Kochi River Project, Kerala, Indien

Resort Hotel with 32 units

project partner:
Tobias Zepter

adress:
Periyar-River, Kochi
Kerala, Indien

staff:
Wolfram Belz, Christian Holthaus, Claudius Knaack, Janine Tillmann

start of planning:
2009

realisation:
2010



The building site is situated at the bank of the Periyar River. Coming from the Western Ghats mountain range, here, close to  the Arabian Sea the river has developed into a mighty stream, quietly flowing between coconut palms and banana groves, alternating with green meadows full of buffaloes and legions of birds.

Although close to the thriving city of Ernakulam and the history laden beauty of Fort Cochin, only the distant clatter of the south Indian Village disturbs the silence.

We are in the state of Kerala in the southwest of India.

To this remarkable place our client, Karim Al Somji, is going to bring a resort hotel to match its beauty. Small and private, a place of calmness and contemplation is it almost a “cloister without the church”.

The site has an area of approximate 10 000 sqm shaped as a long rectangle. One smaller side opens onto the river offering a stunning view and a cool breeze.The centre of the resort has been kept as a widespread tropical garden, opening onto the river, preserving the beauty of the landscape and the coolness of the river breeze.

The buildings surround the central garden in lively clusters: The reception building with its vaulted entrance hall, nine single storey bungalows in various groups and three small towers with a suite on every of its three floors and a large rooftop space which keeps the buildings cool and offers a magnificent stage for all sorts of activities from Yoga to playing billiard.By the side of the garden we find a small “village square” at a water basin. Hidden behind the colonnades will be a library with thousands of books, a small café and the Ayurvedic Health and Wellness Centre. The most intimate space follows adjacent to the Ayurvedic Centre, a “hortus conclusus”, the herbal garden, surrounded by pergolas and colonnades.

In Kerala, originally a heartland of sophisticated wooden constructions, tropical hardwood has become too precious to be used as constructional material. Reinforced concrete is used for structural purposes and concrete blocks as infill.  Although we also use reinforced concrete since Kerala lies in an earthquake zone, we do use locally produced bricks wherever possible even for load bearing purposes. The bricks come from a small local factory near the building site which also produces the roofing tiles and tiles for the floors.

For some walls we use laterite, a local natural stone, once most common, now, in good qualities, becoming an expensive material. Its proper handling requires specialized masonry skills, in which we train the masons through local experts. This helps to preserve half lost ancient craftsmen technique.

We do use wood for doors, windows and some interiors. All the wood we use is locally grown teak wood. It can take on the climate without chemical wood preservation and we know where it comes from. It is expensive though. The detailing is a mixture of western design and local craft developed with the local craftsmen using drawings and samples as a language since they speak mainly Malayalam and we do not.

At some important points e.g. the roofs of the Towers, we do use constructional wood. It is an experiment and pays homage to Kerala´ s impressive tradition.

Although the guest rooms can be artificially air-conditioned they do not have to. Heavy roofs with large overhangs protect the high (up to five meters) and cross-ventilated rooms from the sun. The glass panes of the windows can be slid to the side. Shutters on the outside can be closed instead. Fine woven copper mesh prevents the insects from coming in and lets the air go through. Solid teak wood frames ensure a solid enclosure.

Kochi River Project, Kerala, Indien

Resort Hotel with 32 units

project partner:
Tobias Zepter

adress:
Periyar-River, Kochi
Kerala, Indien

staff:
Wolfram Belz, Christian Holthaus, Claudius Knaack, Janine Tillmann

start of planning:
2009

realisation:
2010