Harding Boutique Hotel / ANARCHITECT
Text description provided by the architects. The first Harding Boutique Hotel designed by British Architect Jonathan Ashmore of RIBA-chartered practice ANARCHITECT is now open in the coastal town of Ahangama, situated in Sri Lanka’s lush Southern Province and a thirty-minute drive from the UNESCO World Heritage Site; Galle Fort. This six-suite independent boutique hotel pays homage to the Sri Lankan architectural genre of Tropical Modernism and its attributed father Geoffrey Bawa. As with Bawa’s later works, the hotel’s design explores modernism with local cultural implications and the area’s natural resources for a uniquely recognizable vernacular.
As well as the architecture, the practice was responsible for all design aspects of the property, including the interiors and bespoke joinery for an immersive contemporary experience. The building is unusual in the way that it extends vertically amongst the tropical vegetation – at its smallest point, it measures six meters across, creating a unique ground-level and street view perspective as one looks up, which compliments and contrasts the surrounding coconut grove. On entry, guests stand below a feature open staircase, which offers access to the rooms and a rooftop terrace. This ascension allows for immersive 360 views of the coastline to that of a typical low-lying holiday resort. Whilst the building doesn’t conform to a colonial-inspired design as a restrictive anchor, its modern-progressive architecture feels of place, as if it has always existed there; evoking an authentic Sri Lankan experience.
ANARCHITECT sourced all materials locally, selecting these based on their durability and longevity, given intense weather and sea exposure. As the area was affected by the 2004 Tsunami, the building lies beyond the required 20m setback from the coastline. Local craftsmen were employed to produce the hotel’s custom timber joinery, furniture and fit-out. Wall and floor surfaces were completed in a robust, satin polished local plaster that is typical of Sri Lanka. The building is a purist, part-brutalist form that follows the alignments of the original plot and kinks to capture the views of the ocean and the town to the rear. The narrow East-West cross-section of the hotel encourages natural cross-ventilation that filters the prevailing coastal winds and creates a constant permeability between the interior, interstitial, and exterior spaces of the hotel and a dialogue between the hotel’s guests and nature.
The elevated ocean-facing rooms feature open-air private baths and rain showers, and the garden rooms are dual aspects with open-air rain showers and purposefully framed views out into the lush palm trees, acting as the interiors’ extended artwork. The naturally ventilated central staircase offers intimate seated nooks on the mid-landings that are both contemplative and social, organically inhabited by guests and visitors at their own leisure; as they ascend towards the open-air roof terrace complete with a restaurant for up to 40 diners. The facades to the staircase and private balconies are purposely dynamic and interactive for the guests to easily manipulate by hand to alter the building, as the sunlight and tropical weather transform throughout the day and into the evening.
The cross-ventilated café space overlooks the infinity-edge swimming pool; with a pink pigmented pool deck taking inspiration from the clay color of the surrounding soil. These key architectural features resonate and fulfill an authentic Sri Lankan experience in a new and contemporary way; for those looking for an escape and immersive experience. Studio’s Founding Principal Jonathan Ashmore comments, “The project became a natural progression from ANARCHITECT’s award-winning desert retreat in the Emirates (Al Faya Desert Retreat & Spa) given its familiar scale and the number of rooms. With an equally inspired context and contrasting climate (from the desert to the tropics), it was a natural continuation of my own and our team’s passion for ‘destination hospitality’ and ‘global-local’ approach to our projects to create a stand-out, of-place property that was intrinsic to its location, purpose and environment.”