The project was to renovate a godown and convert it into a café in the heart of the city of Kottayam and the challenge lay in designing in the cramped, area deficient space flanked by shops on all sides, which also meant that there was no ventilation. The solution pointed towards a material that was wafer-thin, could be used as partitions ensuring optimum space utilisation. The perfect answer rose in the form of using cloth as an incongruous partition that gave privacy,became a comfortable seating and wasalso aesthetically pleasing.
The kitchen was planned to be an open one, inspired from the Sushi bar layout - one with the seats of the diners diverging from the kitchen slab such that both, the serving and conversations with the chefs, would be free-flowing over the counter. The appetising smells would waft right over to the customers and the entire process of cooking the food would be interactive and visible to them.
Repeated experimentation of Kora cloth(waste cloth) finished with a layer of ferrocement and then grey oxide,with further waxing and polishing led to the making of the CLOTHCRETE partitions that were only an inch thick but still retained all the undulations and beautiful folds of falling drapes. The end product is an eye-teasing array of tousled drapes tumbling down to become organic seats for the diners. This idea is further personalised in many other details such as the wash basin.
The lighting of the café posed the next dilemma as it had to be dramatic yet subtle. The idea was to have exhaust pipes exuding out of the back wall, folding down towards the kitchen counter. These function as both exhausts that solved the issue of excess smoke that is usually produced in open kitchens and as light spots directed towards the cooking counter.Likewise old press panel boxes screwed together along with old wooden windows adroitly form the tables that stand in stark contrast to the drapes.
The café is a poetic expression of the beauty of free-falling cloth manipulated cleverly to be of use, with an added sculptural quality to it.