Sunday, September 28, 2014

Soft Opening

Couple of weeks back we had a soft opening of a second restaurant designed by me. This being a" soft opening" is a trial run for the restaurant team to test the menu and get valuable feedback on the interiors. The bar and additional feature lighting is still yet to come, but budgetary constraints can very often give rise to interesting phasing strategies!
If you are around West Hampstead on West End Lane, then do drop by in Toomai (Pan Asian Restaurant) and feel free to drop me a feedback of what you think.

All photos courtesy of Sachin Mulane.

I will be posting my own photos and drawings made for the project as soon as the restaurant is completely finished.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Doha (26th - 31st May)


Having worked on various projects located in Doha over the past 5 years, it is only recently that I had the opportunity to visit it. It being a short trip we had just enough time to visit a new development called Katara and Souk Waqif that felt like public spaces, while rest of the experience was through the car on a busy high speed road surrounded by tower (West Bay) or low rise suburban sprawl. The built environment seemed to reflect the demographics of the place where one could visibly see the difference between built forms and spaces that were for Qataris, expatriates and low skilled workers, and a conscious space planning to keep these segregated. Workers were seen to use the street or vague in-between spaces as their public space to linger in the background, almost invisible.
This contradiction of desiring segregation but aspiring for an image of public life for each of the three groups under consideration reminds me of China Mieville’s The City & The City, described here as “The City & the City takes place in the cities of Besźel and Ul Qoma. These two cities actually occupy much of the same geographical space, but via the volition of their citizens (and the threat of the secret power known as Breach), they are perceived as two different cities. A denizen of one city must dutifully 'unsee' (that is, consciously erase from their mind or fade into the background) the denizens, buildings, and events taking place in the other city – even if they are an inch away. The twin cities are composed of crosshatched, alter, and total areas. "Total" areas are entirely in one city, the city in which the observer currently resides. "Alter" areas are completely in the other city, and so must be completely avoided and ignored. Between these are areas of "crosshatch". These might be streets, parks or squares where denizens of both cities walk alongside one another, albeit "unseen." Areas that exist in both cities usually go under different names in each one. There is also Copula Hall, "one of the very few" buildings which exists in both cities under the same name. Rather than being cross-hatched, it essentially functions as a border. It is the only way in which one can legally and officially pass from one city to another. Passing through the border passage takes travellers, geographically (or "grosstopically"), to the exact place they started from – only in a different city”. Only in case of Doha it would be 3 cities interlocked within one another. For designers who don’t have the luxury of fighting social injustices or demand democracies, developing such self-indulgent design briefs is the only way to survive work in the middle east, which to be honest can be lot more interesting given the crazy money + ambition combination than do work in a democratic process with restricted budget, a 100000 page convoluted policy guidance, 1 km deep sub terrain infrastructure, public consultations and if that is not enough bunch of boring consultants who are hired to purely tick the boxes to give rise to a reasonably well reasoned masterplan that reeks of absence of any ambition for the built environment.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Canterbury, Ramsgate, Broadstairs, Dover, Hastings

Trip to Canterbury, Ramsgate, Broadstairs, Dover and Hastings (3th, 4th May)
Inside Canterbury Cathedral fortification

Ramsgate Beach
Ramsgate Beach

Chalk Cliffs of Dover

Dover Cliff

Fishermen's Housing and Shops @ Hastings

Monday, January 13, 2014

Nymphaea thermarum

reads' "Police have launched an appeal to trace a rare plant that was stolen from Kew Gardens. A Nymphaea thermarum, the smallest water lily in the world and extinct in the wild, was taken from the south-west London visitor attraction. A Scotland Yard spokesman said the theft had occurred between 8.30am and 2.55pm on Thursday at the Princess of Wales Conservatory. Experts believe the culprits would have had to dig or pull up the plant from a shallow pond. Nymphaea thermarum was discovered in 1987 in just one location, Mashyuza in Rwanda. But it disappeared from there around two years ago because of the over-exploitation of a hot spring that kept the plants moist and at a constant temperature."

Carlos Magdalena and Lily, source: here 

Further reading find was,
"The plant's native habitat was damp mud formed by the overflow of a freshwater hot spring in Mashyuza, Rwanda. It became extinct in the wild about 2008 when local farmers began using the spring for agriculture. The farmers cut off the flow of the spring, which dried up the tiny area—just a few square metres—that was the lily's entire habitat. Before the plants became extinct, Fischer sent some specimens to Bonn Botanic Gardens when he saw that their habitat was so fragile. The plants were kept alive at the gardens, but botanists could not solve the problem of propagating them from seed.
Botanists were unable to germinate any seeds until Carlos Magdalena, at Kew, discovered the solution—only after he was down to his last 20 seeds. By placing the seeds and seedlings into pots of loam surrounded by water of the same level in a 25 °C environment, eight began to flourish and mature within weeks and in November 2009, the waterlilies flowered for the first time. Nymphaea species typically germinate deep under water. N. thermarum seeds are different, needing CO2 in order to germinate. Once Magdalena understood that difference, he was able to germinate the first seeds. During this time, a rat had eaten one of the last two surviving plants in Germany. With the germination problem solved, Magdalena says that the tiny plants are easy to grow, giving it potential to be grown as a houseplant."

There is an almost extinct Water Lily (gone extinct from the wild) being conserved in Kew Gardens, someone stole it and police are looking for the water lily thief...this world just got a little beautiful again.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Time Capsule of Optimism: The New Architecture of Europe 1961

cover page image image sourced from: here
Sometimes when I come across books writing in present continuous tense about the present (then) recording the spirit of "here and now" but published long ago, they work as fantastic time capsules, to relish nostalgia and optimism in equal measure. The format, the style of writing, the buildings selected all come together to form one complete picture of optimism. The very same optimism that one senses while watching an old BBC documentary where the narrator explains the design of a brand new housing estate for communities built with miraculous new age materials that symbolise a collective spirit.

Recently I bought "The New Architecture of Europe" by G.E. Kidder Smith from a second hand book sale. The books introductions lays down the spirit of this new era as
"The introduction of rolled steel and reinforced concrete (both approximately 100 years ago), then plate glass, new forms of factory processed (i.e., laminated) wood, and most recently, plastics, has revolutionized man's building means. Moreover, when one demands totally fresh building types--skyscrapers, large hospitals, community halls, housing projects, expansive schools, industrial plants, and not forgetting that terror, the automobile, garages and suspension bridges--the result will inescapably and logically produce a new architecture. Furthermore, this has been and is being colored by a newly egalitarian society, one assailed by changes more profound and rapid than ever before in history."

This book published in 1961 attempts to map/analyse 225 most stimulating buildings from 16 countries of post war Europe. Selection of these new fantastic buildings is subjective, but as the author explains, "Merit alone is not sufficient for the inclusion of a building: it must have ideas and stimulation as well. In some cases a building that demonstrates fresh and constructive thinking, or explores a new facet of space, but suffers design weakness, has been chosen over similar example of routine thought but superior execution".
The chapters are by Country location, which starts with the Mr. Smith concisely explaining the state the country is in after the war and what are the developments that are facilitating these new experiments in architecture.

This book puts all the present day expensively printed and bound Phaidons ,World Atlases, Glossy design Magazines, hourly updated Design Blogs etc to shame. If you ever come across this book, you love modern architecture, and want to reinstate your faith in the collective spirit of architecture and design...Buy it! Enjoy it!