It’s little wonder that South India’s most popular wildlife sanctuary, Thekkady, has long charmed both nature lovers and spice traders alike. Draped in lush greenery and cooling breezes, this misty haven for spices and wildlife is a beauty to behold, which is why Bangalore–based Kumar La Noce wisely took a sensitive approach to their recent renovation of the Niraamaya Retreats Cardamom Club boutique resort.
Tasked to design five cabins—as well as a pool and spa block—on a steep site, the architects strategized ways to enhance the dramatic views of the surrounding cardamom plantations, while preserving privacy and minimizing landscape disturbance. Although a minimal and elevated design was necessary, it was also important to balance those restraints with a luxurious touch befitting a resort.
The architects crafted the 430-square-foot cabins as "floating volumes" raised on stilts to rest lightly on the landscape. In a nod to the local vernacular, the cabins are evocative to traditional timber stilt cottages—yet with a clear, contemporary twist.
"Our first response upon visiting the spectacularly lush site was to 'tread gently,' which led us to imagine the built structures as light-weight volumes floating within a sea of green," says Bhavana Kumar, principal architect and cofounder of the firm.
"Owing to the irregular and steep terrain, we had to locate and align the units by 'drawing' directly on-site for the best views and setting," she continues to explain.
The cabins, as well as the raised infinity pool and spa block, were primarily crafted from sustainably sourced Bangkirai wood—an extremely durable hardwood that creates a warm reddish contrast to the verdant forest canopy.
The interiors are minimally dressed to keep focus on the outdoors, while an abundance of glazing creates an open, pavilion-like feel. Handcrafted teak and rattan furniture along with rice-paper light fixtures complement the simple, yet sophisticated rooms.
"We also had to face a formidable monsoon season that Kerala is famous for during construction," adds Bhavana. "And yet, we feel the property comes alive during the rain. Surrounded by a rich glistening sea of green, it provides a feast for the senses."
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