Being a Sheen within an Existing Green.
The Box Carnival – a food hub design in discarded shipping containers.
Design by SAGI Architects | Mumbai.
The project won the third position in the institutional category in FOAID 2019.
A shipping container is a building material with strength suitable to withstand shipment, storage, and handling between countries for years but discarded due to the shipping cost of sending them back to their port of origin. In India, they have limited use as portacabins, like a toilet or at constructions sites, or nowadays used for housing, retail and offices. With 3R's - recycle, reuse and reduce characteristics, they can be a sustainable building material option for other uses too. Hence it can be a series of restaurants for people to eat and meet, where any company can move in or move out with minimal capital cost or a capital loss.
Client-SAJ group approached us with a strategic proposal for a food plaza or hub over a leased land at Khopoli, Maharashtra, located on the bypass road from Mumbai to Goa. The design needed to be a series of portable kiosks planned in phases and be commercially viable by promoting local homemade businesses without demolition of the existing block. The design also needed to activate the space surrounding the existing block, which is to revamp into a fine dining restaurant called "Maati Bani", meaning built from mother earth. Due to its proximity to tourist destinations, Imagica– a theme-based park and Pali Temple, this hub had to cater to the mass of all ages, being another destination and a landmark for that area.
With this thought, our design process outset happens with the idea of - "a Make Shift Design" using shipping containers, where we achieve a solution for transportability and efficiency. Also, they add an advantage towards acceleration of construction process, innovation, enabling reassembly or reuse, upcycle as when desired. Each shipping container, we prefer to call it a box, serves a unique purpose and manifest the project by creating a pattern as a modular structure or a prototype that can showcase a vibrant prominent mass around the existing brick mortar structure. The boxes are plan strategically to formulate an interim congregational space. Further, when the next phase develops, it envelopes the former module by enlarging the said space.
Being on the street or far across the road, the most prominent feature in any food hub is the signage, as it's always the first point of recognition to invite travellers across any given time. The box is tilted, highlighting the entrance and being progressive to aspire the millennial for an insta-worthy experience. For undisrupted view towards the inside, the parking lot is at the corner end of the plot.
One enters the shahbad stone pathway, leading to a juxtaposition of 3 boxes, like a mega box keeping the scale proportionate to the surroundings. The central one is kept higher than the adjacent two and designed to make a statement like being a superhero Optimus Prime of these transformers’ play. It's with a full-height glass front façade in a grid pattern, an abstract form of Mondrian art, showcasing the interior activities. The pitched truss roof is designed with the ceiling members to resonate a rhythm to entice one into the depth of the box dramatically. To feel welcomed within the hub, the doors of the smaller box are kept open with a lush green landscape around and with vibrant colours.
A 40' Long box as an administration block is elevated over the other boxes to maximize the rooftop view, assisting an overview of the entire campus and column-free uninterrupted transitional shaded area at the ground and in turn, it builds an intriguing point for a passerby from the street. It acts as a catalyst around the landscape, increasing unhindered movement, interaction and potential collaboration among all affiliates. For the local business vendors to be visible from the street and all pathways, the box as an Agro store extends out towards bordering streets and is offset to an angle for visibility from the other end of the hub, having toilet and restaurant block.
Proper sanitation being our prime concern for the passerby and customers, so placing it closer to the entrance and the restaurants eases the approach and making drainage budget-friendly. It camouflages with the revamp restaurant-"Maati Bani" and the semi-open seating abutting it, by similar exterior elements, to make it look like part of the existing block. All other activities as the kid's play area, the outdoor seating area is planned near the mega box, toilet and revamp restaurant to engage people all around the hub space, just like what a carnival does.
A carnival reminisces one with vivid colours, an essence of vibrancy and connects us back to the roots. As Maati-bani's meaning grounds us back there, it became an inspiration for the design elements. The old and new build is holistically dealt with to generate a modern vernacular ambience by using a combination of cool and warm colours in the exterior and using similar interior elements throughout the hub. The restaurant interior design is with walls in exposed brick and arches, motif tiles on the floor, rustic metal and wood furniture, the ceiling with neutral colours and with warm lights to complement the vibrant exterior colours amidst the landscape around. This interior style replicates over the mega box and with few elements continuing in others as well.
So, this discarded material- the box, reduces the ground destruction, reduces long construction timelines, can be upcycled for reuse and recycled later, sufficing the 3R's and makes this hub an arena for carnival by being a sheen within an existing green.
The text was written by, Ar. Nirali Jain for SAGI Architects | Mumbai
Photograph credits: Shivkumar Dhale
Picture copyrights: SAGI Architects.