Culminating the Institute

It was just a few weeks ago that we had the closure of the exercise where we redesigned our childhood home. Since then, this home had emerged from a private residence into a public institute offered to the community and beyond. In the process of designing this institute, I had learned way more than I had anticipated- organization of spaces, different requirements of each space according to function, and the connection of the interior and exterior, while also learning more about structure, materials and construction of the institute.

My institute is run by my mother and her friends, and provides a cooking workshop where people can come learn how to cook a multitude of dishes, as well as a cafe run where people congregate and enjoy a meal.

I have carried the concept of olfactory architecture from my house into my institute by keeping the aroma of food as the central idea behind the purpose of design. Also, since my mother is very fond of cooking, the institute provides the opportunity for her passion for cooking to extend beyond the kitchen as she runs the cafe with her friends. Further, there are numerous food stalls in the vicinity which gather crowds all day, but no designated seating space for any of these stalls. Hence, the cafe establishes its importance in the neighbourhood by providing healthy and delicious food and a space where people can sit and enjoy a meal. The institute sits at the junction of one of the busiest crossroads in Mahim (West). The frontal seating directly opens up to the main road which is the main entrance to the institute.

As seen in the plans of the institute, the ground floor, initially a part of the house, is now a seating space with display shelves with food prepared in the workshops. The open-to-sky courtyards and vegetation below have been kept intact in the design process. The seating has been arranged in a manner to maintain the relationship of diagonal courtyards from the house below. The entrance to the house has been separated from the institute by placing the entry along the secondary lane that emerges from the main road. Since there is a common stairway for circulation, a jaali wall in the passage demarcates the boundary that belongs to the house and prevents any outsider from accessing the house below via the stairs, maintaining the privacy of the residents of the house. 

On moving upwards, one can smell the delicious aroma of food coming from the workspace where my mother and her friends cook, which doubles up as a workshop for the community for learning. The furniture and appliances have been laid out in such a manner that it provides a personal cooking station for each one, and when used as a workshop, it can comfortably house around 10-12 people, with window seats for people to sit and view the process.

In the elevations and sections, you can get a clearer idea of the institute. Part of each facade is a colonade which allows for entry from all sides and invites people to cafe. In the sections, all levels of the childhood home and the institute can be seen. The roof has been designed to maintain the frontal seating as a double height space, and to provide one side of the workshop with a high ceiling, making it appear more spacious.

Making these drawings made the organization of each space and the structure of the institute much clearer. By adding humans and vegetation to the drawings, I was able to get a better sense of the activities and processes in each space and the nature of inhabitation. It was almost like watching my drawings come to life.

In the institute, I broke away from the pre existing construction system in the house and incorporated square RCC columns with brick infill walls, and introduced timber in an initially pure RCC structure in the form of wooden slats and timber pitched roof. Watching the different materials of timber, brick and RCC come together was initially confusing, but I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome and how much I had learnt from this experimentation. The model gives an idea of the spatial relationship between different spaces on each level and the construction of the institute It also gives a better understanding of the wooden slats on the higher level that gives a ‘lantern’-like feel to the double height space. Making the model was a long process with trying out different materials and multiple iterations, but at the end, I was proud of what I had produced, not only in terms of how it looked, but also because of how it made my understanding of the different elements and of the institute as a whole so clear.

Throughout the weeks of designing this institute, I had had multiple conversations with my peers and tutors about the different aspects of the design of the institute. In the final review of this brief, on discussion with the jurors, I gained a different perspective on this design. They urged me to study the connection between the house and the institute more carefully and how the cafe must sit in the context and pull in people from the outside. I understood these concepts further from the discussions with my peers, and will use this new dimension of understanding and articulating buildings in the years to come.

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