The Great Eastern Hotel is the earliest hotel set up by the British merchants in colonial India and one of the great social landmarks of the British rule.
Set up in the year 1841 as Auckland hotel, it had changed hands numerous times to emerge as the Great Eastern Hotel of today – shorn off its past glory and lying in abject neglect. Thus, it needed  to be revived as a heritage hotel through rediscovering its uniqueness and to create a new benchmark in the hospitality industry.
Study revealed that in the absence of an initial master plan, the building was developed in phases at various times depending upon the prevalent demands during that period. Hence built masses have eaten into the central courtyard with no visual or aesthetic linkages between blocks.
The rejuvenation scheme has proposed to retain the oldest front block with its bold classical colonnade and the rear block with its Art Deco façade and demolish the ugly add-on structures in the courtyard.
The open courtyard will house a new block with open areas for pool and pool side facilities much in demand in a luxury hotel. The interior spaces of the heritage wings would reflect the mood of the period it represents – a characteristic of a heritage and hospitality address.

Built up Area        : 28776 sq.m.
Project Cost           : Rs. 200.00 crores

‘Amar Bari’ (My House), Santiniketan, West Bengal

Preamble :

Santiniketan…an ‘abode of peace’. For every Bengali, the very name immediately conjures up images of Rabindranath Tagore and Nandalal Bose, of rustic charm, of calm and quiet. Today’s urbanized Santiniketan, however, has precious little that is reminiscent of this; it is precisely this fact which ‘Amar Bari’ aims to address.
Located on a parcel of land on the way to Santiniketan, the approach to the site takes one through quaint Santal villages, sal forests and a gently undulating landscape; these provide a serene backdrop and the main inspiration for ‘Amar Bari’. Conceived of as a weekend getaway, the bungalows provide a much needed oasis of peace, a place to recollect and gather oneself, away from the hustle-bustle of modern city life. This is an unconventional theme project that epitomizes the poetic vision of rural Bengal but with all the modern amenities that represent contemporary living.
The quintessential flavour of a Birbhum village with thatched terracotta structures set amidst the undulating red topography of ‘rarh bhoomi’ (the indigenous red laterite earth) has been given a stylized interpretation in this complex. Landscape also plays a powerful role in the concept with the use of meandering pathways overgrown with lush vegetation and occasionally interrupted with organic forms.

Project Description :

The ideology behind ‘Amar Bari’ was to create a self-sustaining community, both in terms of construction as well as livelihood for a section of its surrounding inhabitants. The complex contains, along with 150 dwelling units, a club, guest house and crafts village. The crafts village is designed to both promote and sustain the local crafts of the area including pottery, ceramics, weaving, textiles and metal work, the craftsmen being part of the existing village community. The crafts village also has teaching facilities, should any of the residents be so inclined. With a site area of over 12 acres, this low density development is very much in keeping with the rural context of the area, the built form being swathed in greenery and landscaping.
The club, aptly named ‘Hoi Choi’ (a Bengali phrase which means hustle-bustle), incorporates all the pre-requisites of a contemporary lifestyle including a gymnasium, swimming pool, restaurant, indoor sports facilities, library and a community hall. The guest house has accommodation for around 25 guests and complements the needs of the community.
The residential units are typical representations of Bengal rural architecture and cater to a spectrum of affordability, ranging in size from 780 sq. feet to over 1500 sq. feet. The architecture of the bungalows incorporates a building vocabulary that translates into a rural idiom with the use of exposed brickwork, beautifully detailed arches and corbelling, pillars and fenestrations, delicate niches and jali work, exquisite punctures to filter in rays of light, pitched roofs left purposely exposed…there is no place for hypocrisy in ‘Amar Bari’. The bungalows are dainty morsels of vernacular buildings that are just waiting to be feasted upon.

Self-Sustainability :
Materials and Construction

Taking a cue from ancient building tradition, the built-form provides a canvas for local craftsmanship and expertise as all the building materials and labour are sourced directly from the local community. This has reduced the building cost greatly and ensured a genuine contextuality of the built form. The structures all have load-bearing brick walls and corbelled brick arches. Most of the brickwork has been laid with lime-mortar, with the pointing also done in lime mortar.  One of the most ancient building materials, lime mortar has withstood the test of time and has proved to be a more viable alternative with brickwork due to its breathability and self-healing nature. Lime mortar also has a cooling effect. All the arches, parapet walls, fenestrations, elevational elements, sills, lintels and pillars are individually detailed in brick. The brickwork has been mostly left exposed, with minimal use of plaster in places. Most of the floor slabs are of reinforced brick, which have been deliberately revealed. Roofs are built of sal wood frames with khapra tiles, its form following the geometry of the typical Bengal village dwelling, with extended eaves to mitigate the effects of the harsh sun. The flooring is terracotta tiles, with IPS on the upper floors. Most of the ceilings have been left exposed, but wherever a false ceiling has been required, locally available ‘chatai’ (reed matting) has been used. All doors, windows and timber work have been locally sourced.

Climate and Topography

The entire site is conceived as a pollution-free zone, with vehicular traffic being restricted to only the periphery of the site, access being allowed only for emergency vehicles. Keeping in mind the vernacular nature of the design, the roads are moram throughout. Another interesting aspect of the layout is that the roads act as natural drainage channels for the whole development. The units are situated on individual plots, the plots being interspersed with numerous waterbodies and surrounded by roads. The road profiles form valleys, which in the monsoon season become small channels to feed the waterbodies. The site itself hence forms an integrated rainwater harvesting system. The waterbodies, whilst providing an aesthetical charm, simultaneously help mitigate the effect of the often hot and dry weather conditions. The softscaping only adds to this aspect, with individual plots being thematically landscaped.
One of the residents, upon entering his bungalow on a baking hot May afternoon, commented on the coolness and serenity of the interior…this is a great testimonial for the architect. Whilst not officially ‘green-rated’, one can safely assume that the project is a genuinely ‘green’ one in terms of livability.


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