Re-using an already existing building for a purpose other than it was designed for has become one of the current trends in architecture and design. Most adaptive re-use scenarios help architecture to stay traditional while finding a pragmatic function for the structure using modern solutions. India is evolving and its space requirements are increasing and the country has demolished many buildings, to make space for modern architecture. But, the colonial architecture stands as a symbol of the oppressive colonial rule India had to undergo, and it is not easy to tear down such architecture of such historical importance. So the use of the technique of adaptive re-use will help preserve the colonial architecture and also help in creating usable spaces for residential, commercial, and entertainment purposes.
Some of the common features found in a colonial structure in India are the archways, verandahs, use of wood, large columns etcetera.
Here is a list of Innovative Adaptive Re-use of Colonial Architecture in India.
1. Kashi Art Cafe, Kochi, Kerala
Kashi Art Cafe is a small cafe that contains an art gallery as well for art lovers. The cafe and the carefully curated art gallery, housed in an old Dutch row-house, was turned into a stylish and chic cafe in the year 1997 by Anoop Scaria & Dorrie Younger and the cafe was renovated in the year 2012 by architect Edgar Pinto. The cafe has a semi courtyard that allows natural sunlight into the interiors and features vertical gardens with wooden chairs and tables.
2. Gratitude Guest House, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu
The Gratitude is a boutique hotel housed within a French Colonial house that once belonged to Abraham Guerre, a hospital administrator who worked for the French East Indian Company. The Guerre family sold the house during the 1940s to Ullman’s Michel whose daughter lived in the house till the early 2000s.
The house turned into a weekend retreat in the year 2004. The hotel restored the Madras roof terrace and the old Doors and windows. The hotel features an archetypal shade of Pondicherry yellow, black metal brackets, wooden beams, and long rectangular windows with landscaping and greenery surrounding it.
3. Cinnamon Boutique, Bangalore, Karnataka
The store, housed in a colonial bungalow built in the year 1892, was re-designed by Mathew and Ghosh architects and they retained its arched brick doorways, stone floors, and large pillars. The store features a small courtyard that permits natural light inside and it also displays many potted plants.
4. Hotel De Ville, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu
Hotel De Ville used to function as a municipality administrative building in the 1880s during colonial rule. The building was affected by rains and it collapsed in the year 2014. The boutique hotel re-opened in early 2020 after the Project Implementation Agency (PIA) of the Puducherry Government commissioned its re-development.
5. Samant Chauhan Flagship Store, Mumbai, Maharashtra
The design of the Samant Chauhan Flagship store, located in the Roosevelt House in Colaba, merges into the traditional surroundings of the area and creates a chic and semi-rustic ambiance.
The fashion designer, Samant Chauhan’s vision for the store located within a colonial structure was in honoring the heritage style of the structure by modernizing the store. The store displays restored teakwood, unpainted walls, and exposed brick walls.
6. Pepper House, Kochi, Kerala
Pepper House is a Waterfront cafe that comprises two colonial-style ‘godowns’. The cafe features Dutch-style clay roofed structures, separated by a large courtyard, where goods were once stored. The 16000 sqft complex is undergoing renovations and will shelter a courtyard cafe, gallery, studios for artists and exhibition spaces.
Pepper House is an evolving project that will eventually be a multi-purpose space that will display visual arts events in the future.
7. Dune De L’Orient, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu
The Dune De L’Orient is a hotel that used to be the official residence of the Governor-General of a French Establishment. The mansion was built in the 1760s when Puducherry was being re-built. The building, called the ‘Instruction Publique’, was bought and restored into a hotel in October 1998 when Francis Wacziarg, a pioneer of heritage hotels in India, found the mansion that was deemed unsafe and was about to be vacated by the French administration office.
All the hotel rooms are named after old French settlements in India: Masulipatam, Surat, Calicut, Gingee, Balasore, Cossimbazar. The interiors of the heritage hotel suites feature four-poster beds and high ceilings.
8. Cluny Embroidery Centre, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu
The embroidery center, established to support underprivileged women, is run by a local convent. The structure displays a grand entrance with big pillars, a high roof constructed over teak wood beams and chequer patterned tiles on the floors. The two ornamental sculptures created with the bas-relief technique highlights the entryway. A particular highlight of the interior is the exquisite embroidery work created by the women housing it, showcased on a wide range of products from tablecloths and napkins to baby bed sheets and wall hangings.
9. École Française d’Extrême-Orient, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu
The École Française d’Extrême-Orient translates to ‘The French School of the Far East’ and is an associated college of the PSL University dedicated to the study of Asian societies. The École Française d’Extrême-Orient of Puducherry, a heritage library that shelters around 1000 Indology books and other regional language books along with architectural plans of temples, is located in a pastel yellow and blue colonial structure and was established in the year 1955.