Design Thinking, Architecture

Balancing Legacy and Modernity: The Club at The Trees

Creating a dialogue between legacy and modernity to cater to a community’s recreational needs
The Club at The Trees is an anchoring zone for The Trees, a 34-acre mixed-use development for Godrej Properties Ltd in Vikhroli, a prominent neighbourhood from Mumbai’s industrial past.

The Club at The Trees is an anchoring zone for The Trees, a 34-acre mixed-use development for Godrej Properties Ltd in Vikhroli, a prominent neighbourhood from Mumbai’s industrial past. Programmed as a community centre for the residential towers in the project, The Club has been conceptualized as a collection of buildings abstracted from the memories of the site – borrowing in form and material from the industrial legacy of Vikhroli as well as the Godrej Group.

A collaborative effort between Studio Lotus and GPL Vikhroli, The Club marks the second phase of placemaking interventions on the site. The architectural narrative found its lexical bearings with Imagine Studio, a marketing experience centre created by the same team in 2015 that involved conversion of old power co-generation plants, a boiler room and chemical silos into an immersive experience of the entire project for potential buyers. The Club takes this story forward by creating structures programmed as recreational spaces, interpreted as forms reminiscent of the mid-century industrial structures that dotted the campus in erstwhile times.

The Trees comprises residential towers, retail spaces, hospitality facilities and corporate workspaces clustered around a dense greenway. The development is adjacent to one of the largest privately owned mangrove reserves that, in conjunction with the industrial objects on the site, creates its environmental as well as historic framework. A central green belt creates a prominent axis that splits the site in two equal halves, on the northern end of which sits The Club. Located across from the retail-edged commercial hub of the campus and in between the two residential phases, the site of the clubhouse establishes an amorphous boundary, serving as a connector between public and private zones to become a natural hub for the development.

The functional programme of the clubhouse includes a gamut of recreational areas built around the idea of ‘Reinterpret, Recall and Reconnect’ for the residents. Interspersed with the dense greenery, a cluster of silo-inspired buildings reinforce the idea of The Grove. These interconnected free-standing pods house the clubhouse reception, a gym and café with spa treatment rooms and a restaurant with a herb garden on the first level.

Flanking the west face of the clubhouse is the Hall, its form derived from the glycerine plant that used to sit on the site. Programmatically, this is a badminton court that doubles as a multi-purpose event space. The adapted structure retains its distinct wide-spanned ceiling with vaulted edges. Across the hall are two cuboidal concrete volumes referred to as The Stacks, which house the squash court and mini theatre within and Golf putting greens on the rooftop level. This cluster of buildings frame the informal courtyard which houses the deck and the swimming pool. Articulating the courtyard edge, a thin concrete and metal canopy connects these diverse architectural expressions into a singular experience, and also softens the transition between built and open spaces. The café opens out under this canopy, underscoring the primary role of this project as a space for the community to come together in a seamless indoor-outdoor experience.

The external expression of The Club’s structures defers to the scale of their surroundings. These sculptural silhouettes are a contrast to the relatively severe geometry of the residential towers, and seek to reconnect the residents with the history of the site. Existing vegetation on the site has been retained and augmented, becoming a key element in building the narrative of both the natural environmental and built legacy of the site.

The Club at The Trees expresses the idea of timelessness through a palette of materials that will develop a patina with time, conveying its age. A juxtaposition of concrete, Corten steel, zinc and timber add their ever evolving character to the narrative – their relationship with the site strengthening over time as the inhabitants of The Trees layer their own stories onto the site through their shared spaces and experiences. On the practical side, this palette requires minimal maintenance and upkeep, resulting in a reduced carbon footprint over time.

The design of the clubhouse is environmentally responsive; a 100 per cent of the waste water is treated on site, and all the rainwater is either harvested, or used to recharge groundwater. All glazed surfaces are shaded, and the net volume of space needing air conditioning has been minimised through all circulation spaces being naturally ventilated and shaded to reduce the overall ambient temperature.

The clubhouse has been conceptualized as a space that is commemorative, yet future-forward – embodying the spirit of Godrej in its present form, while also paying homage to its illustrious past. Anchoring the narrative of an invigorated urban realm, The Club at The Trees bridges the modern and the historic, the built and the natural, and the private and the public to help catalyse the needs of a vibrant community.