serie architects / chris lee and kapil gupta: the tote, mumbai

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the tote, mumbai by chris lee and kapil gupta of serie architects
image courtesy serie architects
all photos by fram petit

UK architects chris lee and kapil gupta of serie architects have designed ‘the tote’, mumbai,
a banquet hall, restaurant and bar.

their brief was to incorporate a series of disused buildings from the city’s colonial past
set within the mumbai race course and convert them to form a series of restaurant and bars.
the conservation guidelines called for the preservation of the roof profile for three-quarters
of the buildings and full conservation for the remaining one-quarter.

the interesting aspect of the site, however, lied not in the colonial buildings but in
the open spaces covered by mature rain trees. these spaces are shaded throughout the year
by the thinly wide spread leaves of the rain trees, allowing almost the entire proposed
program to occur outdoors.

their proposal attempted to continue the idea of a continuously differentiated space,
with no clear boundary, into the envelope of the conservation building. a new structure
was proposed within the old building envelope.

the structural system adopted is that of a tree-branch. the propagation of the branching
system along the longitudinal section of the conserved building is differentiated in its
growth along the transverse section.

the differentiation reorganizes the old buildings with new dining programs. therefore
each dining program (wine bar, restaurant, pre-function and banquet facilities) is captured
within a different spatial volume, defined by the variable degree of the branching structure.

the false ceiling is a complex arrangement of three lighting systems built up in plasterboard
and plywood coves. they allow flexibility to alter the lighting effects based on event type.

the tree structure was designed to be a steel truss and the challenge lay in working
through the construction system compatible with local skills. rather than looking at steel
fabricators within the building construction sector, we sourced boiler fabricators for
high precision work.

the interior of the lounge bar on the upper level is an intricate arrangement of 3-dimensional,
faceted wooden panelling, acoustically treated with sound proofing material. the pattern
of the panelling is a series of trees with intersecting branches. they devised a 3 point
co-ordinate system to map out the pattern onto the walls of the heritage wing, given
the 3 dimensional nature of the panelling and that each intersecting point had a totally
different x,y and z co-ordinate. this system allowed local craftsmen using fairly primitive
tools to achieve a high level of fit and finish for the interior works. the faceted panelling is
finished in walnut veneer with bronze channels making up the tree pattern.



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