AURIKA, Udaipur by Lemon Tree Hotels is modern-day travellers’ new regal destination
The palatial getaway stretching out across five acres of majestic Aravalli range is Lemon Tree Hotels' first upscale resort and is designed by Bobby Mukherji and Associates
AURIKA, Udaipur is sited at the heart of the City of Lakes, atop its own hill in the majestic Aravalli range. It stretches out across five acres of an undulating hilltop. The entrance to the hotel is through the bastion gate, aptly called Antara (‘to pause’), which encourages guests to stop and breathe in the fresh Aravalli air.
The group’s first upscale resort property, a long-held dream of Patu Keswani, Chairman and Managing Director, Lemon Tree Hotels Ltd., is marked by grand courtyards, terraced gardens and, in keeping with the destination — fabled for the regal lifestyle of its erstwhile royal families and stunning palaces and forts — gilded interiors. The marriage of heritage, nostalgia and contemporary elegance results in a perfect getaway for modern-day travellers. Architecture and design atelier Bobby Mukherji & Associates (BM&A) was mandated by Lemon Tree Hotels for the entire design job, including the interiors, landscaping and lighting design.
Bobby Mukherji, the founder of BM&A.
“We inherited a half-built project. Our design brief, which came from Ritu Ranjan, Chief Design Officer, Lemon Tree Hotels Ltd. was to recreate the ambience of a fortress or a palace for present-day clientele.” The idea, then, was to design a modern version of a Rajasthani palace, sans the excessive ornate quality and flamboyance that one associate with ancient palaces and forts in the state. BM&A took almost a year to detail out every square inch of the hotel, Mukherji says. “A big team of designers, architects and 3D visualisers was mobilised to create the design presentation for the project,” he reveals. “We released the construction documents in phases; the construction, too, happened in phases. The project team headed by JK Chawla (Executive Vice President, Lemon Tree Hotels) faced several challenges at the site, a rocky stretch of land atop a hill with a steep slope.” The Lemon Tree project team brought great engineering skills to the site. “The earth was unstable and loose. They built stable side retaining walls to prevent any landslides and created winding roads that lead up to the three residential guestroom blocks. Furthermore, landscaping, greening and constructing the driveways were a huge challenge. We created stepped gardens along the slopes to green the rocky area.”
Coffered ceiling with lighting coves, metal chandeliers and gold-leafed walls mark the ballroom, Ekaara.
Rajasthan has a rich heritage of native architecture and design, and Mukherji spent some time studying the heritage structures in and around Udaipur. “I am quite familiar with Rajasthan since I have worked on Marriott’s Jaipur and Jaisalmer properties. But Udaipur proved to be slightly different from other cities. There was something delicate and romantic about the scale and detailing of the Udaipur heritage buildings, such as the City Palace, the Lake Palace, the Monsoon Palace and Eklingji temple. The city has a long history and abundant heritage of local arts and crafts. It is a centre for indigenous crafts and art such as miniature paintings, carpentry and furniture, brasswork, inlay work, marble, wood and metal sculptures, and mirror work. Many of these art and craft traditions were used by us to detail out the project.”
The design elements across AURIKA, Udaipur are influenced by the city’s architectural heritage — its arches, jharokhas, chattris, columns, chajjas, collonaded passages, jaalis, brackets, cornices, architraves, vaulted and domed ceilings, the marble floor patterns, the windows and doors patterns, the decorative lighting, furniture, and décor, the accessories, art and paintings, the design of the gardens and the stone lanterns, right down to the stone boundary walls, the planters, the traditional sandla lime plaster on the façade, the terrace gardens, the garden horticulture, the stone finish driveways and the water bodies — everything tells a lush story of Udaipur’s evolved architecture and design heritage.
The material palette
The quintessential Rajasthani arches and domes in the guest lobby set the tone for the entire hotel.
The material palette of the hotel — local stone such as marble, sandstone and slate — also draws from the geographical location and has helped Mukherji to not just define the aesthetics but also control costs. “We have used local artisans and craftsmen for the project.” The architect reveals that the exterior finish, in a traditional lime plaster called sandla, can still be seen in old palaces in and around Udaipur. “We have used local stones such as Karnavati dark green marble, the Banswada white marble, the black Talpatri stone, the cream-coloured Gwalior mint sandstone and brown Jodhpur sandstone for the flooring across the property. We have also used some amount of white and cream European marble from Greece and Italy to tie the design story together. The swimming pool sports a contrasting indigo blue-tiled finish and is patterned in light blue shade.”
