Architect Tilak Raj is based in Bangalore and talks about the design of the restaurant Estia—inspired by the blue domes of Santorini, as well as Greek design and decor elements. Starting from a grecian hamlet, he has spun a spatial story to create a theme setting for this restaurant at Aloft Hotel,Bangalore.
Architecture and design was Greek and Latin to me as a kid. (In hindsight, it’s partly true) It was just another profession. On a few occasions I marveled at buildings, but nothing apart from that. I pursued a degree in architecture more by default rather that a childhood inspiration.
My years in college are not something every parent would be proud of. I barely managed attendance and submissions. I was a perfect example of what you should not be in class. As a matter of fact, I am sure there are many contemporaries of mine wondering if I finished the course. I did, and am a member of the Council of Architecture, and The Indian Institute of Architects.
My love and respect for the subject grew substantially after I qualified as an architect. A few years as a designer, a good 5 years of ‘donkey work’ as a contractor, and then back to designing—all of this made me realise that I am in a truly amazing profession.
I am not a naturally gifted designer— I never had the flair for lines by birth, I couldn’t sketch to save my life. But, what I possess, is the quality to understand and endeavour to do something well. Inherently, I strive to do better, to excel. My designs are a mere translation of the same thoughts in spatial form.
I belong to the old school of thought that believes in form follows function. (Louis Henri Sullivan)
Having said that, it doesn’t necessarily mean I pay no attention to design and aesthetics. Purpose of a design and logistics first, and then I believe I have the ability to make anything look good.
Being a designer, I have the ability to create environments in which there is a confluence of ideas, materials, economics, and conscience. My clients love and respect me for this.
The few years in the industry as a contractor changed my perspective on design. As a designer, one is at the instructing/giving end of things, and as a contractor one is at the receiving end of things. It dented my ego to work as a contractor, knowing very well that I am a qualified architect. (Not so pretty in India- given that an honest contractor is ‘almost’ an oxymoron)
My keenness to learn and the eagerness to pursue excellence made me bite the bullet, and I stuck to contracting for a while. Fortunately, it paid off, as today, I provide quality designs for contractors to understand and execute. If I had not done the “dirty work” and had sat in office making drawings, I don’t think I would be able to make plausible designs that could be converted into reality.
Reformed ‘enfant terrible’ of the architectural fraternity is what a dear friend of mine wrote about me once. My philosophy – designs need to be simple, sensitive, sensible, and scarce. The Estia restaurant project reflects this philosophy.
Estia is a Mediterranean restaurant at the Aloft Hotel in Bangalore. The hotel is an enterprise of Starwood Hotels and Resorts. Aloft is a bold, fresh, and fun new hotel. My brief was to create a Mediterranean theme that would be rustic and yet symbolise fine dining and the fresh outlook of the brand.
The theme restaurant was designed to look like an abandoned village that was brought to life. Therefore, a section of a typical village home was created. All the basic elements were brought into focus. Earth—the flooring, fire—the fireplace, water—the well, wind—breezy sheers. The cuisine inspired the colours and design. We used rustic logs, teacups for chandeliers and handcrafted steel flowers as wall lights. Railway sleepers, concrete stamping, and brick flooring were all used to create the rustic ambience.
The name Estia is derived from the Greek Goddess of Hearth- Hestia, and hence, references to Greek and Mediterranean architectural elements abound. The use of the colour blue is reminiscent of the lapping waters of Santorini and its spectacular domes. The blue and the rough plaster coupled with several other elements are intended to create the ambience of a Grecian hamlet. The rough plaster with its grainy coarse feel gives a homespun look to the place.
Unlike in most spaces where one tends to knock down walls, I created some for privacy and cosiness. The creation of a small foyer allows the guest to get a sense of the design, even before they are seated to dine. The foyer is adorned with dark wood consoles, urns, and beaded screens. Designer Sreeti Mondol made these screens especially for this project.
Granite cladding in butch work style on the walls gives the effect of dry fixing, a very rustic element of the Mediterranean region.
By using reflective surfaces on walls, we have managed to create the illusion of space. A very interesting fact about the mirrors is that, they have been sprayed with acid on the reverse. This has caused brown spots to appear on them and hence given them an aged look. The mirrors have also been used as cladding for the biting walls, offsetting their encroachment in the room.
Arched entrances with an abandoned well, help create the cosy ambience in one section of the restaurant. A half well on one end of the restaurant coupled with a mirror on the wall, made it look like it is a complete well within the restaurant.
Wooden and wrought iron furniture have been used to indicate the materials prevalent in that particular area.(Grecian style).
For the flooring, we tried to capture the slate flooring feel, and hence the use of concrete stamping in a similar manner. We used worn out wood like in the dusty towns, the closest equivalent being railway sleepers, and the rustic effect.
Due to the non-availability of sleepers, we found an ingenious way to achieve the same effect. Planks from lorry building yards were sourced, and then sand blasted to give it a rough texture, and subsequently soaked in engine-oil to impart a dark colour and give it a worn out look.
Another important aspect of this project is the lighting. Fixtures were hand-made bespoke to suit the look of the place. We worked on a clerestory lighting effect, by providing coves at appropriate locations, and creating scalloped effect with lights, as though it was natural lighting.
Other interesting features are teacup chandeliers for lighting on the ceiling, casuarina poles as semi wall barriers used horizontally to create privacy between seating and guests.
There are wooden windows at strategic points in the restaurant as well. These windows have been backed with mirrors, giving the illusion of depth and also space behind certain walls.
Often, guests have requested seats to dine behind these walls, only to be informed that it’s just a wall, nothing beyond it.
Wooden beams on the ceiling help accentuate the fact that the entire roof is propped by these members just as in the villages. The objective was to recreate elements from a Grecian hamlet on a larger scale, so the same design features have been used.
Read the full feature in the Desi Design segment of Prismma Magazine CLICK HERE
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