Landscape Architecture firm M/S Prabhakar B. Bhagwat revives the Devi Garh fort by encompassing a myriad of Indian traditions as it paves its way towards minimalist styles of landscape urbanism and contemporary architecture.

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Restored swing at the ladies court.

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Plan of the Devi Garh fort.

Most valuable and most artistic materials in the history of man are treasured up only in India! - Mark Twain

The Devi Garh fort palace in Rajasthan was at the peak of its glory from mid-18th century till mid-20th century as the royal residence of the rulers of Delwara principality. With a conscious desire to revitalise the fort, a family in India established a connection of the past with the present in 1996. The palace has now evolved into one of the most inspiring luxury design hotels across the globe.

India is a land celebrated for its lavish palaces, rugged forts and splendid landscapes enveloping their grandeur. The character and the texture of the landscape profoundly influences both built structures and the quality of life. The firm ‘Prabhakar B Bhagwat’ has delivered the meaning of restoration through well-designed and engaging landscape for this fort palace.

Landscaping in the ‘land of deserts’ was a challenge for them as water had to be
sparingly used, conserved and stored. With a fair play of the scenic backdrop of Aravali mountain range with waterscape, greenery and hardscape, the design stands true to its genesis. The firm believes that, The landscapes have to be ecologically sustainable,
Landscapes have to be energy conscious, They of course need to be all that and more,
Landscapes need to be evocative, They need to be poetic, And they need to be meditative.

The dilapidated palace is carefully being restored and the spaces depict a hotel that is rather modern and yet deeply invested in the crafts of India. It is an abstract geometric composition of a multitude of courts at varied levels that intermingle with waterscapes and pavilions. Located near Udaipur with a milieu of mountains, it is built along the face of a hill. The nature of the landscape is an amalgamation of the rough and generous exterior along with sophisticated and minimalistic interiors. Sketched on the traditional concept of ‘charbaugh’ the designing process begins with recreating the fountains and the water channels, the plantations and the arbours. The series of courts include the entrance courts of the palace, the courts of the stables that are converted into hotel rooms; others include the Ladies court and the Royal court.

The landscape revolves around symbolism as its primary means of delivering a true
essence of the space. It depicts what is essential through a figurative medium and
leaves the rest to the viewer’s imagination.
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Conceptual sketches and plans of the fort palace.

At the entrance court, water rills guide the path through a series of steps and platforms. These accentuate the stone carved balcony – ‘jharokha’ and an existing temple. The planting at this court is simple. The large ficus trees helps in exaggerating the depth and scale of the fort by finding their place strategically in the foreground. Two large stones stand symbolic to the ‘devi’ or the goddess. A seat is placed on the diagonal, carved out of raw rock, to preside over the court. The goddess, shaded by bauhinia blossoms, welcomes the guests into the retreat.

The royal court is seen as a representation of the universe. The royal court in black flooring has a throne crafted in white marble that sits at the rim of a floor. It is circumscribed subtly by an orb as if to rule the cosmos. A tree of life grows and shades the throne that presides over the dark cosmos. This concept and landscape has been developed over what was initially nothing but mud.

Hidden from the Royal Court, is the Zenana Court or the Ladies Court. The court is
the perfect representation of the Rajput community that was progressive, but
equally repressive when it came to its attitude towards women. The broken swing
that stood as a symbolic representation to feminism has been restored. An old sculpture, representing the phallic God, converges with the fountain. The fountain
spews water inwards that represents the womb of a woman. It stands as an acknowledgment to women in feudal lands.

The Lotus Court pays tribute to the famed water rills of Mandu. The Kamal Court initially had a small white tablet carved like a flower. Adding a contemporary touch to the court, the flower was modified into a lotus. The meandering trail of 150 feet involves soothing movement of water through a black rill.

All the courts were engineered to rise 100 feet high so that they would prove to be
aesthetically appealing as well as would facilitate the uninterrupted flow of water. Water from the courts is channelised into yet another water rill and a fountain. It is collected into a newly constructed giant sump. Looking below from the Royal Court,
a vegetable garden is planted that uses ancient agricultural techniques. The traditional farming techniques are based on the gravitational force, devoid of any mechanical pump systems that conserve energy and provide food. This characterised the gardens as yet another representation of the larger landscape of hills and valleys.
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Landscape of the mountains is replicated in an abstract way for courtyard pavings.
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Jharokha overlooking a landscaped courtyard.

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The Lotus Court.

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Entrance Court.

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Vegetable Garden.

The stable court is now modified into rooms. The quick growing Erythrina that attracts
birds, and then the slower growing Mimusups that will over a period of time be replaced by the Erythrinas to shade the courts. Behind the fort, stand the old stone planters with Sansevieria planted in them. Lined in an orderly fashion, they stand on alert as they offer their services for the protection of the Rajput kingdom.The design that has evolved through a genesis of spaces, native crafts and hidden dialogues, conditions the mind to look beyond its mere existence into the glorious days that the palace boasts of. While some mental images are easy to picture, some intrigue the viewers into deeper levels of imagination. India is a nation rich in heritage, traditions and beckons every man for its much deserved contemplation. Devi Garh is an ongoing project, and the office is involved in adding new courts, modifying older ones, and in maintaining the work done on an ongoing basis. It demands a landscape that facilitates a dialogue with time and culture and imbibing the inferences drawn from them.

The architect is pleased with praises from mesmerised visitors, yet believes that the
landscape displays a higher charm than what is written in narratives. Thus, the outcome of this project is honest and assuring.

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Darbar or Royal Court with a rough throne that presides the rim of the universe. See shift in paving pattern.

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