When my clients met me for the first time, we were standing on a terrace, battered by rain, dust, and the sun. Little did we realise that we were to begin a wonderful journey together.
Going around the world in fewer than 80 days is no trick today, but in 1872, before the invention of the airplane it took a bit of ingenuity and a great deal of grit. Well, that’s the central theme of the restaurant, PHILEAS HOGG, in Marathahalli, Bangalore.
Their design brief was to ideate a theme based on Jules Verne’s novel, ‘Around the world in 80 days’, to support the culinary classics from different parts of the world that they planned to serve at the restaurant.
Later, I actually went on to recreate the original story, as my story board for the design presentation.
PHILEAS HOGG is based on the 19th century Jules Verne novel ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ follows the journey of an English gentleman Phileas Fogg in his very own amazing race against time. A wealthy man of precise habits, and much confidence in his every move, he impulsively bets the bulk of his fortune stating that he can circumnavigate the globe and return to the Reform Club at London, in no more than 80 days to the minute.
The first aspect was the main door, which resembles the original cover of the book. It was meant to give guests a sense of actually entering the story.
Assisted by his resourceful manservant Passépartout, Fogg manages to overcome seemingly endless obstacles from a typhoon to a broken railway bridge and a Native American attack. Aouda, a young woman rescued in India from a near death situation (Sutee), joins the pair and proves herself their equal in courage and cunning. All the while the adventurers are being pursued by a detective named Fix, who suspects Fogg of having robbed the Bank of England.
The story begins at the bar where Mr. Fogg places a bet to travel around the world in 80 days. So, I have used that idea to recreate an English theme at the bar, very similar to the reform club in London.
From here, Mr. Fogg travels to Suez, hence the whole Mediterranean atmosphere in this section of the restaurant, which also appropriately houses the grill and kebab section. A very breezy feel to this whole section is underlined by the fact that the restaurant is partly outdoor and well landscaped.
The central theme and décor of our restaurant captures both the comedy of the haywire romp from country to country and the romantic tale of self discovery. We have gone to great depths to re-create this feel from around the world.
Thereafter, he travels to India, from Bombay to Calcutta, A major part of this journey was done by train in India, and in his journey, Mr. Fogg meets a lady named Aouda, whom he rescues from a life-threatening situation, and later marries.
Symbolically, there are sheers like saris to indicate a woman’s presence, along with maps and a picture, pertaining to that period. There is a reproduction of a train from the 1870’s, which forms a vital part of the dining experience.
Our restaurant is a reflection of Verne’s central character as we intend to be as precise and relentless as Phileas Fogg in our endeavour to ensure that we designed nothing but the best at PHILEAS HOGG.
Leaving India, he travelled east, to Hong Kong and then to Japan, as the next leg of his journey. Here, he traveled most parts by steamer. There is one part of the story in which Mr. Fogg’s assistant Passéportout gets lost in Japan; this has been integrated as part of the design. In this section of the restaurant, the entire seating is within an area set up like a steamer from yesteryears, the walls reflect the ambience of the dock in Hong Kong and on the adjacent wall there are streamers (like in a circus) of a circus in Japan with reproductions of artists from that era.
Mr. Fogg then travels to America—San Francisco to New York. This part of the journey was done by train, and he also interacted with Native Americans in the region. Inspired by this, the seating is setup in a Teepee format, with poles, ropes and canvas, to recreate a Native American setting, and the walls have maps of tribes their regions. The seats are fabricated with a bamboo weave and the tables are wooden tops with prints on them.
The last leg of his journey was back to London via Ireland. A small section has been designed like an Irish setting.
We have in every small detail, attempted to re-create the architectural experience of Fogg’s mystical journey around the world. At PHILEAS HOGG we intend to take you on a journey that will take you back in time. A Splendid terrace space and a bright new concept make this 135-year-old story delightfully fresh and upbeat.
One major part of Mr. Fogg’s journey is that having traveled eastward, he gains a day. Initially, upon completing the journey he feels he has lost the bet, only to later realise that he has crossed the international date line and had indeed gained a day, thereby sticking to the timeline of 80 days and not 81 days.
He reaches London 5 minutes too late according to his calculations. Convinced that everything is lost, Aouda and Fogg decide to get married to make a fresh beginning. It is Passépartout who realizes that they have actually travelled around the world in 79 days and have actually gained a day traveling eastward, by crossing the International Date Line. Fogg and Passépartout, then rush to the Reform Club, just in time to win the wager.
This particular aspect is represented in the restaurant as a time zone. One would walk from Ireland to England through this time zone and comprehend this detail from the space and the maps created of the Date and Line.
In the 1870’s Mr. Fogg’s journey was possible because of 3 technological developments.
1. The Suez Canal
2. The Grand Indian Peninsular Railway
3. The Trans Continental Rail Road
I have used all three significances in different areas to show their importance and integrated it as a part of my design in the following ways:
There are reproductions of the Suez Canal in the 1800s (Scaled painting).
A railway track forms a part of the ceiling and maps are used as images, pertaining to all the rail routes and trains.
To add a touch of warmth and portray how this story has been perceived in different ways, all the tabletops have printed images of ‘Around the world in 80 days’ posters and representations conceived by filmmakers, artists, television series and animated stories.
Another part of the design was the conscious use of LEDs for the lighting. The entire space is lit up by LEDs and this imparts the perfect hue and precise illumination required to weave a story in a space.
Today the restaurant serves as a fitting tribute to the author, whose vivid imagination of a fantastic journey around the world, inspired the ‘PHILEAS HOGG’.
My special thanks to my clients for letting me conceive this place in its entire magical splendour, and to Mr. Jayakumar (the contractor) who helped take this idea from concept to realisation.
Tilak Raj is an architect based in Bangalore. You can view the feature we did on Prismma Magazine or on the website.