“Love inspires me. Anything done with love, for love, in love or about love will always be beautiful” believes Ranjeet Mukherjee an alumnus of The Faculty of Architecture, CEPT University, Ahmedabad. Ranjeet worked in Auroville for nearly 5 years before he founded the Gurgaon-based design studio ‘The Vrindavan Project’ in 2012. He prefers to call it a “project”, rather than a studio as he believes his design practice is an evolving process which grows organically and adapts to each task with complete flexibility. Thus the overall resultant continuum is a “project” itself – “as the studio is not to be static or set in any particular form”.
The Vrindavan Project is a design practice that involves exploring of techniques which are ecologically sensitive and contextually appropriate. He and his wife and professional partner Shreenu, an established interior designer, aim and work together to create timeless, experiential spaces that offer a sense of intimacy to its clients that are in symbiosis with natural habits.
On asking about the most interesting project Ranjeet utters, “Crunch Patisserie, located at a shopping mall in Gurgaon, was a completely different site context, as compared to what we had dealt with before, but great fun to orchestrate”.
Located at a recently opened shopping mall; Crunch Patisserie is a flagship outlet launched by Mr. Praveen Kalra, an entrepreneur in the food industry. His niece Disha is the pastry chef for this establishment and manages food production.
Eros City Square like many other contemporary shopping arcades, is composed of standardized modular elements and built with predominantly industrially manufactured materials. Main circulation courts and passages are open to sky, providing plenty of light to shop facades, while exposing them directly to the elements as well. These site conditions called for a synthesis in approach, where both architectural and interior design considerations could harmoniously integrate. The given glass façade for other shops has been replaced at Crunch by a thickened edge of country brick masonry, framing a place of light. Additional illumination is allowed in, above lintel by removing the mall’s standard Alucobond cap-strip.
This intervention with the façade allowed for an appealing wooden doorway and threshold, marking a place of entry. A simple green canvas awning, attached to the facade provides shade and protects fenestrations against rain, besides giving it a feel of a European cafe. Crunch Patisserie’s fixed glass window display hosts plank shelves of wood, suspended from a lintel slab cast above, by metal pipe fixtures. This same metallic pipe detail has been repeated in various forms throughout the space, serving as shelf brackets, door or cabinet handles, and as structural elements for furniture.
By this approach, many design features have been assembled and welded on site by craftsmen, using locally available standard pipe fittings. This is to explore
how multiple functions may be derived from a single material, by variety in basic detailing. The same principle is applied to other element forming materials, such as exposed country brick masonry, which varies in thickness across the space as means to serve varied utility. In some places this same brickwork forms a sofa seating, in other places it shapes storage, creates partitions and even stands alone as a pier supporting the main counter. Essentially such a space aspires to be considered as an authentic modern indigenous product, while arriving upon some type of contemporary urban vernacular language.
Almost everything about this space is hand made in India, and more specifically onsite. Most materials used are natural, locally available, low energy products. Technology detailing deployed is simple and widely achievable, unto the rural sector. Such a model could be replicated in theory, by moderately skilled craftsmen using human energy alone, with little need for specialized material, equipment or tools, almost anywhere in the country. This resultant prototype displays robust solidity, in contrast to a current age of transience and disposable consumer culture. Sustainable solutions should ideally create employment and therefore, design decisions through this process maximized upon details, requiring human energy by labour and craftsmanship.
Materiality as spatial identity, while refraining from thematic imagery; became the chosen design response to approaching this commercial space, while generating some sense of institutional permanence.
Authenticity of Interiors and aesthetics of space are driving forces for their team. “It is important to always be sensitive towards the client and their recommendations”, suggests Ranjeet, as he signs off.