“We felt that each property should be a celebration of the unique religious practices, climate, and cultural history of the place that it was located in.”
-Shimul Javeri Kadri
Design philosophy: Inspired by the Tranquil Spirit of Buddha
SJK Architects was tasked with designing a 78-key hotel on this five-acre site situated on the banks of the Falgu River close to the Mahabodhi temple to serve the pilgrims. The firm took the first step towards generating design philosophy by knowing ‘Buddhism’ thoroughly. Since Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment in Bodhgaya, the setting, as well as the local skills and materials, influenced their idea of design for this hotel. The structure involves considerable use of brick. It is because during the design process, SJK Architects came across a cottage industry that has been alive in the area for the previous 2000 years, and they wanted to promote the local artisans.
Another idea that they incorporated through Buddhist philosophy was the ‘Vajradhatu Mandala’ – a palace that houses the five Dhyani Buddhas. Each dwelling is characterized by a mudra motion, a color palette, a seasonality, a geographical direction, and a natural element. The notion of the mandala informed even the color selections.
The final concept design highlighted not just the environment, setting, and indigenous materials but also the five essential virtues of Buddhism: wisdom, bravery, kindness, patience, and persistence.
Essence of Buddha in planning of spaces
Guest rooms and suites, banqueting accommodations, a health center with a spa, a conference room, library lounge, gym and swimming pool, one restaurant, and a lawn banquet were among the amenities of the hotel. Spiritual lessons of Buddhism, embodied in Dhyani Buddhas, who communicate using a mudra, a color, a symbol, or a component, permeate into the heart of the design, where every other place signifies a message. This is seen in the common areas, such as the reception, library, spa, banquet, and cafeteria. It includes:
- Abhaya (showing fearlessness) – in the well-lit lobby and reception area,
- Varada (giving and sharing) – in the restaurant,
- Dharmachakra (Dharma knowledge) – in the lounge and library
- Dhyana (oneness with oneself) – as exemplified in the lofty banquet hall; and
- Bhumisparsha (connection with the soi) – as demonstrated in the spa, the pool, and the gym.
Each area in the hotel has a unique gesture (mudra), and is meant to represent the feeling and traits associated with that particular mudra. For example, Bhumisparsha Mudra, or “One with the Earth,” represented by the spa, is blue in color, the Thunderbolt’s symbol, where water is the element and winters are the season. This symbolism and colors have been interwoven into the spa’s design to recreate the feeling of the mudra. This was done with every public setting to guarantee that the traits of the religious practice remain alive in the design and precepts of Buddhism resound throughout the hotel ambiance.
Material and Color Palette
The SJK team first intended to build the resort entirely of bricks, but their optimism was dashed when they encountered ground realities. The sandy soil had a low load-bearing capability, so they would have had to dig deep to lay the foundations, which would have required expensive bricks. The architects eventually settled on a mix of concrete, aerated concrete blocks, and Varanasi and BodhGaya bricks. They also experimented using pigments into concrete and substituting brick vaults with colored concrete vaults. This also benefited because aerated-concrete blocks insulate the building 1.5 times better than bricks, lowering overall air-conditioning expenses over time. They also settled on half-round clay roof tiles, known as ‘country’ tiles, which are created on a potter’s wheel by farmers.
Concept of Brick:
The brick was incorporated into the interiors as well, which was used as paneling in the guest suite and cafes. Their guiding design concept was about restraint, which was challenging to implement when constructing the opulent room. As a result, they picked materials that were easy to keep, like linen and cotton, and colors were kept to soft, subdued hues to make the room appear to be an extension of the elements.
Passive Cooling Strategies – A Sustainable approach
The hotel in Bodhgaya is built using passive measures to decrease energy usage and environmental effect. Visitors visit the area between September and March to escape the sweltering Indian summers and intense monsoons. They have provided several courtyards to provide cross-ventilation. The location was also given a lot of greenery and extensive landscaping, which helped the ground to soak up precipitation.
This is conveyed through semi-pervious swales to water collection holes scattered around the property. The hotel’s apartment buildings are oriented north-south, reducing heat gain. These, together with the used material palette and solutions of aerated block walls, double-glazed window frames, clay tiles, external cladding, and bricks, contribute to the creation of a well-insulated exterior that aids in the battle of increasing temperatures.