India’s vast network of protected areas and reserve forests are rich in diversity of plant and animal life. This has made the country a popular destination for wildlife enthusiasts. However, the facilities at most of these reserves are inadequate. Even worse, those facilities that are available, are often modelled along a suburban sensitivity that have little relevance to their environment. Children’s play parks with plastic equipment and neatly tended English-Style flower gardens, attempt to create a familiar environment within an otherwise wild world.
There is a pressing need for responsible travel to these areas with low-impact interventions. Moreover it is important to foster a greater appreciation for the natural habitats by sensitizing visitors. By designing accommodation within these natural settings, a stronger affinity can be achieved between both worlds.
The Vanavihari Resorts are one such commendable initiative undertaken by the local government of Andhra Pradesh. Their main goal is to set up earning models to spread environmental awareness amongst travellers. In order to do so, they are planning to establish premium, boutique eco-resorts in various forest reserves across the state.
Eventually they hope this encourages their continued support towards conservation. Therefore the project focuses on identifying locations in the existing wildlife habitat where programs can be placed with minimal disruption. However, instead of creating an artificial environment, which would render the project irrelevant, it is to be left intact in its raw and pristine state.
The scope of the project entails a wide variety of services, starting with the analysis of four project sites. The feasibility report identifies their hidden potential but also their possible risks. Hereafter the proposal elaborates on establishing the most suitable program and right capacity for each of the sites. Based on the potential and requirement of each location, the interventions range from sustainably built cabins for accommodation, to restaurants, spas and pools. Sustainability is a key driver in the planning process.
The masterplan for each site proposes to position larger scale public programs in relation to important landscape features. A large natural pond, a historical water harvesting tank, or a clearing in a forest act as anchors to position the buildings.
The accommodation and other private programs however are scattered more inconspicuously on the edges of water bodies. Since the scenic streams and ponds at the sites attracts a host of arboreal wildlife, they make for ideal locations for forest cabins as observatories. Stilted and sited along the edges of these water bodies, each cabin can enjoy their privacy in the midst of the natural habitat.
The structures are simple in construct and materialization. They ensure an easy and straightforward execution and maintenance thereafter. Prefabricated modules for the structure avoid adverse impact on the sites during construction. As infills within the structural framework, locally available timber and stone connect with the natural setting. It avoids a built environment that is alien to its location. Despite their simplicity, they bring a level of luxury through the way they interact with the natural elements. They display an inherent naturalness that is synonymous with sustainable eco resorts set in the jungle.
Forest Eco Resort Vanavhiari
Sustainability, Context, Solar Energy, Typology
Luxury cabins, restaurants, amenities, landscaping
The Talakona cabin enjoys the intimacy of the forest and the calming influence of the rivulet passing by.
The cabins aim to offer the comfort of a home while allowing the travelers an original and rustic experience. Each cabin contains a bedroom and bathroom that are supported by a pantry and living spaces. They open out onto a verandah and a deck that extends further into the water.
The bathroom aisle is made with rocks found on site in a gabion structure. This enables a natural airflow through the aisle and in turn, the other living spaces. The aisle terminates in an open-to-sky shower providing the travellers a unique outdoor bathing experience. Tall, majestic trees that surround the sites provide opportunities for viewing platforms at higher levels for each cabin.
Floor plan of Cabin at Talakona Eco Resort
The cabins are self-sufficient and autarkic. Integrated solar panels over the complete roof generate more power than the requirement, making the development a net positive living environment. They are oriented such that the roof incline faces the south to maximize solar energy gain. The water system uses harvested rainwater for flushing. A septic tank treats the waste water. Hereafter the system channels into a natural reed bed for further filtration to avoid contamination of the ground water.
The bedroom opens up to the river and forest on three sides.
To complement the design intent and architecture, the interior décor is minimal and muted. It reflects the natural elements of the forest in its materiality.
The cabins are situated on a pathway running along a beautiful river connected to the cascade upstream.
This river is an important pilgrimage point for many people : a koneru, age old historical pond, is associated with the river.
A toilet and changing room were needed near this water body. This program also comprises an observation deck that gives a wide view of the overall river. The design intent was to create a building that would be as less invasive as possible : a gabion structure is put in place and filled with rocks from the river.
The swimming pool and the natural pond
Cafe and swimming pool at the Naniyala Eco Resort
The dining areas and deck overlook an infinity pool that envelopes these spaces. It is a constant frame of reference that creates a parallel with the natural water body.
In order to complement and balance out the built environment, equal emphasis has been laid on the landscaping. Well-defined hardscape guides circulation and facilitates easy and safe movement through the site. This includes elevated pathways or decks that are minimally invasive yet create interesting interactions with the natural landscape.
However the existing landscape is used strategically to frame vistas as well. Additional plantation hides undesirable elements from view and offers privacy without the introduction of built elements. Moreover it reduces the scale of the built fabric and planting at the edges of paths, decks, staircases and planned water features helps to blur the lines between the man made and the natural. The proposed species are native to the region and based on growth patterns and heights they usually attain.