“A simple sandbank with coconut trees when we first saw it” recalled Maldivian hospitality pioneer, Champa Hussain Afeef.
“It is impossible to recreate nature, but we tried our best” says the Principal Architect, Yuji Yamazaki.
Maldives being the lowest in average ground level, it enjoys the benefit of some of the world’s most beautiful beaches while simultaneously facing the threat of rising sea levels. Publicized as the first ‘100% solar-powered’ project in Maldives, Finolhu Villas all set to create new marks, and eventually become the role model for future sustainable hotels. It’s doing its best in order to guard its motherland from the effects of global warming.
Designed by New York based firm Yuji Yamazaki Architecture PLLC in partnership with local firm Design 2000 the hotel was completed earlier this year. It’s situated in an island named Gasfinolhu, in Indian Ocean, in reference to which it is named.
The island measures around 13 acres and the inner areas sum up to 123,000 sq. ft. According to their calculations, nearly 67,000 sq. ft. of solar panels were required along with the storage battery for catering an average headcount of 100 guest and 100 staffs. Now, imagine a tourist destination that’s full of techno panels, all you can see is wires, batteries and panels everywhere. Will it be any longer touristy? To deal with the same, the architects have tried to incorporate these techno panels as a decorative embellishment throughout the site, rather than hiding it.
Installing these many panels is a heavy investment to do and hence involves a lot of thinking. But the owners were absolutely ready to bear it as it equals to just eight years of cost of diesel fuel, which would be required instead, for running the hotel.
Although green electricity is produced on site itself, the architects have also made efforts in minimizing its requirements by energy efficient design. The orientation of villas and position of windows were decided so as to maximize the flow of natural Maldivian winds. The wooden screens shields the external walls and the patio by keeping off the scorching equitorial sun and hence maintaining the inner room temperatures. Post occupancy evaluation has shown that the guests generally do not switch on the air conditioners despite the hot and humid climate of Maldives.
“All resorts in the Maldives are accessed by boats or seaplanes. It is unique to this county that you first see any building in the distance from the sea or sky, which gives the visitors a stunning impression of the entirety of architecture on the island” says Yamazaki. Here comes another challenge of aesthetics, of making it appear decent not only from the perspective of human’s eye view but also from bird’s eye view. The architect wanted to generate the impression of an organism that belongs to the island itself. Hence he designed the gentle curved roofs that breakaway from rigidity and blend well with the surroundings.
“When you have a beautiful and unique site like this, you want to just preserve it. Hopefully our new landscape will seamlessly blend with what was there before. Ultimately that’s the main thing that people come to enjoy” worries Yamazaki. This statement itself shows the architects inner regard towards nature, and architecture as its small part. This has essentially influenced the making of a sustainable masterpiece.
Architect in Charge: Yuji Yamazaki
Project Year: 2015
Photographs: Courtesy of YYA
By : Kushal Jain