The Crossboundaries designs a swanky new café in Vadodara
Good design meets refreshing beverages at Modernist Coffee
Imagined at a crossroads between a place to relish artisanal coffee, and one to savour good design – Modernist Coffee, as the name suggests, is a raw, modern approach to coffee culture. Designed by The Crossboundaries, the ample 1,350 sq-ft space is punctuated with 900 sq-ft of lush terrace gardens. Located in a high-rise building in Vadodara, the café is tucked away from the city, and open for discovery. As typologies of cafés becoming more than just an eatery, and transforming into art galleries, co-working and gathering spaces develop around the world – the design of Modernist Coffee cleverly unites various concepts. Using the brand’s idea of ‘Spaces, People and Coffee’ to intermingle and flow into each other, the café floor is conceived as a large open plan, with room for flexibility of layout.
The rawness of exposed brick, specially designed lighting pieces, and framed views of the sky are the first impressions of this space – with aromas of coffee wafting in the background. As a signature statement of The Crossboundaries, a sculptural installation awaits at the entrance of the café. Sculpted with raw jute, and carved wooden beads in the form of spilling coffee beans, this custom-made art piece makes an immediate impact. Within the café space, the seating areas, bar and open kitchen area, as well as the terrace areas, are arranged for effortless flow of not only beverages, but also people, during times of large gatherings. The spacious bar counter, with an open kitchen/ preparation area behind it, is clearly visible upon entering. Clad with brickwork and a jet-black granite counter, the bar is an imposing piece in the space. It immediately anchors the visitor to the space, under a floating storage unit overhead. An array of elegant high-bar stools make for easy seating at the bar counter, behind which lies a service island for quick food preparation. The idea of a transparent kitchen and service space stems from the concept of the café brand, which believes in an osmotic customer-barista relationship.
A unique feature of this café is the furniture selection, which forms a physical catalogue of the eclectic furniture brand, Olvii. Stools, café tables, high chairs and loose furniture – all are part of the furniture brand’s display. Sleek and stackable chairs, deep couches and tables with a burnt black wood-finished top – all become part of the ensemble to both use and purchase! The role of furniture in this café goes beyond fulfilling needs of seating and storage. As required, furniture and interior objects become creators of space, which when removed or rearranged, create different types of spaces within the café. Sometimes a regular café evening can be transformed into an intimate art gathering by removing and rearranging furniture pieces. An art exhibition can flow into a night of music and performances, spilling over onto the terraces and lounges, as several cups of coffee are brewed! Low-maintenance and sleek metal plates arranged horizontally along the wall act as shelves, to display books, board games and assorted objects. Sprinkled with greens, the bookshelf spanning the length of the wall becomes the perfect backdrop of a quiet space for a booklover!
The designers have attempted to make these transitions as seamless as possible, with the use of a lightweight and delicate system of partitions. The vertical partitions were designed to impart maximum transparency, through the 8 mm clear glass panels, housed in a thin MS flat section. Running on a thin channel, the glass screens are almost non-existent, while allowing for privacy and acoustic cut-off, when needed. As homage to the industrial quality of the café’s ethos, the main entrance door, again uses similar language as the internal partitions. Nonetheless, as a dash of dramatic playfulness, the main door swings open with the help of a suspension system, counterbalanced on a pulley!
Enveloped by the rugged texture of brick-clad walls, the café seating space is cast in a warm, subtle glow, when all the partitions are open. The ingenuity of the design lies in its use of cut-bricks along the stretcher course on vertical surfaces, with deep grooves or distinct ‘pointing’. This arrangement of brickwork creates layers of shadows, overlapping with the sheen of the flooring. The flooring is a seamless expanse of graphite pigmented-microcrete, a material which softens the gaze and brings shallow reflections of light across the surface. The fairly smooth flooring is a contrast to the rather raw and textured finish of the ceiling, in stippled dana plaster. In tandem with contrasting smooth and raw finishes, the main service core, which holds the pantry, ducts, customer restrooms and storage, has been clad in matt-black ACP sheets. This ‘black box’ tucks away all wet and dry services, and is visible yet invisible to the workings of the café.
An important feature of the café’s experience is the carefully designed and selected lighting. As part of The Crossboundaries’ quest for innovation and invention with new products, the overall lighting system is a custom-designed, calculated grid. Running across the ceiling, and along the beams, is an array of bent-GI pipes, grouped equidistantly, and fluidly ending at different lengths. The pipes terminate in a bent curve, with a cylindrical spot-light fixture at its end. The radius of each curve has been carefully calculated and executed in place, to precisely illuminate a spot. In order to specially demarcate an area in one of the seating galleries, a row of track lights run parallel to two beams, leaving the central ceiling area untouched. This throws diffused light in a space which is intended for multiple uses, especially as a makeshift art gallery showcasing eclectic artwork. Apart from designing lights to highlight artwork, some light fixtures themselves have been designed as a work of art! In the central bay, linear lights spanning the area between beams are uniquely fashioned out of brown medicine bottles and metal sheeting. This gives a brown-yellow gentle glow to the space. As part of their in-house innovation and experimentation process, this lighting product, named Cyclotron by the designers, is a one-of-its-kind, as it uses special industrial materials, and is made to order. Some more feature lights, to accentuate the mood have been custom-designed in jute and fibre. Coloured in mellow blues and rust, the large, suspended jute lights go well with young plants. An array of nine jute lights can also be seen, gently reflected in the infinity pool created on the left terrace. As the eye travels across the matt blackish café floor towards the glow of the terrace beyond, the sky is reflected in the infinity pool, sometimes with glimpses of birds and greens. This calm, meditative space was designed in the double-heighted volume, and is finished in hand-picked black granite surfaces. As a contrast to the other spill-out terrace, which is occupied with angular parapets and planters, this terrace is one for a quiet cup of coffee, perched on the high tables. The terrace at the other end of the café, however, is an open air outdoor performance and gathering area, as nuanced by the angularity of its parapets. These brick-clad parapets act as informal steps to an impromptu amphitheatre, or just a cosy nook for a cup of coffee! With abundant greens sprinkled around the place, this café is not only a tribute to fresh, natural experiences, but also to the finesse of raw, contrasting materials and textures!
Name of the project: Modernist Coffee
The client: Dhaval Mehta & Nishar Diwan
The firm: The Crossboundaries
Area: 2,250 sq-ft
Design team: Forum Jariwala, Vijay Dhabi, Neel Patel, Rishabh Prajapati, Khushboo Gunjal, Nidhi Vyas, Dhruv Prajapati, Pooshan Mahajan, Akshay Mer, Shailesh Boghani & Harsh Boghani
Art work: Abir Chakroborty & Ashish Chakroborty
Photographs: Ishita Sitwala
Text: Niharika Joshi