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Be Sincere


That’s one of the commandments to follow in the interests of sustainable design, says Tony Joseph.

In practical terms, what is a sustainable building? To arrive at the answer, I began to think about the most sustainable building I have designed.

This is one of the earliest projects that I have done with a friend, Prasanth — the Vythiri Resorts in the mountains of Kerala. It is cut off from the grid; which means, it doesn’t have electricity connection even today. It runs on generators that are started only in the evenings. So, what makes it sustainable?

The first, for me, was to realise it was a collaboration, and to be sincere to my partners – which include the architect, masons and other craftsmen involved.

The second was to be sincere to the site of the building, or what our ancient scholars called Vastupurusha. It tells you how to make maximum use of the slopes, trees, view, water and wind.

The next factor for me is the client. If you are sincere to him, you make the building economical; to be sustainable, it must have less energy spend.

One of the clients in this project was myself. Since I was a client, I made sure I spent the least, and that there was not much money spent in future. It is when we are not so true to our clients that we tend to design unsustainable buildings.

The fourth is to be sincere to the user. In this case, since it’s a resort, it’s the guest. We respect his time and money, and make sure he has a memorable experience along with value for money.

All these add up to a sustainable building. You don’t have to look too much into theories; you just have to be practical and functional – and it automatically happens when you overcome constraints.

Now, because there is a shortage of water, everybody is talking about how to save it. Earlier, we never thought about it. Today, Hansgrohe is developing efficient faucets that use less water. That is the necessity of the times.

In all our projects we make sure that we are contextual in our design in terms of place, function and time. Local traditions and the site itself play a major part in moulding our design. Economy and sustainability are the prime concerns – as you will see in these projects…


The site for this eco-friendly hill resort, an abandoned coffee plantation located 60kms away from Calicut, is blessed with natural beauty and has a stream cutting across it.

The building is designed in tune with nature, taking its cue from the topography. Various facilities such as the tennis court and activity areas are located in the flatter portion near the entrance of the site, which was the erstwhile drying area for the coffee. The existing trees, rock formations and slopes were the elements that decided the layout of the resort.

The residential cottages, along with conference facilities, are placed across the stream and connected by a hanging bridge. A unique construction style in mud blocks has been employed in the resort to add to the ambience of the location.

Since I did not want to waste my money and my partner’s money, we used materials that were locally available – granite, mud mortar and mud mixed with fevicol (instead of paint). We didn’t know about the LEED certification, but most of the material was from the surrounding area.

Located at Kumarakom, 20kms away from Kottayam, this backwater resort is a complex of about 50 cottages and heritage homes set amidst the natural waterways – so access by both water and road is possible.

The resort includes an ayurvedic centre, club house, coffee shop, restaurant, swimming-pool and other recreational facilities.

It has been designed to make maximum use of the existing water channels and to reflect traditional Kerala architecture, especially that distinctive character of the Kumarakom region. Wood recycled from old houses is used for most of the woodwork in this resort.

Madhuban Prayas is the first resort of its kind and scale in Vadodara, Gujarat. It has 30 standard rooms in the main block, 48 cottages facing the landscaped area, a 200-metre-long meandering swimming-pool, two luxury suites and a presidential suite with facilities such as multi-cuisine restaurants, coffee shops, club house, a 180-seat conference hall, and a spa of international standards.

By adopting the traditional style with the contemporary, the past can communicate with the present. Domestic architectural character has been adopted for the façade to leave a lasting impression.

This 5-star property of GRT Hotels & Resorts is located at Mahabalipuram near Chennai. Guests like the luxurious pool, garden-front ambience and spread-out character of the resort, besides its proximity to the shore temple.

The resort has 64 standard cottages, six pool villas, one presidential villa, and one bungalow equipped with modern amenities. Additional attractions include a spa, club house, garden view restaurant, lounge bar, conference hall and a 150m-spread meandering pool. The entire resort was designed to evoke the Chettinadu and Kancheepuram character.

The built form of this maiden project for Seabird Resorts Pvt Ltd, has imbibed its character from quintessential Goan architecture albeit with a contemporary twist. Besides rooms, the sprawling peninsula surrounded by lush green paddy fields houses various facilities like lounge bar, all-day dining, a speciality restaurant, conference hall, mini theatre and presidential suites.

The spa block is accessed through a large tree court, which is climaxed with a water body forming a backdrop to the reception area. The loosely-knit areas like yoga block, pool, jacuzzi decks, etc, open out to the paddy fields, with the spa villas tucked away at the tail end of the peninsula for privacy. Linear corridors stretching across the site are surrounded by water bodies that lead to the villas for an experience of a lifetime.

This 453-room resort in Mahe, has evolved from the nature and architecture of Seychelles. The site was incredibly beautiful, but it had an existing youth training centre which had destroyed the immediate surroundings. As the site is a hub of ecological features, the design has been crystallised around the natural elements, to get the maximum view of the two beaches, while also carefully taking into consideration the restoration of the valuable ecological elements.

A project coming up soon in the backwaters of Kerala, Alila Kochi is envisioned as a unique and fashionable resort hotel that offers a stylish living, working and relaxing environment for the modern discerning traveller who recognises the need for design innovation, comfort and the highest levels of service and personal recognition. Built on a splendid site that is three-quarters submerged in water, it offered us the scope to create a ‘floating resort’ that boasts panoramic views from all sides. The design takes care to ensure that there is minimal impact on the site and the surroundings.

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June 2020
10 Jun 2020