Excerpt: Beer Garden by Studio Lotus and Studio Vikhroli is an architectural project that reimagines the space as a focal point for social gatherings in the ever-evolving urban landscape, which is increasingly tending towards homogeneity. The built expression, which is envisioned as a light pavilion extending into the site’s landscape and is dotted with broad verandahs, aims to blur the line separating the indoors from the outside by blending in with its surroundings.
[Text as submitted by architect] The project was designed in collaboration with Studio Vikhroli. It lies within a 34-acre mixed-use development called The Trees, which has been characterized by ongoing revitalization efforts for many years. Within the masterplan, Imagine Studio was envisioned as an exercise in placemaking. Taking over the area of an industrial precinct, the original intervention drew from the history of the site to reimagine the space as an anchor for communal activities in the ever-changing urban landscape, which is increasingly tending towards homogeneity.
Adding to the idea of place-making and renewal, the landscape extension planned for Imagine Studio has been transformed into the Beer Garden. Designed as a light pavilion extending into the landscape of the site, the built expression, interspersed with deep verandahs, attempts to blur the boundaries between the outdoor and the indoor, seamlessly blending into its environment.
Nestled amongst other dynamic zones of the larger master plan, such as the retail corridor, the residential clubhouse, Imagine Studio, and the erstwhile Boiler café that is now Vikhroli Social through adaptive reuse, the space aims to create an inviting hospitality experience that draws visitors as well as the residents of the development, offering a welcome respite from the bustling pedestrian corridor beyond.
Most of the ground-level seating area connects to an intimate garden set in one of two courtyards, separated only by glazed walls. Since the requisite by-laws of the city required a defined enclosed area for a café serving alcohol, the primary court is edged with a visibly porous peripheral fence, enveloping the space. A barbeque and the extensive bar form the fulcrum of the interior seating area, which has been strategically planned so that the café can open out to the landscaping at the heart of the development.
Twin courtyards form the nucleus of the design and enable further dialogue with nature. The first courtyard at the cafe’s entrance allows guests to transition into a calm green oasis, while the second courtyard with its pergolas carves out a space that acts as a sculptural backdrop, filling the cafe with natural light. The pergolas cast intriguing light and shadow patterns among the trees, enlivening the courtyard. The café also offers alfresco terrace seating, which is equipped with movable landscape benches that are accessed by a metal spiral staircase set in the primary courtyard.
The design language for the architecture and interiors draws from the narrative of Imagine Studio, which was a response to the existing structures and the industrial legacy of the site. As a natural extension to the neighboring spaces, the cafe works with a tight palette of red brick, gray granite, micro-concrete finishes, and an exposed ceiling and structural system to accentuate its industrial expression. An existing silo from the old masterplan was repurposed to be used as part of the café’s kitchen and utility. This silo sits in juxtaposition to the rectilinear form of the architecture around it, while new silos integrated into the design as washroom facilities appear as reminders of the site’s industrial past.
The cafe creates an uninterrupted experience of the nature surrounding the site while ensuring it protects the inhabitants from the elements, taking advantage of the surrounding landscape and the strategic location of the site within the canopies. The existing grove of trees also allows for minimal heat load within the glazed interior spaces, as well as making the outdoors comfortable.
The spaces on the ground and the terrace meander through the landscape, blending fluidly and pulling the greens inside. A gateway to the development, the cafe provides an evocative experience that builds on the microcosm of The Trees. It draws from its context for a cohesive visual experience but also manages to stand apart, adding onto the original intervention as a space for recreation, relaxation, and interaction.