Friday, January 6, 2012

LAURIE BAKER'S INDIAN COFFEE HOUSE, TRIVANDRUM



One of the prominent landmarks in the Thampanoor area of Trivandrum, where both the railway station as well as the bus terminal are located, is the Indian Coffee House designed by Laurie Baker. This building, courtesy of its unusual design has become one of the most recognisable structures in Trivandrum. The entire building is conceived as a continuous spiral ramp, with a central circular service core and with dining spaces provided on the outer side. The form of the building is thus unconventional & bears Baker’s trademark jaalis to let in light & ventilation. The building is well proportioned, a cylindrical brick-red spiral continuing for a couple of floors and then terminating in a smaller cylindrical volume on top, giving a very unsymmetrical balance to the whole structure.





What one needs to appreciate is Baker’s masterful intervention in a very small plot in the middle of a busy urban area. The solution to the design programme is bold and unusual, yet, one which successfully integrates all the elements of the programme and one which creates a comfortable and interesting dining experience. Most of the people who see this building are automatically drawn into it due to curiosity. On the inside, Baker has successfully solved the programmatic requirement of providing eating spaces by creating modules of built-in table and seating, with an individual table and its two benches placed on an individual horizontal platform. Thus, on the outer side abutting the external jaali wall, there are continuous horizontal platforms incrementally rising in height along with the slope of the spiral.




The material palette is again typical Baker. The walls are made of exposed brickwork which has been painted over – white on the inner side & brick-red on the exterior. There are no windows – jaalis serve to bring in plenty of light & ventilation, ensuring that the interiors are nice & comfortable. The table and the seats are built-in. The table consists of a concrete slab fixed to the wall & with a semicircular taper on one side. This slab is resting on a small brick arch which serves as the legs. The seats are again interestingly designed and accommodate 2 people comfortably on either side. The seats of adjacent tables are abutting back to back, but are at 2 different levels to accommodate the slope. The seats are again made in brickwork and are finished with block-oxide on top and the backrest. The remarkable thing about these built-in furnitures is that Baker has designed them so very precisely ergonomically that they are very comfortable to use, inspite of being so simple.
 There is a circular service core in the centre, which consists of 2 concentric circles. The inner smaller circular core is a narrow vertical shaft open on the top, with openings at different levels. This shaft provides ventilation to the central areas and works on the principle of Stack effect, a very simple but effective solution that is so typical of Baker. Around this circular core are the service areas, especially the toilets & handwash. The kitchen is placed on the ground floor and has a separate service entrance.




Now although the building is unique in design, there are a few functional issues. Due to the placement of the kitchen on the ground level, it becomes difficult for the serving staff as they have to continuously climb up and down the ramp to place the orders & then to serve the people sitting on the upper levels. Thus, they in fact ask the customers to occupy the lower seating first before going up the spiral. Also, the slope of the ramp is a bit steep, which contributes to a slippery slope which sometimes results in a few falls. Yet, one cannot deny the ingenuity of Baker to come up with such a design solution in such an urban context, creating a memorable building.




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8 comments:

  1. nice.
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  2. good food and good serving.

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  3. Interestingly, according to baker himself, the original design was based on the idea of a fixed-menu, almost McDonald served in 1 minute or less concept. So the customers would come in for a quick bite and/or drink before catching their bus/train, pick up their food and then proceed to find a suitable seat. However, once opened they made it traditional restaurant style service.

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  4. nice service and of course the form of that spiralling smoke enhances the beauty.

    ReplyDelete
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  6. Great Post but I would like more information about this, because it is very nice., Thanks for sharing.

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