By Savitha Hira Photography: Courtesy Ar. Kakoli Sikder
The Water Habitat Retreat at Jodhpur is a laudable exercise in traditional rainwater harvesting, and landscaping this heritage property has effectively brought it into the limelight-
Socially responsible architecture is quietly being practiced by many an architect in various pockets of the globe. Thanks to socially responsive patrons, who make an unwavering commitment in tandem with the architects. Ar. Kakoli Sikder is a landscape architect from Delhi, who has creditably been a significant team member of the Bijolai Palace conservation at Jodhpur.
Water Habitat Retreat was once the famous Bijolai Palace at Jodhpur. It was conserved and restored to house a boutique hospitality venture under the aegis of the Jal Bhagirathi Foundation. It is said that the scenic, sprawling summer palace built in the early 19th century is nestled between the Aravalli Hills surrounded by lakes as an oasis in the desert. With the civil work being completed as far back as 2008, Ar. Kakoli Sikder stepped in to make her valuable contribution to the expansive landscape.
Beginning from the entrance paths – there were two distinct ones – both over a culvert; one towards private quarters and the other towards the admin and hospitality facilities; Kakoli worked on a well-manicured garden, arched jharokhas to frame panoramic views, square paved plazas, lush green palms, circular planters with shade-giving trees and diligently selected native species of -Jaal Peelu’ , -Rohina’ and -Babool’ as the focal planting among other things. Largely, there are three courtyards within the living quarters, which have been designed tastefully as trellised spaces for outdoor seating and occasional dining. As in any landscaping project, the material palette and the selection of flora and fauna have been methodically determined. With the project tabling water as an exemplary rainwater oasis, where it is not only supposed to be entirely self-sufficient of its water needs, but is also said to use 100% recycled rainwater and provide water for the drinking-water needs of severely water-distressed local communities, care has been taken to use plants that require less water, absorbent soil, and loosely laid Jodhpur stone pavers that together aid in recharging the natural water table. The walls, toe walls, retaining walls, etc. are all made of locally available Jodhpur dark stone in random masonry. The paths are made of loose stone chips. The planter coping, plazas, steps, amphitheatre seats and stage are made of polished Jodhpur stone. And as far as the lighting is concerned – wall lights, tree up-lighters and bollards have been strategically used to enhance the mood of this place.
As Kakoli sums up, -The challenge lay in accomplishing heightened aesthetics within a contextual vocabulary, staying grounded in terms of giving back to the project and doing all of this within the limitations of cost-effectiveness.-
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