The concept design that finally emerged not only celebrated the climate, context, and local materials, but also the five key virtues that underpin Buddhism: wisdom, courage, compassion, forbearance, and perseverance. (For anyone keen to know more about this unique design story underpinned by Buddhism principles, the main mandala is laid out on a sandstone plaque at the entrance of the hotel.)
Material Palette of Marasa Sarovar Premiere Bodh Gaya
Though, initially, the SJK team was intent on constructing the resort entirely of bricks, their idealism was bruised when it hit ground realities. “The sandy soil had a poor load-bearing capacity, and we would have had to go really deep to set the foundations, which would then involve bricks at a prohibitive cost,” says Kadri, who had earlier hoped that they would have a chance to boost their patronage of the local economy with the use of bricks. However, soon she became mindful of the carbon that would be released into the environment during the firing process involved in making bricks. Eventually, the team ended up using a combination of concrete, aerated-concrete blocks, and bricks sourced from Varanasi and Bodh Gaya. They also innovated on the go: mixing pigment into concrete and replacing the idea of brick vaults with coloured concrete ones. It also helped that using aerated-concrete blocks would insulate the structure 1.5 times better than bricks would, and thus reduce overall air-conditioning costs in the long run.
However, the team had set their minds on one material: half-round clay roof tiles called ‘country’ tiles, made by farmers on a potter’s wheel. “The client suggested we use factory-made tiles, but I requested them to support my team with this choice,” says Kadri. Moved by her tenacity, the project manager ended up sourcing the tiles from 26 families spread out in 12 different villages across Bodh Gaya.
The concept of brick was also retained in the interior design by using it as a cladding in the guest bedroom and cafés. “Here, [we did with] brick cladding what other hotels are doing by way of stone cladding and wallpapers,” points out Shankar. According to Kshirsagar, their guiding design philosophy was all about restraint, which also proved to be a challenge while designing the luxe space. “We chose materials that could be easily maintained, such as linen and cotton, and we stuck to soft, muted palettes so the room would seem like an extension of the elements.” The property also has a large waterbody, one inspired by the lily pond of the Mahabodhi Temple. “We had visualized it as being full of lotuses,” says Shankar. “There are none yet. But someday, we are sure there will be.” Patience, after all, is the greatest prayer, said Gautam Buddha.