Leiti, Uttaranchal, India
Located at 8,000 feet above sea level in the foothills of the north Indian Himalayan range, the project is perched on a promontory overlooking the picturesque Ramganga Valley. The site is a two hour walk from the nearest motorable road and is accessed by a narrow walking trail carved into the steep mountain face above stepped terraces of rice paddies and wheat fields.
Clustered around a central dining and lounge structure, a series of guest units are built into the contours of the terraced hilltop. Half-meter thick stone retaining walls define the interior of each bedroom and wrap around the bathroom and private courtyard. Marked by the details of an age-perfected craft, the handworked stone has a tactile richness that accentuates the beauty of the simple structures. The stone walls firmly anchor each structure and provide enough thermal mass to passively heat and cool the unit. Large wood framed windows run the length of the bedroom, orienting the room outwards and bringing in natural light. Each unit is positioned to enhance the experience of peace and solitude in the mountain landscape, with outdoor patios and open stone firepits that look out onto views of plunging valleys and glacial peaks.
The dry stacked masonry walls were built by local masons using stone quarried nearby and carried to site by porters and mules. All other materials, such as timber, metal sheeting, canvas, plumbing fixtures, solar panels, and glazing – including the 9 x 4 foot single sheet of glass for the main entrance – were carried to the site by hand. Water for the resort is sourced from a nearby rain catchment basin and is heated directly by the sun. Stored solar energy powers the main kitchen and charges portable solar lanterns for guests.
The site is connected to neighboring villages through a network of foot trails along which daily supplies are transported. Local farming continues on the terraces between the dwellings, and migrant herds of sheep, goats and cattle forage on the grassy landscape. The project is envisioned as a temporary settlement designed to be dismantled in ten years, leaving a minimal impact on its natural surroundings.