Excerpt: Tianu – The Revival Project, designed by Studio PKA, is a commercial project that speaks of a desire to recover and respect the past – an ode to architectural heritage in Mumbai. The project was seen as an opportunity to refurbish a space within a heritage structure effectively. The brand – a furniture retail outlet – sought to relocate from its existing setup to a new store that would be conducive to their sensibilities as furniture designers, art connoisseurs, and deep admirers of architecture and heritage of the city.
[Text as submitted by architect] Nestled in a corner, on the ground floor of a Victorian Era building in Ballard Estate – the original Central Business District – ‘The Revival Project’ speaks of a desire to recover and respect the past – an ode to architectural heritage in Mumbai. The space was acquired with a large double heighted open floor plate, interjected by a low height mezzanine, boarded up arched fenestrations and devoid of a connect with the street. The project was seen as an opportunity to effectively refurbish a space within a heritage structure – which not only saves space and is economically viable but also recognizes the importance of conserving the remnants of a bygone era. The brand – a furniture retail outlet – sought to relocate from their existing setup to a new store that would be conducive to their sensibilities, as furniture designers, art connoisseurs and deep admirers of architecture and heritage of the city.
In order to make the space habitable the windows were opened up, the partitions removed, and necessary retrofitting was carried out to ensure structural stability. The frontage on the other hand was designed to not only entice visitors and prospective customers but also activate the street by virtually acting as an extension of the pavement outside – through the wood and glass vestibule that juts inwards and allows elements of the store to percolate out. A level difference in the form of steps invites the user and leads them to the entrance – the vestibule – from where the open floor plate flows and acts as the main retail space which extends up to the cabin at the far end of the store.
While a hierarchy of spaces exists, a conscious effort was made for it to be kept to a bare minimum – spaces flow into each other with transitions highlighted either by way of textural and tonal variations in flooring material or semi-permeable partitions. A screen – below the mezzanine – segregates the retail space in two and instantly suggests a division. Conceptualized as a flexible intervention, the cement board partition acts as a backdrop for art and furniture as well as blocks or allows visual access to and from the entrance of the store by way of louvers. The interplay of levels within a heritage structure adds to the character of the space – an insert that breaks the homogeneity of a single plane.
A staircase leads up to the mezzanine level which is reserved as the workspace for the in – house design team. Taking cues from the existing structure, the steel girders act as clear demarcations between each zone – dividing the mezzanine into three bays – a store room & dining area, the workspace and the huddle area that establishes a connect with the store below. While the mezzanine has been designed with the team in mind, the semi-public zone also plays host to furniture and art and encourages the presence of the retail space on top – this not only capitalizes on floor space but also builds a unique and intriguing narrative for customers to experience the store in its entirety. Respecting the textures of exposed brick, existing wood and metal, the introduction of new materials has been kept to a bare minimum. This further helps to accentuate the teak wood furniture pieces by providing backdrops and frames to highlight and showcase the same. The design speaks of simplicity and transparency – an effort to bridge the gap between the architecture and the product.
While Ballard Estate exudes a sense of grandeur, the precinct has lost its sheen over the years. Most buildings – though in exemplary condition – lie vacant and abandoned while glass spires crop up, in parts of the city, to take their place. However, recent developments and infrastructure projects validate the desire to occupy spaces within the district. The erstwhile CBD could soon spring back to life with the upcoming underground Metro Rail Project, a concerted effort and the first of its kind in Mumbai, that seeks to connect the new with the old – a Special Economic Zone in the north with the Heritage and Art District in South Mumbai. The paucity of land and the rapid expansion of the city call for an alternative architectural and design solution.
Adaptively Re-Using old and defunct spaces within the heritage precinct could effectively rekindle a tryst with the past. By activating an otherwise desolate corner in Ballard Estate, the store seeks to encourage businesses to invest in re-using and restoring heritage structures within the precinct rather than focusing solely on the ‘new’. ‘Tianu – The Revival Project’ is as much a revival for the space it occupies as it is for its context.