Architects: Studio Mumbai
Location: Leti, Uttaranchal, India
Principal Architect: Bijoy Jain
Project Team: Geoffrey Johnston, Roy Katz
Photographs: Courtesy of Studio Mumbai
I think it is the responsibility of the designers to think about the bigger picture and the impact their designs have on the environment. And this is a great example of that where they are using local materials, thinking about transportation for the materials … and it does really use materials in a way that doesn’t detract but actually adds to the experience and it makes one aware of the bigger environment.
– Paul Priestman
Located at 2350 m (7700 ft.) above sea level, Leti 360 resort is perched on a promontory in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas. The site is a two hour walk [9 km] from the nearest motorable road and is accessed by a narrow footpath carved into the mountainside, part of a network of trails used by local villagers for daily travel and transport. The trail culminates at the central dining structure built on a plateau, around which four guest dwellings are discreetly set into existing agricultural terraces. Hiramony glacier and the peak of Nanda Kot (6,861 m / 22510 ft.) are visible to the north; the peaks of Nepal line the eastern horizon; and to the south, the Ram Ganga River carves its way through steep terraced valleys and mountain passes.
The design of the resort was influenced by the inherent constraints of building in the area, concerns of environmental impact and cultural sensitivity, and careful observation of indigenous materials, climate and landscape. The architecture is both timeless and contemporary. The buildings are constructed primarily of dry-stacked stone, in the tradition of the area. Glazed walls framed in teakwood have been introduced to let in natural light and to visually connect the guests to the surrounding landscape. Stone was quarried locally and carried to site by porters and mules; all other building materials, including teak wood, glass, aluminum, copper, and canvas – along with custom-made furniture – arrived on site in the same manner. The project was constructed over a period of seven months with the help of more than 70 village masons, carpenters, and craftsmen. Because of its remote location, the site is without electricity; stored solar energy is used to provide hot water and to charge solar lanterns for the guest units.
By simply being in such a location, the project offers a moment of humility and pause, allowing guests to feel a sense of belonging to the land. The project is envisioned as a temporary settlement designed to be dismantled in ten years, leaving a minimal impact on its natural surroundings. Already, only a year since the project’s completion, the landscape has begun to reclaim the site. Local farming continues on the terraces between the dwellings, and migrant herds of sheep, goats and cattle forage on the grassy landscape. Lichen, ferns and moss have taken root in the stone walls of the structures, as the line between built and preexisting landscapes begins to dissolve.