A New Retreat in the Indian Himalayas Captures Epic Views

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By Michele Koh Morollo
The crown jewel of The Kumaon hotel in Uttarakhand is a cantilevered dining room with glass walls.

Named for its perch in the mountainous region of Kumaon in the North Indian state of Uttarakhand, The Kumaon, which sits about 5,250 feet above sea level in the village of Kasar Devi, is a boutique hotel that enjoys magnificent views of the Indian Himalayas. 

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The impactful dining room is surrounded by glass on three sides and clad in bamboo sticks that reduce the visual impact of the steel structure.

The impactful dining room is surrounded by glass on three sides and clad in bamboo sticks that reduce the visual impact of the steel structure.

Designed by Sri Lankan architects Pradeep Kodikara and Jineshi Samaraweera of Colombo–based Zowa Architects, the 10-room hotel is nestled in a sloping, terraced agricultural plot that overlooks uninterrupted views of undulating mountains and valleys. 

"By dispersing the built structure around the site and using bamboo cladding, we were able to dissolve the visual impact a building such as this can have in a sensitive environment," says Kodikara.

"By dispersing the built structure around the site and using bamboo cladding, we were able to dissolve the visual impact a building such as this can have in a sensitive environment," says Kodikara.

The main building, where the public areas are located, sits on the most elevated point on the site and comprises two volumes. 

A peaceful library offers a moment of contemplation in an inspiring environment. All the buildings of the Kumaon are equipped for rainwater harvesting with a drainage system that brings collected water from the roofs to a large holding tank at the bottom of the site. 

A peaceful library offers a moment of contemplation in an inspiring environment. All the buildings of the Kumaon are equipped for rainwater harvesting with a drainage system that brings collected water from the roofs to a large holding tank at the bottom of the site. 

The entrance to the building is located along the volume on the ground level, where the lounge, library, toilet, spa, and manager’s office are located. 

The upper volume of the main building holds the dining facilities.

The upper volume of the main building holds the dining facilities.

The steel upper volume is placed on top of, and perpendicular to, this lower volume to create a cantilevered section that looks out towards India’s second-highest peak: Nanda Devi.   

Above the lounge is a terrace for outdoor dining and yoga. 

Above the lounge is a terrace for outdoor dining and yoga. 

By spreading the chalets out across the site, the architects could circumvent the bulky, built-up look that too many structure can have in such a pristine, natural environment.

The foundational level of the chalet was built out of stone quarried from nearby, while the walls  were built with fly ash bricks with bamboo cladding.  

The foundational level of the chalet was built out of stone quarried from nearby, while the walls  were built with fly ash bricks with bamboo cladding.  

Because the buildings are spaced out, the entire complex connects better with its surroundings, and the overall environmental impact on the site is reduced.  

In the chalet room, the bed, table, and seating were designed as a island unit finished in smooth cement render. 

In the chalet room, the bed, table, and seating were designed as a island unit finished in smooth cement render. 

Locally sourced pinewood was used for the floors, doors, and windows, and most of the furniture items were designed and made on-site. 

The guest rooms are located within chalet buildings that are scattered across the two-acre site, with each chalet split into two levels with one room on each. 

The guest rooms are located within chalet buildings that are scattered across the two-acre site, with each chalet split into two levels with one room on each. 

The concrete soffits were left unplastered, and the fly ash walls were finished with just a coat of paint to create an atmosphere of rustic simplicity. 

The concrete soffits were left unplastered, and the fly ash walls were finished with just a coat of paint to create an atmosphere of rustic simplicity. 

Local artisans handcrafted the copper and stone accessories for the chalets, and Almora weavers made all the wool fabrics for the bedding. 

In each room, the toilet walls are finished in "kadappah"–black stone cut into tiles. 

In each room, the toilet walls are finished in "kadappah"–black stone cut into tiles. 

"Kota," an affordable granite commonly used in India with a texture similar to smooth cement, was used for the floor of the terraces and balconies.

"Kota," an affordable granite commonly used in India with a texture similar to smooth cement, was used for the floor of the terraces and balconies.

"With The Kumaon, our goal was to highlight the stunning natural landscape, help guests focus on the mountain views, and pay homage to local materials, tradition, and culture," says Samaraweera.

Site plan

Site plan

Ground floor plan

Ground floor plan

Chalet floor plan

Chalet floor plan

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Project Credits: 

Architecture and interior design: Zowa Architects 

Builder and civil engineering: Harsh Kakar 

Structural engineering: Swati Consultants 

Cabinetry: Triloki Sharma  

Photography: Akshay Sharma