CW Interiors |
Cranes | June 2015

Thinking beyond Design

Gita Ramanan of Design Café, Bengaluru, discusses architectural work, design solutions and acoustical improvements.
Since its inception as a design firm in 2011, Design Café from Bengaluru has worked on a range of projects - commercial, residential, hospitality and more, since its inception in 2011. Gita Ramanan, CEO & Principal Architect, and her team always look at every project in its own parameters and criteria and work on creating specialized design solutions. Gita speaks to Ruth Dsouza Prabhu on the company´s projects and the advances in acoustical treatments.

As a design firm that works on multiple genres of projects, what is your approach to each one?
Typically, in a month we pick up 3-5 projects and during the course of the month finish up all the related paperwork. Towards the last week we work on the creation of notes for the project. We have a project initiation document, which involves the client´s expectations and the finer details of the project such as the measurements of the site, site survey, etc. Everything is put together in this document along with an understanding from the client and then we proceed.

What is your design philosophy at Design Café?
We were clear that we did not want a fixed philosophy; we didn´t want to follow a certain style. We decided to explore each project in its own parameters and criterion and that has turned out to be the design philosophy of Design Café.

Comment on the effort to bring an international style to design?
The well-travelled Indian is looking at international designs for inspiration. More than incorporating elements of a foreign culture, we are now imbibing the styling of a particular place. For instance, the Scandinavian minimalism exposes materials to reveal their natural beauty. To emulate this style, we need to source the best available local materials and not procure them across the border.

We have had a client in Bengaluru who wanted a Versace look for his residence while another one wanted a Zen influence on the interiors.

Tell us about your work in acoustic treatments.
We have seen that doors and windows are often the most under-treated elements in terms of acoustics. We replace poor quality doors and windows with solid wood ones. We then work on providing privacy between two apartments and necessary areas like home theatre room, big gyms, pooja rooms, with acoustic panelling to stop sound from travelling.

Recently, we worked on a restaurant in Chennai, which was on the first floor with rooms above it. Since it was a lounge with a dance floor, we had to ensure guests could party, without disturbing the people in the rooms. Similarly, the banquet hall had to be insulated, too.

How do you ensure well-balanced acoustics in places like commercial and retail spaces with high footfalls?
Today, there are a lot of open plan offices, with glass walls and cubicles and managing sound becomes important here. For wall partitions, new materials such as concrete panels help absorb sound. They are easy to assemble, versatile and relatively thin.

When we worked on our own office, we constructed the cabins and partitions using a material called B-Panel, a pre-engineered concrete panel, which is hollow on the inside and helps absorb sound. These panels were bought, cut to size and then assembled.

Although glass naturally inhibits sound, the hardware around does not. In malls, acoustic boards are placed on ceilings or walls to absorb sound ensuring no disturbance to the stores from common areas, like the corridors.

How do you ensure minimum space usage while installing acoustical materials and inhibitors?
Most acoustical materials had to be hidden but today they may be directly treated. For example, glass wool had to be pushed into another material and then treated. But now, most of the boards available can be directly painted and used as a finished material.

Which are the new trends in floor, ceiling or wall sound treatments?
One of the new materials is plastic-like, similar to foam but several microns thinner. It can be embedded in almost any kind of material. Instead of being part of only a panel, it can work as wall panelling too. However, if commercially, this material may be a little expensive.

Hollow bricks, which are also a green materials, are now being used extensively.

What are you currently working on?
One of our projects is a 150-room hotel, close to the Bengaluru airport, near Hebbal Lake. The location and environmental concerns have necessitated several permissions and clearances. Apart from the 150 guest rooms, we also have to fit in a banquet hall for 500 people, 4 restaurants, a pub lounge and a cafT as well.

Design Café, 41, 2nd floor,
Medsoft Building, Tata Silk Farm, Kanakpura Road, Basavangudi,
Bengaluru- 560 004.
Meet the Designer
Gita Ramanan
Firm: Design Café founded in 2011.
Firm specialization: Hospitality, residential architecture & interior design. Design philosophy: Our design is based on two primary maxims - "Design has the power to change the way we live: from our homes and offices to places of leisure and luxury"; and "God is in the details." We approach each project with utmost passion and humility to make a difference in the client's life.

Favourite architect/Designer: Tadao Ando, Charles Correa and Sanjay Mohe

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