Architecture, Interior, Landscape


Melwa Hotels & Resorts | Hilton


Yala National Park, Yala, Sri Lanka




8,062 M2


AHEAD Awards Asia 2024 – Hilton Yala, Finalist Resort
AHEAD Awards Asia 2024 – Hilton Yala, Finalist Landscaping & Outdoor Spaces
2022-2023 Asia Pacific Property Awards – Best Hotel Architecture
2021 Alumni Design Award, Texas Tech University College of Architecture – Yearly Honor Award
2019 World Architecture & Design Awards – First Award, Hospitality

Strata [Latin] ……is a layer of sedimentary (rock or soil) or material with internally consistent characteristics that distinguish it from other layers. The “stratum” is a plural layer of material, naturally or artificially formed, often one of a number of parallel layers one upon another: a stratum of ancient foundations.

SITE: The site is located on the Indian Ocean coast on the eastern shores of Sri Lanka within the Yala National Park comprising several public and non-accessible Elephant Wildlife sanctuaries. A dry semi-arid climate zone, the region contains ecosystems ranging from forests to freshwater and saltwater wetlands, one of the largest leopard densities in the world and countless species of birds.

The 7 acre project site coastal site is boundless on its flanking sides. Metamorphic granite rock strata rise diagonally through the site and contain the surging sea. Frequented by wild elephants with long established trails traversing the site, peacocks, leopards, boar, cobras, buffalo livestock, Somba deer, fresh water crocodiles and sea turtles ….. the site is rugged and primordial.

CONCEPT | FORM: The site development is restricted to 42 villas. Arrival from the rutted, sandy safari road is framed by 8 meter high stone walls creating a compression space/moment for guests. The walled canyon placed strategically within the rock strata and 150 year old native trees lead guests to the 8 meter cantilevered fire pit providing guests the first expansive view of the sea, surrounding terrain and the resort. The lobby structure cantilevers 12 meters over the stone canyon walls with a full width dining terrace offering a dramatic architectural statement, and expansive views over the resort.

References via art installations and details to historic Sri Lanka architecture and the predominantly Buddhist culture and architecture are integrated throughout the resort. Spa pavilions based on historic Sri Lanka historic temples are placed strategically within the rock strata and irreplaceable trees.

This villa density necessitated a combination of single level and two level villas. The muscular, pure geometrical architectural forms are a dialectical response to the primeval landscape and the rocks strata. Extracted blocks of metamorphic stone cantilevered above the untouched terrain. The villas are sited to specific views externally to the sea, internally to established water channels, elephant trails and pools.

MATERIALS: Local granite stone cladding at walls and floors provide a seamless materiality exterior to interior. Local cinnamon tree woods appear selectively at floor areas and privacy screens for conservation efforts. The interior decorative palette is safari relaxed of greys, khaki beige and dried bone white colors.

LANDSCAPE | ECOLOGY: Preserving and enhancing the site’s ecology was paramount in the master planning and landscaping strategies. A local naturalist was retained to select all plants and trees, numerous selected to attract wildlife. Bio-pools for flash floods and water retention provide watering holes for the elephants and other wildlife. Stone lined pools are salt water and non- chlorinated as elephants and wildlife often drink from the guest pools. Elevated walkways, terraces and screens provide “prospect and refuge” for the guests and the wildlife.



Stephen O’Dell, Founder and Director

Brian Gillett
Wana Chansawat
Phatsorn Wuttiwongphakdee
Paovalee Pojanapreecha
Thaiyamon Chaengruangthong
Napapol Sukprasert
Denis Lincelles
Malee Mookda
Yananan Sunorakum
Yosita Parapithak
Thunyanut Supa
Noppong Chatchaisittikul
Warisa Chaisutyakorn
Hathaikarn Narkaswet
Tatipat Srisombat

Adam Bruzzone