Back in 2010, when New Delhi was all set to host the Commonwealth Games, the central government chose to respond to the city’s shortage of hotel room accommodation by employing the ‘Urban Motelling Policy’. The policy stated that those with farmland in Delhi on a main road could build a hotel, however regulations were put in place to ensure that very little volume could be built on this land so that these farmlands could retain their green character.
Morphogenesis, one of the top architecture firms in India, and they came up with The Urban Resorts project, for a luxurious hotel with 100 rooms. A typical hotel of this nature would require 1,00,000 to 1,50,000 sq ft of built up area, so the regulatory constraint limiting the built up area to 40,000 sq ft required an incredibly innovative design approach.
The firm’s approach here was to create ‘negative architecture’, where the distinct line been landscape boundaries and the built form would be blurred. The intent was to clearly allow for the building be subsumed within the landscape. In order to do so key strategies were developed to segregate private and semi-private spaces, within a budget hospitality complex. The project site is located along the highway with dense plantation within the setback boundaries. This dense green buffer helps in reducing the noise levels that a typical site on the highway might have. After laying out of building footprint on site, the built form was devised by overlaying all the existing trees on the site plan. The footprint escaped all major trees on site and an additional effort was made to further add more landscape into the building blocks in order to provide a visual and physical breathing space along the building form’s linear inner corridors.
The external façade of the building has been designed with an intention to create a ‘sense of arrival’ for all the visiting guests through the use of an iconic (yet cohesive) fabric, following a similar language in the rest of the design. Morphogenesis achieved this iconic feel in a modest budget by indenting the walls of the façade inwards and by carving the entrance puncture out of the façade itself.
The building blocks are placed on long strips of land with clear demarcations of separate entries for the hotel and the banquet facilities. All the public functions of the project are placed in close proximity to the landscape. The design team began by closing scrutinizing the function of a hotel room to answer the question: why does a room need to be a particular size? It was noted that air conditioning was a dominant factor that affected how we design things in this part of the country? At this low-level density, we treated the entire ground floor by closing off a section that needed to be air-conditioned and also enclosed the bathrooms areas which needed a level of privacy. Micro-climatically modified living spaces spill out into the landscaped exterior. The spa, the F&B and the circulation areas, were also treated in a similar fashion. Instead of designing closed corridors, naturally sheltered and tree-lined avenues were designed that lead up to each room.
This resulted is dematerialization of a typical hotel/resort, in such an effective manner that programmatic requirements were reduced and instead landscape was used as a shelter, where possible. The pure function of the architecture was only to deal with the conditions which one couldn’t offset by passive tempering using landscape. In a way, the space restrictions forced this project to dematerialise the architecture, enabling us to under-build without compromising with the quality.