An enchanting escape—Step into Utsav Camp, a design-focussed forest retreat crafted by Studio Mestry
JUN 10, 2022 | By Sneha Gandhi
Rooted in quietude, wilderness and design laced with thoughts of outdoor adventures, Utsav Camp in Alwar, Rajasthan is a vision to behold and a place to experience away from the bustle and noises of a city life.
Hidden in the cascading flora and fauna of Sariska, the sanctuary is a mesmerising brainchild of a trained naturalist Luv Shekhawat.
Conceptualised and designed by Akshaya Mestry, Principal Architect at Studio Mestry Utsav Camp sprawling over 375000 sq ft (3.5 hectares) poses as a rite of passage that leads to inner peace and stimulates organic connections with one’s surroundings harnessing the healing power of nature and rejuvenating the soul.
Let’t rewind to a little backstory before this retreat took shape. In a situation disturbed by the pandemic, one of the most tricky challenges a designer could face is dealing with and executing design details virtually. This hiccup however, resulted in interesting endeavours for Akshaya and Luv, both, while crafting the space to completion. The coordination that followed for the designing of the retreat happened over video calls and email for over three months.
When Akshaya was first entrusted to transform the interiors of the then raw rubble shell, she was drawn to the reviving ambience of the adjoining forest. The lush surroundings compelled her to recreate a harmonising palette of indoor-meets-outdoors.
She divulges, “Being one of the oldest natural habitats in the world, Sariska’s trove of vegetation and fauna posed as the muse of the design narrative, etching an indelible impression upon the medley of spaces at Utsav Camp.”
To unlock the site’s maximum potential, Studio Mestry remodelled a few spaces including the forest lounge and stone cabins, adding in their own sensibilities. Use of indigenous materials like warm-toned wood, cool hand plaster lime walls complemented by beige, grey and olive green accents mould a rooted, homely colour palette.
Antique-style acacia and rosewood furniture, strategically placed custom artwork and artefacts exude an old-world charm, a subtle nod to the royal heritage of the State. A series of built in-house suspended lights crafted out of jute, metal and terracotta illuminate the jungle retreat.
Customised wallpapers narrating the stories of Sariska are the heart of every space. With their surreal wildlife illustrations, the wall coverings act as a catalyst calling out to the landscape beyond.
The reception area of Utsav Camp unfolds into a wide open courtyard also known as the outdoor library cafe as it is flanked by a private library. The library adjoins an enormous conventional restaurant. The upper levels of the restaurant include an in-house bar and forest lounge.
Elaborating on why the library and the forest lounge are their personal favourite spots, Akshaya reveals, “Our main focus was for people to enjoy a raw yet warm atmosphere within these spaces. Utsav Camp immerses the guests in a tactile milieu that revels in an untainted and rustic demeanour.”
The restaurant verandah further morphs into an external courtyard bordered by mammoth rubble buttresses. The centrally located outdoor garden restaurant with a rectangular pool enjoys captivating views of the skies.
Two meandering pathways hint a sequential directionality as they usher one into the spatially dispersed stone cabins and tents. The pathways connect both the public and the private sections of the site, disintegrating only to provide pause points for self reflection.
MS framework and bamboo rafter roofs fabricate a semi-covered sit-out space in the forest lounge. The stone cabins house similar extensions to enable additional privacy for the guests.
The ingenious design of the monolithic bed built under the bamboo roof incorporates a projected back that doubles up as a study desk. The stone bed is a sun-kissed, breezy escape in the day and a silent spectator of the star-filled sky at night.
Where every section of this place bursts with mindful design elements, Studio Mestry augmented this by installing bamboo screens in the southern facing walls to avoid overheating during summers. The screens filter in sunlight during winters. Embracing a sustainable approach, the studio utilises on-site wood, bamboo, natural stones, and local labour to establish a rooted and earthy essence in the project.
“Utsav Camp is a celebration of nature and tracing one’s roots,” concludes Akshaya. Far away from the monotonous and overwhelming clutches of urbanisation, the retreat stands proud as a delightful reminder of the inherent joy of outdoor-focussed, sustainable living.
If you enjoyed reading about this sensory haven, check out Stone Lodges – Private Residences in Wayanad by Earthitects are all parts picturesque, serene and sustainable