It's not easy to find ones way to Gotham house, although the description by the cheerful owner seems to be quite clear. The paved road at the end of Beauvallon beach is winding upwards the steep Bel Ombre area between impressive granite rocks so typical for the Seychelles surrounded by lush tropical forest. Soon the road narrows in to no more than a small path no European would call a road and for sure more fit for a Jeep than our modest little open Mini Mock. But we finally reach the gate of Gotham House and are greeted by the smiling owner, barefoot and in shorts.
The white painted stairs leading down to the house and main terrace pass between two enormous granite boulders, rightly chosen as the guardians to the entrance to this outstanding site. Only after passing them does one get a first impression of the houses forming this compound and the stunning view. Situated in an area that the Seychellois call “Bel Ombre” meaning “Beautiful Shadow” the houses overlook one of the longest, and for many Seychelles connoisseurs, the most beautiful beaches at Mahé island called Beau Vallon situated at the northern part of the island of Mahé. To the west the view opens to the impressive mountain of the island of Silhouette and to North Island (nowadays one of the leading hotels in the world). The sea some hundred meters below the house is of the wonderful greenish blue only to be found in the tropics and clear to the ground.
Off course our first question was “why the Seychelles and why this site, so steep and rocky?”.
“Well the answer is very easy” explains the proud owner. The couple visited the Seychelles some years ago for the first time and instantly fell in love with its outstanding landscape, the moderate climate, the soft sea surrounding it, its laid back way of living and the friendly inhabitants. So they decided to build a house of their own and, when finally shown the steep slope with its enormous rocks saw the potential of this site.
Dr. DV., who is a medical doctor by profession, but an architect by passion, went on to design the house, or better the houses, by giving all respect to the nature surrounding it. The three white cubi, the largest containing the kitchen with open living and dining room, the other with master bedroom and bathroom and the third housing a gym, form the centre of the compound. All the big rocks where kept as they lay and so the “kitchen house” was adapted and seems to lean against one of these enormous boulders. The white washed walls and the brownish grey of the granite form a stunning and aesthetic contrast. The same effect is reached with the terrace and stairs also painted in white. In the middle of the main terrace a small artificial beach with sunbeds and umbrella pleasantly interrupts the large white surface.
In contrary to the cubistic style of the main houses, the three adjacent guesthouses, each housing a living room, a bedroom and bathroom as well as a terrace overlooking the sea, were designed in a modernised Seychellois style and painted in oxblood colour. They form a pleasant contrast to the white modernist constructions.
As the owner and his wife did not want to blow up any of the rocks on the compound the construction of a swimming pool turned out to not be an easy task. But finally they found a solution out of the obvious. The most simple and elegant solution turned out to be the construction of a wall along one of the steeper parts of the sloping rocks keeping the waters back. Another small artificial beach, similar to the one on the main terrace was set aside the pool.All the fixtures and the furniture were imported from Italy and the skilled craftsmanship was carried out by Italian specialists, while the construction was left to the dexterity of the locals. Most impressing is the lush richness of tropical plants surrounding the houses only a year after construction was finished. This is due to the gifted gardening skills of the Seychellois, explains the owner, and the frequent rainfall in Bel Ombre.
As we are touring the houses the question comes up how the name of Gotham House came into his mind. “Easy to explain” answers our host. There is an enormous species of bats on Seychelles, also called “Flying Foxes” by the locals. They start flying around the house at dusk to reach the many mango trees in the area feeding on the delicious fruits. “So the connection to the Batman story lay at hand” closes G and wanders off down to the sea with his wife and house guests for a pleasant hour of snorkelling before taking a very Italian lunch at the terrace.
When later on we take a drink on the “sunset terrace” half way down to the sea to watch the sun setting dramatically behind the island of Silhouette, the gigantic bats are circling above our heads and with the pool lighted up in red we really feel as if in a tropic Gotham House.
Text: Yvonne Oswald