Main Course | January 2012
The Smoky look
Designed by Ayaz Basrai, The Smokehouse Room is stark, fluid and scrumptiously delightful.
How would you categorise an all-white, crescent-shaped place that boasts spectacular views of the Qutab Minar - a space so organically fluid that you forget all about edges and straight lines? Would you call it a night club, a restaurant, terrace joint or a bar? Would you describe its vibe as fluid, edgy, schizophrenic or psychedelic? The answer is: all of the above. For, Smokehouse Room (Shroom) - the new kid on New Delhi's club block - defies single, simple definitions.
Walk into the stark white reception area on the third floor of The Crescent Mall and a colossal fluid shape sticking out of a white screen arrests your eye. Sid Mathur, a former London-based banker and now co-owner of Shroom, calls it a "form without a name" - 'a quenelle' comes closest to describing it. Ayaz Basrai, the Mumbai-based designer who runs The Busride Design Studio, says it just 'feels' right for the space.
The form is everywhere; at the entrance, it is not even static. Various digital images flit in and out, giving it a surreal look. To its left is the Smokehouse Room logo with an eccentric touch - the letters are inverted and reoriented. The entrance leads to the reception, to the right of which lies the club and to the left, the restaurant.
Turning right, you would walk into the spaceship-like ambience of the restaurant that is neatly segregated into a cocktail area and a 42-seater restaurant. Explains Basrai, "The cocktail bar borrows its buzz from the high-energy Shroom next door and also opens up and merges in with it on busy nights. Meanwhile, the restaurant borrows eccentricity and edginess from the cocktail bar, making the sit-down dinner young and cool."
The club next door is a completely separate entity. In Shroom, everything is in shades of white and seems to merge with something else. Fluidity is the buzzword here. The floor creeps into walls, and pillars blend in with the ceiling. It feels like it has been sculpted out of a single material and then smoothened to perfection. The space aims to capture the essence of the mind-bending psychedelic experience where forms and shapes animate and integrate seamlessly.
A white wash
The fluidity, of course, owes much to the heavy use of white. Commercially, there are more shades of white than of any other colour, and the diverse white palette is very evident in The Shroom: The chairs have a subtle open pore texture, the wallpaper is a tinge of ivory with a light mushroom texture, the porcelain and bone china sync in with the Corian, the cocktail bar has white upholstered leather surfaces, and the pillars and floor sport two more shades of white!
This backdrop is perfect for the lights that give Shroom its edginess. The cocktail bar becomes a psychedelic landscape in the evenings and has a very distinct, almost schizophrenic, day vibe. The LED lights can acquire 16 million combinations, and the entire space gets bathed in turns - in bright red, fluorescent green or vibrant purple - its sinuous forms accentuated by the shifting light.
Achieving perfect curves is never an easy job - and building seamless curves over the 12,000 sq ft expanse of The Shroom was a formidable challenge. The Crescent Mall is a curved structure, and most of the surface has 3-axis bends, which, as Basrai puts it, "make it next-to-impossible to communicate on a floor level to masons; hence, the project involved heavy site work and supervision." The design language evolved from the site itself. Basrai sculpted out areas and functionality into the spaces, allowing winding organic forms to blend spaces into one another. As he puts it, "The fluidity of the form language allowed this integration. In fact, anything with an orthogonal edge just made things stand out weirdly."
Apart from the curves, the low ceiling was an additional woe. Basrai converted this drawback into an advantage "by blending all the corners at the edges and stressing horizontal lines to allow the eye to move in a guided way along these surfaces".
However, when the lasers flash and the dreamy projections meld with the magical music, The Shroom turns almost hallucinatory in its appeal. Everything seems other-worldly, except the fresh red calla lily (thankfully, not plastic!) that lazes in a tiny alcove in the restaurant - a frail link with reality!
Meet the designer: Ayaz Basrai
Firm: The Busride Design Studio, founded in 2006.
Design philosophy: Spatial solutions from the mildly eccentric to the totally insane.
Philosophy towards life: Productive mind expansion.
Favourite architect/Designer: Ambrish Arora, Lotus Design and Studio Weave.
Roof: Gypsum, Plaster of Paris, MDF panels and plywood sections.
Floor: In situ Terrazzo T2 grain (white and grey).
Lights: LED lighting, of varying intensities and specifications, on DMX control.
Table tops: Plywood and felt (restaurant), Corian (cocktail bar), and backlit Corian (club).
Blinds: Blackout roller blinds, ivory shade with the Shroom forms in damask.
Chairs: Teak wood, duco painted (restaurant), leather and rotomoulded plastic (cocktail bar).
Sofa upholstery: Velvet and leather.
Smokehouse Room, 3rd Floor, The Crescent Mall, Lado Sarai, Mehrauli, New Delhi-110 030. Tel: 011-2952 3737/3838
The Busride Design Studio, 10-A, Ground Floor, Ranwar Village, Veronica Street, Off Waroda Road, Bandra (West), Mumbai-400 050. Website: www.jointhebusride.com
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