The finer details
The design of interior spaces is firmly rooted in creating interesting guest experiences. Guests enter through wooden doors embedded with brass sheet work and glass panels. The lobby in monochromatic shades of cream and beige — which is where a guest gains the first impression of the hotel — has a dramatic vaulted ceiling, lit up by subtle indirect lighting. The colour palette is reflected in the understated floor pattern. An alcove seating in the lobby is sheltered under a gold-leafed dome ceiling, enhanced by a classical glass chandelier. The gold-leafed Tree of Life motifs extend to the painted backdrops of the sit-down desks in the reception.
Within the hotel, the dark varnished teakwood furniture contrasts stunningly with cream colour walls. The dominant design feature in all the guestrooms is the traditional marble chequered flooring on which stands colonial-style teakwood furniture. The focal points of the rooms are the Rajasthani arches embellished with gold leaf Tree of Life artwork. The grand pillar-less 5,000sq.ft ballroom, Ekaara, is fringed by another 3,000sq.ft of Ekaara Courtyard. High coffered ceiling with lighting coves, metal chandeliers, mood lighting marks and hand-woven car pet-covered floors mark Ekaara. The striking gold-leafed Tree of Life pattern extends across several spaces, including the breezy ballroom verandah, which is illuminated by dramatic cove lighting. The décor elements in the ballroom include arches with traditional peacock motifs, painted by local artisans. Within some arches, bevelled mirrors reflect the surroundings, while in others fabric acoustic panels help to control the sound reverberations.
Mirasa, the all-day diner, is a blend of closed air-conditioned and semicovered, open-to-the-elements spaces. The covered part of the diner, featuring an elaborate polished marble floor pattern, is sheltered under a simple coffered ceiling. It features backlit traditional jaalis and classic wall scone glass and antique brass metal lights. The semi-classical furniture has been fashioned out of teakwood. In the alfresco zone, weather-proof wrought iron furniture sits on cream-colour local sandstone flooring with delicate marble inlays.
Rajasthan's ancient miniature art forms the backdrop of several spaces across the hotel.
Ariva, the bar, has a complex design: a cluster of Udaipur arches and columns, a zigzag traditional floor pattern carved out of green Karnavati and white Banswada polished marble, and walls that are canvasses for classical art depicting ancient tiger hunting scenes with the kings and Maharajas on elephant back, painted by local artists. The architects have created an elaborate lighting design with striking up-lighters that light up the ornate columns and arches. The colonial-style bar, made from teakwood, stands close to the bevelled glass windows, which open to beautiful views of the surrounding countryside.
In all guestrooms, the dominant design elements are the traditional marble chequered flooring and the colonial-style teakwood furniture.
Equally striking are the outdoor spaces. On the courtyard grounds, which are often the venue for folk dance performances, stands a pavilion with arched collonaded hallways and a water fountain carved out of marble. Peppered around are paisleyshaped marble planters. The poolside has a romantic ambience: collonaded and arched verandahs fringe the strong fort-like walls, above which rises the cream-coloured contemporary version of a palace hotel, like a beautiful mirage in a desert. In the night, the submersible pool lights, the lit-up hotel walls and the soft sound of water cascading from carved marble-cow-and-lion-head gargoyles heighten the sense of romance and beauty.
Stepped gardens have been created along the Aravalli slopes to green the rocky area.
Carved stone lanterns along the poolside create dramatic light patterns, while local desert palms bring the space alive. A birds-eye view reveals a palatial hotel, high on design, in shades of cream and beige, interspersed by patterned blue tiles of the terrace, water bodies, a swimming pool, and the green Aravalli hills within which it nestles. “The overall design language and the atmosphere at AURIKA exude quiet sophistication. While this resort is in a heritage destination and is infused by the rich and lush native architecture and design, the other Aurikas in the pipeline will boast a design language that draws from the destination they are in and their guest profile. What they will share in common is the elegant and sophisticated design language,” says Mukherji.