Sham Salim and Aslam Karadan, Principal Architects at aslam.sham architects, build a lush resort in Coimbatore that resonates with the harmonious and humble architecture of Bali

SEP 23, 2023 | By Ela Das
A path leads the way to the reception lobby located a level above the ground floor with furniture from Jepara that is sourced through Simple Decor in Kozhikode. The mud-plastered walls with thin wood inlay impart a tropical aesthetic which continues as a theme across the property. Polished cement and concrete flooring laid by local labourers mark the way to the rest of the resort; Photography by Ishita Sitwala
An independent cottage at the resort seen from its private yard features its own pool and generously sized living space FACING PAGE With chairs sourced from Jepara, Indonesia by Kozhikode-based store Simple Decor, the viewing deck overlooks the lush estate; Photography by Ishita Sitwala
Soft white linens on the bed lend a subtle softness to the tropical cottage which beautifully contrast with the external wall FACING PAGE A curved cane partition serves as a divider screen between the living area and the bedroom. The exposed wooden rafters and underside of the roof are complemented by teak furniture; Photography by Ishita Sitwala

An hour’s drive from Coimbatore, along the border of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, leads to a lush areca palm plantation which is home to Maayaa — a tropical modern Balinese-style resort spread across 40,000 sq ft. Offering travellers a tranquil getaway with rooms and cottages, a clubhouse, luxurious amenities and a host of restaurants, Sham Salim and Aslam Karadan, Principal Architects at aslam.sham architects have built a tropical paradise overlooking the Nilgiris, with the Bhavani and Siruvani rivers converging at one corner.

“On our first visit, we had identified this spot to build the resort for its view,” points out Sham as we look out from the top of the cliff and watch the fog slowly roll in. “Rather than focusing on building an impressive structure, our process was rooted in maximising the potential of this vantage point,” adds Aslam.

aslam.sham architects
The entrance lobby opposite the reception is designed to frame the magnificence of the location and the mountains across for arriving visitors; Photography by Ishita Sitwala


aslam.sham architects
Lime plastered walls lead the way on the access bridge to the premium rooms of the resort. The material palette and design language within the resort has been strongly influenced by Balinese architecture to echo the idea of a tropical paradise; Photography by Ishita Sitwala


A cottage opens into a private pool deck and a lush green yard which overlooks a river, with the mountains serving as a backdrop; Photography by Ishita Sitwala


aslam.sham architects
Stream of sunlight through a bedroom’s verdant yard creates a play of shadows on the cement floor; Photography by Ishita Sitwala

To perfectly frame and showcase the raw beauty of the surroundings, the structures have been built to feel visibly light — unimposing and blending into the nature around it. “You’ll barely see any solid walls here, except for the dining space which we’ve enclosed in glass since it needed to be air-conditioned in the summer,” explain the duo. “We wanted to preserve the natural landscape despite constructing a huge formation here,” they add. The floors and the rest of the spaces are accessed on the lower levels below the main arrival hall, which has a lobby and connects to the dining rooms. The tops of the roofs on each floor have been designed as shallow koi or lily ponds flowing across the entire area above to reflect the mountain range that wraps around the resort.

aslam.sham architects
Overlooking areca palm plantations, stone pillars create a picturesque frame for the onlooker. The furniture is sourced from Jepara, Indonesia by Simple Decor in Kozhikode; Photography by Ishita Sitwala

The clients’ brief was to echo the harmonious architecture of Bali — where buildings and their materials quietly blend into their natural topography. “This was the starting point for choosing the materials and landscape details. Since the property boasted a tropical plantation, it was only fitting to follow the same theme and extend it further,” exclaims Sham. Deepthi Chandra, a landscape architect based out of Bangalore, whom the duo met in college — worked with the team to fine tune the landscape of the property. “She carefully chose the perfect flora that seamlessly integrated into how we envisioned the property,” says Aslam.

While the breezy thatched roofs are the first detail to catch everyone’s eye, the large imposing rubble stone walls stand in stark contrast beneath it — a connecting design detail across all the blocks, made with stones quarried from the site. “We paired a weightless exterior with a rugged hardness across the interior’s decor to carry the theme of the facades through each room, which you’ll see in the tropical-themed furniture and rustic pieces sourced from Indonesia,” describes Sham. The resort has two blocks — one of them being housing rooms that open into river-view balconies, and the other offering independent cottages with plunge pools overlooking the river and the mountains behind. “Since both these blocks have been built along the ground’s natural contours, we’ve designed the passages and bridges at different levels to connect each space to the clubhouse and other common areas,” Aslam relates.

A dramatic curved cane divider behind an otherwise simple wooden bed from Homework Living in Kozhikode is a visually dramatic design detail in this bedroom FACING PAGE A free-standing concrete tub imported from Indonesia is the centrepiece of this open-to-nature bathroom. A dark rubble stone wall that wraps around the rest of the resort, continues across a feature wall here; Photography by Ishita Sitwala

For Sham and Aslam, running a young practice at the time of building this resort five years ago posed as a daunting challenge that now makes for fond memories. “With absolutely no experience working on a project of such magnitude and scale as a couple of 26-year-olds, we had to manoeuvre through a few tricky spots — but reaching the end of our journey and building this resort was the most satisfying and fulfilling experience for us!” says Sham. Aslam muses, “The biggest lesson we learnt along the way was to believe and trust our instincts always, but also accept our inabilities… taking on a helping hand to grow beyond our limits. We definitely pushed ourselves out of our comfort zones with this one!”

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