Mylapore’s 200-year-old Luz House is getting a lick of paint and a new lease of life as a yoga centre and boutique hotel
Hidden behind a garage and a petrol bunk on Luz Church Road in Mylapore, this is a building that harks back to Chennai’s Dutch Colonial past. The white villa, with its colonnaded verandah and high ceilings, is straight out of the history books and, until now, stood forgotten. “Luz House was a part of the grounds purchased by my ancestors in Mylapore in the 1770s. It was not so much a house as part of the barracks for the Portuguese armed forces. In the 1850s, my grandfather renovated it to create a women’s zanana,” says Buchi Prakash, the son of renowned cricketer Buchi Babu, as he talks about his plans to open a yoga centre (to start on March 15) and a boutique hotel in his ancestral home.
Designed for yoga
Over the centuries, the Luz House (Luz means light in Spanish) has seen a lot—generations of the family walking its oxide floors, playing tennis on its courts, and feeding horses in its stables. It has also withstood a lot—from storms and wars to demolition and restoration. Then it fell into disuse. Now, after years of mortar crumbling in silence, the house is getting a makeover. “We wanted to restore it to its former glory and utilise the space for something that blends harmoniously with its history,” says Prakash’s son, Abhimanyu Prakashrao. “When my wife Ishani and I heard that 136.1 Yoga was looking for a space to expand its business, we approached them. And it just clicked,” he shares.
Currently work is underway for the yoga centre. Yashwant Saran, the managing director of 136.1 Yoga Studio, is excited about the project. “Imagine the ancient 5,000-year-old tradition of yoga being practised, with a modern approach to service, in an ancient house that’s over 200 years old. We are plain lucky to have this space,” he says.
The restoration work is being overseen by renowned city-based conservation architect, K Kalpana. “The house is a beautiful example of our Dutch East India past. However, new structures were added to it and I didn’t want to do a reversal because it could damage its core. Instead, I am working on highlighting its old-world charm—like the Madras terrace roof with teak wood supports, the large halls with its thick mud-mortar walls, and its tall windows and doors,” she says. Later additions to the house were its red oxide floors, a staple of the 1920s, the salon doors partitioning the long hallway and the porch that juts out into the garden.“In its day, Luz House had a lot of large open spaces with archways connecting them, which were subsequently closed off. We are planning to reopen them,” adds Prakashrao.
After the yoga centre opens its doors, phase two will kick off—to renovate the back of the house into a boutique hotel. “I’ve suggested that they build an extra floor—keeping the same pantile roof—and create 10 rooms. Once that is done, we’ll figure out what kind of feel to give the interiors: Dutch, French or Indian,” says Kalpana, while Prakashrao assures us, “All the furniture sourced for the hotel will reflect the character and age of the building.” Also on the blueprint: an organic counter, a cafe, a library and a small museum dedicated to Buchi Babu and his family’s achievement in sports over the years (Prakash and Prakashrao are both polo enthusiasts). Details: 9840775062
- Surya Praphulla Kumar