The cozy feeling of home mixed with the elegant charm of the past, that’s what rustic means to me. Simple yet intricate, Swornim Boutique Hotel embodies the traditional Newari style of architecture and design with a contemporary twist to it.
Designed by the innovative and upcoming A for Architecture, a group of young, passionate architects and designers here to bring something new and different into architecture and designing in Nepal. I sit down with Prajal Pradhan, the Managing Director of A for Architecture and his team to talk about their work on Swornim Boutique Hotel and the field of architecture and designing in Nepal. “In the context of Nepal, it is really difficult to do something different and out of the box because the clients are reluctant to embrace something new. So, it’s very difficult to convince them. Even while designing Swornim Boutique Hotel, I had to ask the client not to interfere and let things be. In Nepal, the clients themselves try to be the architect and if you tackle that cleverly, the design can come to life otherwise, it won’t work at all. That’s the crucial part.” he states.
Moving on to the topic of the hotel itself, “They wanted to make it a traditional Newari-style hotel. That was their concept. We did the architecture and the designing of it. It didn’t turn out exactly as we had envisioned it as there were a lot of interferences. Typical Newari was the requirement, and I do appreciate that. It’s the architecture of the city I grew up in, so I do have an attachment to it. But lately everyone seems to be repeating the same designs in the name of Newari-style architecture. You can see it again and again; the windows, the exposed brick and wooden structures. So, we told the client that it’s been overdone but instead we’ll give the hotel the feel of Newari architecture with a touch of rustic designs. To avoid it becoming monotonous and mundane, we added more of a rustic twist to it, using old recycled materials,” he explains.
When one thinks of rustic designs, the picture of the typical cabin in the woods from almost every foreign film comes to mind; the warm, cozy, home-like cabin with its aged, natural feel. “Rustic designs are very raw, very earthen and very warm, giving a cozy, home-like vibe. Like having the bricks exposed, wooden frames, that kind of theme. We used very natural and local materials, giving it an almost vintage feel,” he adds.
Out of all their rustic themed designs, Swornim Boutique Hotel has turned out to be the best. The restaurant, Kebab Village also serves as the hotel’s main dining area as well as the reception area. Upon entering, you are greeted by the partition filled with granite that separates the dining area from the reception area. An interesting concept; the partition has an intriguing blend of copper and wood, adding to the rustic Newari feel. Hanging above the dining area are old traditional bells, something you would expect to see only in temples but are beautifully incorporated into the ceiling.
Another interesting aspect is the wooden rafters, the kind you’d see in old mud houses in villages and older homes, used as a false ceiling throughout the building. Along with this, there are also punctured walls, adding an artistic feel to it. You can see Mandalas behind the bar and patterns seen in old houses sprawled across much of the hotel.
In the reception area, the lights above are actually the traditional paate and on the reception desk, there is an array of little copper disks that are normally used in pujas as decorative elements that add a rustic flair to the desk itself. In addition to these disks, the wood pieces used on the desk are those left over from the destruction caused by the 2015 earthquake.
Along with Swornim Boutique Hotel, A for Architecture has also designed many coffee shops and restaurants besides resorts and residential houses. With scarcity of materials in Nepal, the rustic approach to architecture and designing introduces a new and novel idea with the added benefit of being budget friendly by the use of recyclable materials to enhance the beauty of their artwork rather than import expensive materials.