The Lotus Praxis Initiative was formed specifically for the re-establishment of Raas Hotel in Jodhpur, India. Co-founder of the architecture firm Ambrish Arora talks to PerspectiveGlobal about the experience
How did you become involved with this project?
I got to know the brothers who own Raas, Nikhilendra and Dhananjay Singh when I was designing a small project at the Mehrangarh Fort several years ago. I guess they liked the way I approached designing that project; we talked and promised each other we would work together one day, and this actually happened after two years. Raas Hotel was the culmination of the wait!
Tell us about The Lotus Praxis Initiative.
Rajiv Majumar, who founded Praxis, is a dear friend of mine. We were collaborating together on a couple of projects at the time. Raas with its multiple challenges provided the perfect opportunity for us to combine our strengths and I roped him in. This new venture, The Lotus Praxis Initiative, was set up just for this project. The rest was a rollercoaster with everyone on the project; right from our clients to the stone and metal masons playing the role of collaborators, to the design team.
What about the brief for this project?
Nikhilendra’s magnificently succinct brief to us was a one-liner: "The moment the guests walk into their room, they should want to have sex!" Apart from that, of course we had to more mundane stuff to deal with – such as the fact that we needed to insert nearly 40 rooms in what was a very tight space. Right from the onset, the clients were very clear that they did not want this to be yet another ‘heritage hotel’ of the genre that Rajasthan is famous for.
What were the challenges in restoring the architecture while imbuing contemporary elements into it?
We realised early on in the design process that the existing buildings needed to be highlighted and worked on, so that they became anchors in the Raas experience. They were painstakingly restored using traditional techniques and materials such as lime mortar and lime plaster. The new buildings had to become framing elements and yet respond to the context. This was achieved by restricting ourselves to a very tight palette of using locally available materials and skills – and using a contemporary and understated graphic response – wherein forms of the new buildings entirely responded to their function.
Through such restoration, what ind of message do you want to convey?
That in countries such as ours (India), sustainability needs to be looked at through a larger lens of culture and society and not just operational environmental impact. Localisation and innovating using age old skills gives us all the opportunity ot find new, authentic expressions that celebrate today while embracing history.