Nestled in the heart of the dense urban fabric of Mumbai, Auriga restaurant is a 40- year old warehouse converted into a restaurant and nightclub. The thick exterior walls were stripped to allow natural light to infuse into the space, providing a view of the surrounding trees and streets. Designed and built by Sanjay Puri Architects in 2013, Auriga restaurant has a carpet area of 3800 sqft that integrates well into its surroundings.
Sanjay Puri, the Principal Architect of Sanjay Puri Architects with Madhavi Belsare led the design team for the project. The firm has completed over 600 projects and is known for its sustainable approach, use of technology, and integration of Indian culture and heritage into its designs.
Sanjay Puri Architects general philosophy is to “create spaces that engage people holistically and foster social interaction”, and this project demonstrates the philosophy well, it is a dynamic space that responds well to the context and provides an immersive experience for the user. Another aspect of the design philosophy is their approach to sustainability. The inspiration for Auriga restaurant was born out of the idea to use residual plywood stips generated at interior site projects. In addition, air-conditioning also generates several leftover stips that end up in a junkyard.
With Auriga restaurant, Sanjay Puri Architects, upon seeing large piles of waste on the interior site of a hotel, decided to “create a design that would use these leftover strips, thus reducing the material cost to a negligible amount and using waste material which would otherwise be disposed of”. A large part of the intention was to recycle old materials and find ways to make architecture more energy efficient. Metal and wood, thus comprise the dominating materials on site. In addition, the use of LED lighting, locally sourced stone floors, and glazed windows to reduce the effect of heating in the building add to its sustainability.
The building consists of two floors, the lower opens into a generous patio that has been converted into a bar and nightclub, while the second floor consists of the restaurant. While the plan itself is a simple rectilinear form, Sanjay Puri Architects has created a unique experience by juxtaposing the simplicity of the plan with complex geometry and the innovative use of construction technology. The exterior and interior of the building consist of a “web of aluminium fins”, a series of metal strips that fold into angular planes. The galvanized metal sheets are backlit, emitting light and illuminating the space in an array of colours.
The ground floor, consisting of the nightclub, is dominated by industrial steel, while the restaurant on the second floor uses broader wood planks that create a softer, warmer ambience. The wooden chairs around wooden tables suggest a more family-friendly place, enhanced by the warm hues of lighting on the second floor. The ground floor uses cool tones, high chairs, and luxurious couches to make the space more sophisticated. The use of contrasting materials on each floor generates different moods, yet, they complement each other well due to the continued theme of strips, which wrap the walls, ceilings, stairs, and columns throughout the building.
At the core of the concept is lighting. The materials were carefully chosen and used to reflect light across the angled surfaces and create a sculptural experience. Each louvre of metal in each triangular panel is angled to allow light to reflect its edges. The backlit LEDs, with the floor lights placed along the periphery of the floor, cause light to bounce off the metal surfaces and project a varied effect on each panel.
In the bar, the reflection of light at different angles through panels causes a changing effect of light in each part of the space. On the second floor, the different colour lights highlight the texture of the material, adding to the warmth generated by wood.
Sanjay Puri Architects’ Auriga restaurant is a playful, undulating space, blending exterior and interior elements and creating a sense of movement within it. The partially enclosed structure integrates the folding plates that constitute the form, fusing it into an abstractly woven web. In addition, the filtering of natural light through the strips connects the restaurant with its context, giving a glimpse of the trees surrounding it.
Whether or not you choose to taste the food, the distinctive characteristics of the restaurant themselves generate a range of experiences as you move through, making it well worth the visit.