Lantern in the Park

A clubhouse designed for a residential complex in Thane by Pune-based architecture and design firm Dar & Wagh was conceived as a guiding lantern to welcome resident’s home. By Amrita Shah

Ranjit Wagh and his partner Amber Dar-Wagh had just moved back to Pune after a long stint in Singapore when they were appointed by construction giants Lodha Builders to design a community clubhouse for a sprawling residential project in Thane – a city on the outskirts of Mumbai.

The construction site was originally an old chemical factory that had been razed, save an enormous old banyan tree. The architect duo wanted to create a space that would welcome residents and conceived of a perforated light box that would act as a guiding beacon. The banyan tree would be an integral part of the design.

A plot for the clubhouse had been allocated near the entrance of the project adjacent to a 110-meter-long car park that had already been constructed. Understandably, the first response was to create a linear structure that would be constructed along the length of the car park to shield it from the unsightly view. The residential towers had been designed by one of India’s largest architectural firms – Hafeez Contractor Architects, and had a strong architectural language of its own. “We knew we had to complement the architectural style of the residential towers but not echo it. So, we decided to step back and let the landscape take the spotlight,” says Wagh.

The resultant design does exactly that. Dar & Wagh designed the structure such that all the public spaces were arranged looking out at the old banyan tree and the lush 1-acre expanse of greenery beyond. The café, multipurpose halls, cinema, indoor court, and indoor swimming pool on the ground floor were arranged along the length of the structure along the parking block, and fronted by a deep verandah carved out of thick stucco walls.

Landscaped steps lead down to the entry plaza. Through the glass box that comprises the reception area, one can see the old banyan tree which occupies a central place in the lawn area just off the verandah. Further, along the verandah, the thick stucco wall continues and shields the indoor pool. Looking onto immaculately maintained bushes and dimly lit, the pool is reminiscent of a hidden oasis.

Juxtaposed against the subdued palette of white walls, black columns, and greenery is the ‘Lantern’ – a metal screened box made of silver anodized expanded mesh that ensconces the upper level of the structure which comprises the gym and the landscaped upper deck with two swimming pools. Lightweight, low cost, and durable with low maintenance, aluminum was the natural choice when it came to selecting a material to bring this lightbox to life.

The mesh acts like a sieve of mini-louvers, protecting the interior from the elements while allowing views. The walls of the mesh extend beyond the floor plate of the podium level and give privacy to the swimming pools. A stairway housed in a glass box leads to the cabana and palm tree-lined outdoor pool area. By introducing more landscaping on the podium level, the Club feels like it is part of a tropical urban paradise.

Making a strong visual statement, the building connects to the surrounding precinct through multiple entries and pedestrian walkways – weaving itself into the housing fabric. Tightly hemmed in by the surrounding taller masses, the overall elevation of the building can never be experienced as a whole, and one only glimpses vignettes of the façade.

Ranjit likens the experience to wandering the streets of Florence where visitors only get glimpses of the Duomo from different perspectives as they amble along the meandering narrow streets. By similarly allowing each face of the building to respond locally to its immediate frontage, the architects successfully created a series of smaller community spaces in and around the Club.

The relationship of the Club with its surroundings is further transformed after dark. The imposing metal structure simply melts away, leaving behind a glowing box that indeed does act like a lantern in the park guiding people homeward at the end of a long day.  Founding directors Amber Dar Wagh and Ranjit Wagh are alumni of CEPT University Ahmedabad. Amber worked with WOHA Architects, Singapore as a Lead Interior Architect for eight years with many successfully completed and critically acclaimed projects in South-East Asia. In 2016, in partnership with Ranjit Wagh, Amber founded Dar & Wagh. She is actively involved with Academics at CEPT Ahmedabad both as a Visiting Faculty for the Masters Programme and is on the Board of Studies as a Review Member. She is also involved with other universities in India and overseas.Ranjit started as an Architect for the National Secretariat complex in Bhutan with Christopher Benninger. Thereafter he moved to Singapore and worked with WOHA for a prolonged engagement and with Kerry Hill for over a decade. 


Completion Year: November 30, 2021

Gross Built up Area 38,000 sq.ft

Project Location: Thane, Maharashtra

Architects: Dar & Wagh

Firm Location: Pune, India

Lead Architects: Ranjit Wagh and Amber Dar Wagh

Design Team: Amber Dar Wagh, Ranjit Wagh, Kritika Sinhgal

Photographer: Niveditaa Gupta

Clients: Lodha Developers