Through its landscape design, Layers Studios strives to connect with the immediate surroundings of the site whilst focusing on keeping its work deeply rooted in regionalism.
Delhi-based Layers Studios for Design and Architecture (LSDA), run by architects Neha Bhardwaj and her partner Gaurav Kapoor, both alumni of School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, works on the principles of ingenuity and adding a touch of whimsy to create a brand identity. With its ethos firmly based in the concept of incorporating the natural setting of a site in the design, Layers Studios has taken on two radically different projects to deliver on the promise of being one with nature.
Landscaping Aloha on the Ganges, a resort in Rishikesh, Uttrakhand, and a residence in Udaipur, Rajasthan the design studio has created settings that resonate with the character of the immediate environment of the sites.
Aloha on the Ganges, Rishikesh In the Aloha on the Ganges project, Layers Studios has worked around the existing natural gradient and topography with reduced site intervention in terms of grading and construction. There has also been a conscious decision to use local and sustainable materials that gel with the context and lend the resort’s landscape a serene and meditative feel.
Several big rocks and boulders dotting the area have been retained to add a raw appeal to the design. Similarly, the infinity edge pool has been strategically placed to create the illusion of water falling into the mighty Ganges. The lighting too here has been custom designed to make it look like a part of the natural scheme of things, with most path lights being fused to the bottom of planters lining the area.
The Udaipur Residence
The Udaipur residence, on the other hand, has been designed with the idea of playing with traditional design elements albeit with a contemporary twist. The concept was to wrap the landscaping around a central water feature which sat next to the living room of the house, with water flowing in and out at various levels and locations. Structurally, the design consists of a driveway leading to a drop off plaza which in turn leads to the house through a path next to the central water-body and the main lawn.
Given the hot climate of the area for the most part of the year, the garden has been designed for evening use with lighting playing an important role in the ambience. Spouts and cut mesh have been used to render a dramatic effect to an otherwise subtle lighting; the sensory experience of the sound of flowing water and the fragrance from the flowering trees heightens the effect of being close to nature.
Speaking of the aesthetic sensibilities behind these design concepts, Neha Bhardwaj of Layers Studios, says, “While designing for the ‘Aloha on the Ganges’ project, the aesthetics of the design were broadly dictated by the natural landscape and topography around the site and the dominant design sensibility was to be one with the nature.”
She continues,“The Udaipur house project, on the other hand, being an internal looking landscape and not being placed in a strong context or urban setting, demanded the design to act like an oasis. The design here followed a more contemporary style and yet incorporated traditional local elements responding to the legacy of the city at large.”
Despite the marked difference in the site location and design requirements, both the projects are liberally dotted with similarities that reflect conscious choices made while envisaging a scheme of design. “The basic design principle behind the two projects is one – being in sync with the context and to create an aesthetically pleasing and contiguous space that fulfils the project’s usage requirement.”
Water features are also an integral part of the design scheme in both the projects, with the infinity pool at Aloha on Ganges and the central water feature in the Udaipur residence being the highlights of the landscape design. Speaking of which, Neha says, “Yes, water does play an important role in both the designs, primarily since both Rishikesh and Udaipur have had their relationship with water since time immemorial. Yet, this similarity of water playing an integral role in the two projects becomes the biggest difference between them as one design pays respect to an already existing natural water source, the mighty Ganges, where as the other focuses on water bodies that were designed and created to enhance the landscape.”
Talking about the elements needed to make every design unique in its own right, the designer says, “We always strive to connect with the context and location a design is to be placed in. Every site and project has its own perspective, challenges, constraints and advantages. Responding to these factors is the key to sustaining uniqueness in the different projects despite the same basic design elements being used in most of our projects.”
Text By Arushi Chaudhary
Photographs Courtesy Neha Bhardwaj