From designing an award-winning Shiv temple to Indigo Deli at Palladium, architect Sameep Padora talks to us about staying true to a structure's integrity.View Slideshow
Everyone who visits Indigo Deli at Palladium mall describes the woodwork that snakes through the restaurant differently. Some liken it to a beehive, others say it resembles a cave, and a few believe it looks just like a cocoon. The restaurant’s architect Sameep Padora, however, told us that his design wasn’t inspired by forms of nature. Nor did he just “dream it up”. Padora said that he built the wooden framework after studying the restaurant’s ceiling, which had protruding air-conditioning ducts, a crisscrossing network of pipes and a number of crests and troughs.
Padora set up his award-winning architecture and design firm, sP + a, in Mumbai in 2006, after returning to the city with a Master of Design Studies degree from Harvard University. “I always wanted to return to India to work,” said Padora, whose friends call him “foolishly patriotic”. You may have seen some of Padora’s other work; it includes the now-shuttered Zenzi Mills in Lower Parel, fashion designer Monisha Jaising’s flagship store in Bandra and Palate, a high-end furniture store in Mahalaxmi.
Palate, co-owned by Malini Akerkar, was Padora’s first Mumbai assignment. By the time he designed Indigo Deli in 2009, his firm had grown from three employees to 20. “Malini wanted the new Deli to have the feel of the Colaba outpost, with a lot more retail space,” said Padora. So he came up with the idea of building a wooden grid-like structure, which doubles up as a display shelf for Indigo’s in-house products.
When Padora takes up an assignment, he first thinks of ways to enhance the original features of the existing space. Take for instance, his work for multi-designer boutique Creo, which replaced actor Suneil Shetty’s boutique Mischief in Kemps Corner in 2008. “The store had a beautiful ceiling with wooden rafters that was totally masked by a mezzanine built to accommodate another retail floor,” said Padora. To highlight the ceiling, Padora built a large, cast acrylic sculpture that runs through the centre of the room, almost like a spine (see picture in slideshow). The acrylic stems supporting the structure are shaped in such a manner so as to create niches for displaying clothes. “It looks like a centrepiece, serves a practical purpose and showcases the ceiling,” said Padora.
According to Padora, Mumbai’s most valuable resource is its skilled labour such as welders, weavers and carpet layers who work in small production outfits in Mulund, Virar, Vasai and Goregaon. For a new restaurant called Le Monde that Padora is designing in Juhu, he has employed bamboo weavers to create a nylon weave roof that will cover the restaurant’s al fresco section. Even though the workers have never worked with nylon before, Padora was confident that they could apply their bamboo weaving techniques to another raw material.
In its five years of existence, sP+a has won several awards including the 2010 Emerging Architecture prize from international architecture magazine, Architectural Review, for a Shiv Temple Padora designed in a village called Wadeshwar near Kamshet. The story behind the building of the temple formed the cover feature of the publication’s September 2010 issue. Padora said it was a collaborative effort between his firm and the village’s residents. “We have a farmhouse in Kamshet,” said Padora. “The villagers approached us for donations to build a temple, but I offered to design the temple instead.” The tidy yet traditional structure—it’s just 12 feet by 12 feet—was built by the villagers using local stone and galvanised iron sheets. It has a pillared hall, a wood-clad entrance and a skylight that lights up the interior.
Though Padora has assignments across India, he is yet to find a taker for his fantasy project in Mumbai, something he calls Village in the Sky. It’s a futuristic looking residential building where all the apartments will have just three cement walls and one glass wall. Each apartment has an open terrace that looks into a neighbouring flat so as to encourage interaction. “Most building projects erect walls between neighbours,” said Padora. “We want to discourage segregation.” He has pitched the radical idea to several developers, but in vain. Padora, however, remains optimistic. “I’m confident that it’s an ideal design for Mumbai.”Tags: Architecture, Creo, Design, Indigo Deli, Monisha Jaising, Palate, Sameep Padora, sP+a