Rope is the main decor element in this sustainably designed cafe in Gujarat
The Grid Architects design the vibrant Rope Terrace Café in Gandhinagar using eco-friendly jute in the form of rope
Upon entering the Rope Terrace Café, located strategically on a rooftop that overlooks one of Gandhinagar’s main thoroughfares, one is welcomed by the cheerful, warm hues of the walls and the rugged-looking jute, interspersed with the vibrant blue of the sky. The startling yellow of the walls seems to be reminiscent of the old pol houses from nearby Ahmedabad. That nostalgia, when merged with the quirky use of jute and the presence of youngsters with laptops and cell phones, creates an interesting juxtaposition of the old and the new, the relaxed and the restless.
The brief was to establish a terrace café in a prime location in the heart of Ahmedabad, surrounded by prestigious institutes and companies such as NIFT, NID PG and TCS. The creative genius behind the project, The Grid Architects focused on creating a stress-free environment built using sustainable practices. The design approach was to have an ambience that would entice the youngsters and generally fast-moving generation to pause to visit, appreciate and linger. With the young generation as its target audience, the design needed to be upbeat, effervescent and spirited. The café was intended to be a vibrant hangout, designed using eco-friendly techniques. Thus, a unique story unfurled.
While the design process was shaped and challenged in a positive manner by the strict budget and the short timeframe, the architects enjoyed a free creative run, unfettered by preconceived ideas on the part of the client. Budgetary and time-based restrictions directed the team to look at quick, aesthetic solutions. With their inclination towards natural materials and the desire to adhere to a green design philosophy, they explored and examined a natural palett which could be recycled and reused.
The materials were also required to be easily available, cost-effective, locally sourced and crafted. One of the materials that made the cut, and subsequently played a starring role in this narrative, was jute. A cohesive identity of the space arose from a unique, contemporary response involving this indigenous material, in the rope form.
In addition to jute, the other ‘material’ harnessed liberally was sunlight – one of the easiest, cheapest and most beautiful of natural elements. The use of natural daylight can animate 49 any room, add vibrancy to colours and, quite literally, infuse positivity in people. Wood was another mainstay of the material palette — selected for its familiarity, warmth and structural integrity. Thus, jute was ably supported by the beautiful imperfections of raw wood and the profusion of colours, textures and patterns — all assimilated, balanced and supported by sciagraphy.
The contextuality of jute rope was further strengthened when seen vis-à-vis the searing summers that the city experiemces. Watered jute keeps the surroundings cool. Under no climatic conditions does jute absorb or retain heat. Other strategies to ensure a comfortable micro-climate included corrugated sheets installed along the south-west façade as a protective layer against harsh sunlight; sequentially installed wood planks to help channelise wind currents, and plants to maintain the moisture content in the air.
The open layout design, striking use of materials and simplicity of form emerged from reinforcing the purpose of a human-centric design. Building bye-laws precluded the possibility of any kind of permanent or semi-permanent structure. After much discussion, the designers chose the traditional charpoy as the inspiration for developing partitions and canopie that would define individual seating islands.
The entrance was adorned by a wall mural depicting the logo of the café, which has now become a ‘selfie’ zone. Jute rope, recycled babool (gum arabic tree) wood tabletops and flooring add to the ambience and help with the acoustics. In order to be as gentle as possible on the building structure while installing the new flooring, the design team, instead of screwing the new flooring directly on the old surface, created aluminium-framed babool wood modules that were overlaid on the terrace floor. In addition to keeping the waterproofing layer intact, this strategy also allows water to flow easily below the wooden overlay.
The rope canopy was created with the help of jute strands, looped around pipes at specific angles — such that the partial canopy cast a shadow over the rest of the terrace. It was easy for the craftsmen to tie the rope and keep it straight over narrow widths. However, as the widths and angles increased, the task of tautening the ropes became difficult; firstly, because of the increased weight, and secondly, the tighter the ropes were drawn, the greater the pressure increased, causing the pipes to which they were attached to bend. Realising that this could damage the existing structure, the architects let the rope sag slightly — and the resultant arcs created dramatic shapes and shadows.
An enclosed, air-conditioned space has been incorporated in one corner as a refuge from the city’s harsh weather. This section derives its individual identity from interesting wall-mounted frames. Opposite the air-conditioned area, and across the open layout of the main level, is an upper terrace, accessed by a pink spiral staircase. Functioning as a smoking zone and a private zone for special celebrations, this secluded section possesses an experiential quality, retaining the scale within that volume.
The services were planned strategically. The artistically designed sit-outs offer a versatile way to create various modules that were easily adapted to their own spaces and were especially designed keeping in mind the crowd the café would attract. The charmingly-designed pendants, rendered in jute rope, have been designed to create an enchanting play of light and shadow. Each table has a personal canopy woven with rope, which gives the feel of intimate space. The spaces were designed in order to promote and create an environment that was warm and welcoming, connecting people.
The Rope Terrace Café is all about living in a pure zone where modernism blends with nature’s charm — dovetailing craft, material, method and design to reassure that natural material and design promotes an inclusive way of life.
• Inclusion of local labour and local craft
• The material palette is dominated by recycled and sustainable materials (jute rope, gum arabic wood, corrugated sheets, MS, aluminium and natural stone)
• Eco-friendly paint
• Light fixtures with LEDs
• The mandatory air-conditioned section (considering the harsh climate) has been kept small
• Jute rope, which gives the café its name, sees liberal usage owing to its eco-friendliness. Jute is a humble material, which can take any form and transform a space. The material doesn’t have thermal conductivity, so it helps maintain the temperature underneath. It does not absorb and retain heat. Watered jute keeps the surroundings cool. Jute ropes can be handled easily, and the material was sourced and crafted locally.