The design of the Oberoi Wildflower Hall by Ranjit Sabikhi Architects preserves and reflects its history. The hotel merges into its location, without dominating its presence. An ingenious and meticulous design has resulted in many terraces to enjoy views of mountains and forests that surround the place.

Shimla is synonymous with a weekend getaway, a summer retreat and a holiday
destination. The hustle and bustle of a popular hill station is much attractive, but not ideally the place to enjoy nature’s bounty. Offering more than just the commercial tourist destination is the Oberoi Wildflower Hall, 20 kilometres away from Shimla. It is located at an elevation of 8250 feet above sea level, at Mashobra.

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Site Plan.

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Exterior View.

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Swimming Pool Terrace.

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View of Lobby Lounge.

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Speciality Restaurant with Fireplace.

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Interior of Brasserie.

The cliff is blanketed with cedar and pine forests and orchards. The hotel stands at
the edge of the cliff within a clearing in the trees. Adding to the allure and grandeur
of the hotel is its glorious past, as it was once a summer house that belonged to Lord Kitchener, Commander-in-chief of the British Army in 1902. It has since earned a story of its own. After independence, it was acquired by the government and converted into a hotel, before being burnt down by a fire in 1993, only to rise again.

The Oberoi group took over the 22 acre site and as a result, originated the Oberoi Wildflower Hall in the year 2000. Taking away nothing from the authenticity of its history, Ranjit Sabikhi Associates and Chhada Siembieda & Associates designed the hotel to curate a special experience of the times gone by, the luxury of the British Raj.

The architect made a conscious decision to keep the main entrance level at ground floor, with four floors of guest rooms and individual suites above. The site slopes towards the East, and the architects utilised this natural setting to create a series of stepped floors down the hill. “The design of an 85 room hotel, in this spectacular setting, presented a unique challenge. We did not want to build a massive structure
that would dominate the surroundings. It was our intention to design a building in
scale with the surrounding trees, which would merge into its location. This is an objective that we believe has been achieved,” says architect Ranjit Sabikhi.
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Indoor Swimming Pool.
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The porch leads directly to the lounge which, just like all public areas, has been designed to be reminiscent of Lord Kitchener’s original Wildflower Hall. The interiors of the hotel have been done by Chandu Chhada of Chhada Siembieda & Associates. Every detail from the fireplace with the portrait of Lord Kitchener to the furniture, woodwork and chandeliers above speaks of the era. Off the Lounge directly in front is the Brasserie, which opens through a glass lobby on to a wide terrace with spectacular views of the mountain range. The warm furnishings, the wooden panelling and wooden floors, the interiors of the hotel, teamed with tall arched windows exude comfort imbued with a charm.

The floors below ground level have been ingeniously utilised and designed, creating
many opportunities to enjoy the setting. A prerequisite to designing a hotel is its public areas and service floors, which take up considerable space. The floors that step down are used for this purpose, with the service entry being on the lowest point at the South-East side. As a consequence, the building was integrated into the hillside, while simultaneously creating large usable terraces for the guests. The service areas being completely hidden from public view is an additional advantage. Another terrace on the ground floor can be found outside the speciality restaurant and children’s restaurant.
Characteristic of all terraces is the sheer lack of any railing along the edges. Instead they are flanked by low height planters, blurring the boundaries between the built form and its surroundings. Consequently, it seems as if the terraces are right on the tip of the world, framed by a majestic and enchanting mise en scène.

On the basement floor, attached to the indoor swimming pool is a glass house. Walking out from this glass house one is met by another swimming pool on the terrace. This has been skilfully planned, with the pool daringly and excitingly placed along the edge. These spaces maximise the awareness and experience of residing along the edge of a cliff. No public space has been left un-thought of, as the meeting rooms in the basement also have the privilege of being attached to a large terrace. Himachal slate used as flooring further completes the casual al fresco ambience.
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Living room of suite.
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Guest bedroom with outside terrace.

The building has a massive pitched roof and pinnacles over the stair towers and dhajji construction. The steep sloping roofs have been designed to throw off the winter snow. To establish a connection with the local buildings of the area, modest exterior finishes like Himachal slate and plaster were chosen.

“As the hotel was expected to serve as a year round resort for guests and their families, every effort was made to provide for all likely demands. Tennis courts and hiking trails with pleasant picnic spots are located within the estate, to meet guests’ needs during the summer months. For the autumn and winter periods, there are substantial sunlit terraces to sit and enjoy the views.

“Overall the project resulted in an unusually satisfying architectural exercise in its
beautiful location,” the architect reminisces. Celebrating the landscapes around and within, as the architecture of the hotel has taken full advantage of the opportunities provided by the site, without exploiting nature, only complimenting it.
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Typical Guest Bedroom.
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