centre, home for intellectual deliberations is ‘Vamana’, or the social rooms are embodied by a reference to ‘Rama’ - the sociable man. The reception, from where the guests’ transformative journey begins is referred to as ‘Kurma’ or tortoise, and spaces to enhance one’s physical prowess, like the fitness centre, are ‘Parsurama’ or the great warrior. A haven of peace and spiritualism, the ‘Buddha’ spa is a space for rejuvenation and calm, possibly enjoyed in smaller groups. The ‘Krishna’ restaurant takes on a vibrant, playful hue, much like the versatile and ever-loved deity. These spatial archetypes together also inform the hotel’s special wayfinding and orientation journey, each rendered in their own material and craft palette, replete with elements of tactility and visual wonder.

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The Dasavatara Hotel in essence, is designed as a meaningful, progressive and effortlessly luxurious stay to return to, blessed by the presence of divine surroundings.

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Crafting the interiors 

Aligning with the concept of ‘Dasavatara’, the interior and experiential language of this hospitality design is taken forward through the use of local crafts. The use of traditional crafts to create functional, contemporary elements of utility, beauty and value-addition has rendered a unique, relatable way of making the hotel memorable for guests. The rich traditional crafts of India offer myriad expressions, which have been amalgamated across the hotel. Craft forms such as kalamkari from srikalahasti, bidri work on murals and dokra, or metal casting using the lost-wax technique have been commissioned through a collaborative craft-design model. From the tactility of door handles in dokra craft, to the subtle sheen of bidri work on walls, various crafts have come together as part of the collaborative craft-design language. In more thematic spaces, such as the ‘Krishna’ restaurant, craft takes on a more holistic, innovative approach. For instance, lighting fixtures are custom-crafted using Lord Krishna’s flutes – or entire walls become playful backdrops using elements from the mythological story. As part of the complete design treatment of the space, specific colour schemes also enhance the spatial narrative, set forth by the special craft elements used. 

The all-pervading position of the worship of Lord Balaji (or Lord Vishnu) in this temple town pointed us towards an environment that embodies the classical elements of temple architecture - the orthogonal, introverted Hindu temple plan. The need to express both divinity and serenity after the overwhelming experience of gaining a glimpse of the Lord also guided this design. These ideas have been refined & distilled into a contemporary building with a central open courtyard and a water body, within which “floats” the all-day dining space – ‘The Lotus Café’, envisioned as a lotus in the pond. This central water body forms the core of the hotel, both spatially & experientially. Simplicity and divinity are the core values this building stands for whereas the interiors draw on craft, mythology and symbolism to weave a story that one encounters throughout the project.

 

Prix Versailles Special Prize 2
For The Dasavatara Hotel

Prix Versailles 2016
For Lotus Cafe