A Luxury Heritage Resort Design: The Oberoi Udaivilas-An Affair, An Ode _ Abhikram Architects
Luxury comes at a great price—This was true at the magnificent Oberoi Udaivilas, an Oberoi Group luxury heritage resort situated on the edge of Lake Pichola.
Formally a hunting ground for the Maharajs, the lush green area on the other side of the main city of Udaipur houses the grand Oberoi Udaivilas with the idea to impress the world with its stunning beauty and commendable hospitality. Situated in the capital of the ancient capital city of Mewar region is Udaipur- a heritage city with art, craft and skill at its core. The hotel is supposed to represent this finery in a massive way. One couldn’t miss a visit here.
Trip to Udaipur was a first for us and exploring the old, palatial city with immense history was all a potential conservation architect could ask for. We began our research on To-Do lists and places to visit. This is when my sister and I came across the Oberoi Udaivilas- a resort we came across in Ranbir-Deepika movie ‘Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani’. Aditi- one of the characters of the movie hosts her destination wedding here. We loved that movie and wouldn’t miss a chance to live a little in this expensive hotel. The Resort is India’s 6th most expensive hotels stays. Hence, we already knew our pocket money would only buy us coffee here.
The heritage resort is spread across 35 acres, playing hide seek among the edge of Lake Pichola. Our first look was from the boat ride with a dozen small and large domes visible in sandstone shade -just like the City Palace. Our car drive was an 800-meter drive into the Trident-Oberoi Campus approaching a serene water body at the gates of the hotel. We were very aware about our modest upbringings as an elderly man approached to open doors for us and guide us to the resort. The Arched entry gate leads to a large Sahelio ki Badi kind of Garden with blue water body, carved marble lily pads and chatris at its corner. It’s a beautiful interpretation of the common public space of the Indian Palaces. We were given a royal welcome of rose petals and garland- when in Mewar! The vestibule to the main reception was an open to sky octagonal space with fountain depicting a palace chowk. The reception was a vast area basking us in luxury of the finest kind- hand sanitizer, aarti and a seasonal rose drink- famous of the region of Haldi Ghaati. The reception had a gold leaf dome with crystal chandeliers. The mirror work in Pietra dura style exhibited religiously throughout the premise. We were led to The Bar where we could indulge in signature dishes from Mewar as well as around the world. The bar hosted its guests in nooks and corners with views of the hotel grounds and the City Palace in its foreground. Every area had a dome and beautiful mirror finished local stone floor. The luster added a deeper shade of royalty to our experience. The food was marvelous as expected.
I wouldn’t bore you with those details.
We asked for a tour of the resort- most of which was forbidden to protect the privacy of the guests.
The architect approached the design of the hotel like that of a palace- he was asked to literally build a second palace in the city.
Architect Nimish Patel of Abhikram Architects, Ahmedabad quotes the following for his design- “Assimilation of spaces resembles traditional palace structure and complex. Every room has a courtyard adjacent to it and some also have swimming pools adjacent to the courtyard. Courtyards were incorporated as they are the essence of the architecture of Mewar. Thick walls with cusped arch openings and niches, all lend the resort a vibrant, ever altering experience and a unique identity.”
The materials were locally sourced to achieve the feel of an actual Mewar palace. The complex is washed in a cream monotone of lime wash, a common practice of the region. The domes are plastered with traditional lime technique called Ghutai. Everything used in the building is a gentle reminder of the past from brass doors with spherical doorsteps to the corridors with 450 stone columns each carved by hand and given a local ghutai finish to the ‘thekri’ work in the dome of the Candle Room and in small niches all over to the gold leaf work on ceilings. The Candle Room- lit only by candles during the evenings is a pause between walks. The dome is encrusted with a 1000 mirror pieces reflecting the candle light- again a reference to the Indian Royal Architecture.
The regal furniture left a subtle aftertaste of the Maharajas of Mewar and their obsession with fine art and attention to the detail. Cozy amber lights with burlwood-and-leather armchairs and chenille sofas, polished wood, marble inlaid with coloured stones, the chandelier lights dancing of the mirror work- a work of supreme craftsmanship of the region.
The architecture is vast, sumptuous and building on the luxury of the royal families. The restaurants have a feel of a bygone post-colonial era and seems to have been suspended in the time.
One would forget to look at their phones if not for taking a million pictures.
The checkered black and white flooring continues on various areas of the premise. The campus is built as a forest of sorts with large trees with the City Palace and Ghats in broken views from the branches. Outdoor spaces have tents and curtains to cut the harsh light of the Rajasthan sun.
The Oberoi Udaivillas is indeed a Second palace of the region of Mewar. The hospitality is that of an opulent region of warriors and wealthy princes.
Region as its core value, the architecture savours in arches, domes, stone and mirror work. It itself is Mewar on display.
Context is utmost important when it comes to heritage resorts and hotels. This becomes one such example of excellent execution of the same.
Architects: Abhikram Architects
Project: The Oberoi Udaivilas
Type: Luxury Heritage Resort
Built-up Area: 25,000 mt²
Site Area: 35 Acres
Location: Udaipur, Rajasthan
Lead Architects: Nimish Patel, Parul Zaveri
Content: Dhwani Sanghavi
Photographs: Dhwani Sanghavi
(Photographs other than mentioned are clicked by the photographer)