The design brief was to recreate the Vanderbilt Mansion in Jaipur. The Vanderbilt Mansion, built along the Hudson River was designed by the premier architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White from 1896-1899. It is a prime example of a grand, Beaux-Arts Mansion of the gilded age.
Our client who moved to America in the 1980s, fell in love with this beautiful Italian Renaissance style mansion built in Indiana Limestone, with white marble statues and follies set amidst verdant gardens. It was his dream to have this mansion come alive in his native Jaipur.
Tarik Currimbhoy Design, in turn, teamed up with Jaipur based Sthapatya Architects and Interior Design. Tarik says ”The success of the project is equally shared by Sandeep and Ritu's team without whom we could not have made this complex project work.”
The job of creating the exterior and interiors took over three years. In addition to Currimbhoy design teams in New York & Mumbai and the Sthapatya team in Jaipur; various specialized teams like traditional Rajasthani wood carvers and stone sculptors, landscape and horticulture experts, metal fabricators and brass casting teams were brought together. POP molding experts were roped in from Mumbai.
It was our job to knit the architecture, landscaping and the interiors together to speak a fluent language of classical architecture, gracefully creating a building using hand chiseled Indian stone in the Ionic order. The sunken courtyards, loggia and balconies balance the imposing regal architecture. The French stepped up formal gardens and fountains soften the imposing building.
The site was a quarter of an acre merging into a private estate of 8 acres in the center of Jaipur. The mansion designed is about 25,000 sq. feet, spread over a basement, ground and first floor.
The exterior façade is the story of stone. Polished, honed and hand chiseled. After consideration, a light beige Gwalior sandstone was chosen as the primary stone, and Ambaji white marble as the secondary stone. White Ambaji marble has been used as a counterpoint to the beige Gwalior sandstone. Acanthus leaf inlays of Ambaji white marble adorn the main north and south crown cornices. Additional Classical ornamentation includes the egg and dart motifs, wreaths and scrolls in the form of relief work as seen in the exterior cladding. White marble statues and fountains surround the house. Mock-ups of façade and fountains were created to study the interplay of light and shadows and ascertain proportions. The job was labor intensive. Each square foot of stone would take a week to be carved and detailed by one person.
The plan of the mansion is formal too, with defined public formal spaces and the private spaces held together by the double height atrium of the dome which forms the center of the classical mansion.
The entry patio, which faces the marble fountain sunk into the stepped up garden, is flanked by fluted-columns with Ionic scroll capitals that hold the canopy which consists of bands of hand carved stone mouldings and white marble entablature. The stone door jamb with acanthus leaf motif terminates at a keystone framing the grand double height door assembly that includes an 8 ft. high arch & 12 ft. high French double doors. The door is of Teak with cast brass & bronze filigree.
Inside, one steps into an open vestibule that leads out into a double height, wood paneled atrium which is covered by a massive 22 ft. diameter dome with coffers and a clerestory, inspired from the dome of the Pantheon. It is gilded in gold leaf with a gold leafed cupola. From the dome hangs a massive, 12 ft. x 10 ft. Osler crystal chandelier custom made in Delhi.
Light plays magic on the coffered dome like in the Pantheon; it streams into the 50 ft. volume of space. “The volume of the atrium binds the entire house together,” says architect Tarik Currimbhoy.
On one side of the atrium is the private office and powder room along with a Rococo styled Guest bedroom and the other side is the wood paneled living and dining room.
The atrium leads to the family room which opens into a loggia overlooking the south garden.
The master bedroom on the ground floor also leads off the center atrium on one side and the other side has the kitchen, elevator, and respective services.
Staircases along either side of the atrium lead you up to the first floor. A wooden arch inspired by the Arc de Triomph which springs from the ground floor welcomes you into the private living spaces on the first floor. A Venetian mirror reflects the chandelier, atrium and coffered dome. The Family room on this floor opens out to its own large terrace overlooking the south gardens. The four bedrooms located at the corners have their own balconies overlooking the gardens respectively.
The basement of the mansion holds a central ‘Great Hall’ which opens out to a private verandah that further opens out to a shaded sunken courtyard in which stands a 16 ft. high white marble fountain, with a stepped cascading water feature. The Grand fountain was successful at its second attempt. The two story fountain was carved 15 kms away and then transported and assembled on site to work with the plumbing services.
Services like central air conditioning, task LED lighting, Automation & an internal elevator were incorporated inconspicuously along with the ornate classical elements. Servant quarters & utility areas are concealed in basement but functionally accessible through internal & external service staircases along the east wall.
A similar attention to detail has been lavished on the interior. Multiple mocks up were made in wood, stone and metal to perfect the proportions and abide by the order especially for the detailed interior elements like the wooden fluted columns, starburst niches & even the grand staircase handrail.
All furniture was selected and assessed as per the floor plans by the architects & client in Spain & Italy. Curtain systems were custom designed and brought in from Mumbai. Remakes of classical oil paintings were commissioned in Mumbai. Chandeliers with imported crystals made of 30% Lead, were custom made in Delhi. Accessories like door handles, exterior light fixtures were imported from NY.
The Landscaping was designed keeping in mind wind patterns (fragrant flowers aligned with bedrooms), privacy, and function of areas.
Drawings of all specific sections of the design, from the exterior facade, columns, cornice details, the atrium, grand staircase, internal dome details, mandir area, great hall, till the guard rooms, boundary walls & gardens were drawn and revised as many times as needed in order to justify the crucial proportions. etc.