2008 Palladio Award Winner


GITANJALI IS AN EPIC POEM OF LOVE AND PRAISE written by the Indian poet laureate Rabindranath Tagore. As the perfect expression of the essence of his home, it is the name Wadia chose for his English country house, a local gem hidden on a quiet road north of the village of New Canaan. It is a true English country setting — a bucolic and pastoral place where rolling meadows and 200-year-old trees still exist. Reflecting Wadia’s appreciation for the intimate relationship between building structures and their surrounding landscape, the house and its gardens share a symbiotic relationship: the house provides the gardens with a reason for existing, while the gardens shelter the house and extend it outward into the surrounding landscape. Together, they form a private world that reveals itself gradually and unexpectedly.

Gitanjali was originally built in 1870 as the guest cottage of a large estate whose main house was torn down long ago. When Wadia purchased the property in 1998, the house and gardens had been severely neglected, and the magnificent trees — which were planted as mature specimens by the original owners — were choking from poison oak and ivy. Though the house was a wreck, it occupied a nice spot anchored by two huge ash trees. Tearing down the house and rebuilding would have meant cutting down the two trees, an unthinkable act for Wadia, so he decided to renovate and salvage as much as possible. Remarkably, the exterior of the house today looks nearly identical to the original structure, right down to the climbing hydrangea over the front door, which was peeled off the front of the house and supported with scaffolding while workers put up new crossbeams and finished the façade with stucco.

The renovation involved extensive yet unobtrusive additions and modifications that borrow from the finest details of the original home. The interior was completely reconfigured to include new bedrooms with baths en suite, a large country kitchen with a sitting area warmed by a large limestone fireplace, and a loggia for summer dining overlooking the magnificent gardens. The end result is an exquisitely detailed “cottage” that is both spacious and modern while retaining the modest charm of the original house. Yet it is the interplay between the house and the gardens outside that lingers in one’s memory — just as Wadia would intend it.

In 2008 the gardens at Gitanjali were honored with a Palladio Award for excellence in traditional residential design. This prestigious awards program recognizes designers whose work enhances the built environment through creative interpretation and adaptation of traditional design principles.

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