Rhizome defines the true essence of ‘sustainability in design and through design’ in an eco resort where rustic meets contemporary luxe.
The term ‘sustainability’ is often used liberally in the design world for anything that seems earthy and rustic, losing out on its true definition. Rhizome, a sustainable design firm working out of Ahmedabad, shows us the true sense of the word, in their work on Rann Riders, an eco boutique resort in Dasada.
The Little Rann of Kutch, like a mystery waiting to unravel, is surreal and seemingly endless, with a unique landscape that is a mixture of deserts, grasslands and salt pans; and in this setting, sits Rann Riders, a resort that embodies the rural surroundings and style around it.
A strong supporter of the cause of sustainability, the owner Muzahid Mallik, wanted to give a new look to these cottages and approached Rhizome, who are known for their commercially-viable designs, that project sustainability in a mainstream language which not only makes it desirable but also gives style a positive impact.
Rhizome partnered with Errol Reubens Associates, an Ahmedabad based design firm, for the project – while Rhizome focused on furniture and language of concept, ERA worked on the layout, and overall interior design concept.
Planned in phases, the first and current phase involved the redesigning of two room typologies, that were brick and mortar huts with wooden ceilings completely and repurposing the third room typology, which was traditional Kutchi Bhoonga (round hut) structure superficially. To begin with, the design team, comprising of Rhizome and ERA, chose not to disturb the original decor majorly, while introducing the new sustainable design and different elements into the space.
Rebecca Reubens, principal designer at Rhizome, explains ‘sustainability’ as “a compound picture made up of lots of beautifully complex, wicked and non-negotiable pieces, which our designs work to integrate.” And for this she considers it necessary to ‘look beyond single individual factors – such as the user, the market and production lines – to an integrated design brief.’
The team started by repurposing everything possible in the rooms, and then the next step involved replacing the existing furniture. A brand co-owned by Rhizome, Bamboo Canopy, provided the bamboo furniture, custom designed by Rhizome. Bamboo Canopy’s products are produced by the Kotwalia community of Gujarat through two NGOs – the Eklavya Foundation and the Tapini Bamboo Development Center.
Rebecca tells us, “Muzahid Mallik, wanted us to ensure that the social, cultural, economic and ecological sustainability were all looked at while introducing the new room designs” and this belief by the client worked well in their favour as they utilised local materials and labour, for the project.
Building and repurposing an already existing space can be tricky, and Rebecca felt that ‘repurposing of existing things’ was one of the major constraints in the project. To get a symbiosis with the new design, the design team tackled this hurdle by repackaging the existing elements in the new material palette, as cladding or concealing as deemed necessary.
Against the simple whitewashed wall, dominant materials – bamboo and repurposed wood, used as cladding, furniture, accessories and even canopies, acquire an understated elegance and enhance the colours infused through fabrics. Along with those materials, the designers added local materials like brass and terracotta, and used local skills in crafting them according to the opted designs.
In the different furniture ensembles around the room it is easy to see how the interesting designs in local materials give a new chic and contemporary appeal to the earthy and spartan decor.
All furniture and accessories in the room are made out of bamboo – the beds, a pedestal fan that sits on bamboo tripod legs, custom made tables, curtain rods and even accessories like a circular mirror is framed in small bamboo shoots. But without doubt the most interesting of all furniture are the tables, custom made and unique in design, avowing both the creativity of the designer and the skill of the workers.
The tables are also an interesting example of the creative techniques used to mix materials – recycled wood board, made from waste pieces of teak wood connected with dovetail joints to form a board, is used as table surfaces and elsewhere a shallow copper bowl rests on bamboo legs.
Another interesting design element that makes ‘sustainability’ seem ultra chic are the illumination features. Lanterns line a wall, and illume the space in a dull glow, while inside the room a simple perforated terracotta pendant, custom designed by Rizhome, throws an interesting light pattern around the room. Rann Riders is like its surroundings; its beauty unravels slowly as we experience its different elements.
The resort is not just for the visitors, who get an exemplar service in spaces that redefine rural luxury, but also for the natives whose skill and traditional trade were given a new lease of life through the project. Sustainability breathes in Rann Riders, both through the spaces and the populace encompassed in it.
Text By K Parvathy Menon
Photographs Courtesy Designers