The city of Mumbai is an ethnic potpourri. Every local station possesses a cultural context that is a tiny universe in itself while each is a polar opposite to the other. A building that once stood as the Empire’s crowning jewel could be the friendly neighbour to a brutal post-independence institution, just as a colonial racecourse could be home to the canopy of an airy, metallic grove. 

The site and its heritage

The Tote, by Serie Architects, is a restaurant, bar and event space nestled in the rich colonial heritage of the Mahalaxmi Race-course grounds with a brief intended for the conservation and repurposing of the disused colonial buildings present on the site. 

While the grand structures were constrained to their profile as part of their restoration, the principal architects Christopher Lee, and Kapil Gupta, brought to the forefront the natural wealth the site is endowed with to create a one-of-a-kind space, enclosed in the volume of a contextually aesthetic form.

The Tote by Serie Architects - Kapil Gupta and Christopher Lee: Inspired by Nature - Sheet1
The canopy_©https://www.designboom.com
The Tote by Serie Architects - Kapil Gupta and Christopher Lee: Inspired by Nature - Sheet2
metallic grove_© https://divisare.com/projects/323160-serie-architects-the-tote

The concept behind the fractal form

Enamoured by the shade of the colossal rain trees present on the site, the architects chose to infuse the design with their essence. The quality of space their canopies provided allowed the space to function in the outdoors almost entirely. The intricate shadows and quality of light the site produced coerced the architects to conjure spaces that bought together a love for communal celebrations with the tranquillity found beneath an enormous canopy, enabling the refreshing experience to echo throughout its interiors.

The Tote by Serie Architects - Kapil Gupta and Christopher Lee: Inspired by Nature - Sheet3
The nave within the trees  _©https://www.designboom.com/cms/images/ridhika09/tote02.gif

The nave and an algorithmic aesthetic

The enclosure preserves the central nave of the structure as the primary event space. The architects decided upon a structural frame of metallic, tree-like piers that hold the classic colonial roof. These fractal members, not unlike their natural counterparts, have differential growth patterns along the transverse section of the nave. This differentiation allows the design program of a previously monotonous volume to adapt to its newfound functions. The bar, the restaurant, and the pre-function space are all extensions of the same form but still achieve their vibrant characters through an algorithmic distortion. 

This essence continues throughout the higher levels of the structure that now houses the bar. Here the user is taken out of the canopy in the nave and is settled among intersecting branches. The harmony that the structure achieves is truly a testament to the skill required to create a seemingly simple but tastefully designed space.

The Tote by Serie Architects - Kapil Gupta and Christopher Lee: Inspired by Nature - Sheet4
faceted canopy__©https://divisare.com/projects/323160-serie-architects-the-tote

The ambiance of angles

The interiors of what would have been an imposing stone structure are now a light, breezy grove that effortlessly transitions into its context. Every imaginable interaction one can have with the structure has been designed with care and conscious thought. For instance, the creamy Terrazzo of the walls and floors accent the smooth white of the metal while neither empowering them nor being lost in their stature. They add to this accent by mimicking their shadows and drawing imaginary connections between the trees.

As the tree-like piers of the nave branch into fine structural members, the points at which they meet the ceiling are treated to mirror a leaf canopy. The precisely punctured and tastefully fractured ceiling panels have lights embedded in them. Their location brings to mind the thin-veiled shadows the rain trees imprint on either side of the nave. 

The Tote by Serie Architects - Kapil Gupta and Christopher Lee: Inspired by Nature - Sheet5
piers and shadows_©https://divisare.com/projects/323160-serie-architects-the-tote

But while one is enticed by the soothing tones and tranquillity of these interiors, their transformation of donning the vibrant colours of every culture they celebrate is a marvel indeed. Be it a backdrop for a joyous occasion or left to bask in its own glory, the saintly simplicity of the space is well suited to all.

The lounge

A supple transition to the bar upstairs has been created through a stark shift from the warm and soothing colours of the nave to the dark, moody ambience of the bar. The wooden staircase leading to the bar is preceded by a pier, whose branches almost guide you up the volume.

The Tote by Serie Architects - Kapil Gupta and Christopher Lee: Inspired by Nature - Sheet6
Transition of tones_ ©https://www.designboom.com/cms/images/ridhika09/tote09.gif
The Tote by Serie Architects - Kapil Gupta and Christopher Lee: Inspired by Nature - Sheet7
leading on_©https://divisare.com/projects/323160-serie-architects-the-tote

The confluence of the intersecting tree branches forms a three-dimensional faceted volume. This intricately carved space has been treated with acoustic panelling and clad in wood.

The creamy terrazzo contrast in the nave is replaced by the glow of gold to highlight the intricate panelling. The metallic juxtaposition is further accentuated by the imposing metal trusses and staircase connecting the mezzanine to the remaining volume. The flat windows above the bar counter also create a rhythmic movement with their two-dimensional alternation with lively intersecting panels.

The Tote by Serie Architects - Kapil Gupta and Christopher Lee: Inspired by Nature - Sheet9
Wood and gold_© [Accessed 26 May 2021].
Everything about this structure is replete with a distinct individuality. The character that the building possesses sets it apart from its context without disturbing its integrity. 

With our cities growing at an unprecedented rate, our ability as architects to enable the metamorphosis of spaces will be a skill that could set the course of our future. This retrofitting of culturally iconic buildings with the metropolitan functions of the age is what will save our cities form expanding endlessly, while decaying at the core, and while the city of Mumbai faces its challenges while progressing as a city, The Tote by Serie Architects is a shining example of breathing life back into a structure. 

Images References

Image 1: The canopy

Designboom.com. (2021). [online] 

Available at: https://www.designboom.com/cms/images/ridhika09/tote02.jpg 

[Accessed 10 Apr. 2021].

Image 2: metallic grove

Divisare. 2021. Serie Architects · The Tote. [online] Available at: <https://divisare.com/projects/323160-serie-architects-the-tote> [Accessed 1 May 2021].

Image 3: The nave within the trees

Designboom.com. (2021). [online] 

Available at: https://www.designboom.com/cms/images/ridhika09/tote20.gif [Accessed 10 Apr. 2021].

 Image 4: faceted canopy

Divisare. 2021. Serie Architects · The Tote. [online] 

Available at: <https://divisare.com/projects/323160-serie-architects-the-tote> [Accessed 1 May 2021].

Image 5: piers and shadows

Divisare. 2021. Serie Architects · The Tote. [online] 

Available at: <https://divisare.com/projects/323160-serie-architects-the-tote> [Accessed 1 May 2021].

Image 6: transition of tones

Designboom.com. (2021). [online] 

Available at: https://www.designboom.com/cms/images/ridhika09/tote09.gif [Accessed 10 Apr. 2021].

Image 7: leading on

Designboom.com. (2021). [online] 

Available at: https://www.designboom.com/cms/images/ridhika09/tote08.gif [Accessed 10 Apr. 2021].

Image 8: wood and gold

Vourvoroti, N., 2010. Tote on the Turf, Mumbai, India | Bar design restaurant, Bar design awards, Bar interior design. [online] Pinterest.

 Available at: <https://in.pinterest.com/pin/733031276852770379/> [Accessed 26 May 2021].

Author

Shreya Joglekar is Currently an Architecture Student who up until her college life has shifted cities every other year. Having been Born Raised And Transferred all over the country, she loves to study and unravel the characters of the cities she lives in and the people she meets.

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