If you want to witness the personification of the adage ‘Less is more’, head to Affogato—a 600 sq ft café on 17th Road Khar, Mumbai. Partners and Principal Architects of kaviar:collaborative Kasturi Wagh and Vineet Hingorani were entrusted with the task of concocting a luxurious yet cozy, and welcoming space by the clients. The brief was to strike a balance between opulence and homeliness.
An affogato is a cross between dessert and coffee and is nothing short of a little bowl of heaven. The café too falls nothing short of its technical definition except here, the designers explored the idea of a gelato and coffee shop disguised as a subterranean art gallery.
“A minimal monochromatic volume with textures and soft curves inspired by the swirls of gelato sets the tone of the space. Akin to art pieces and sculptures showcased atop pedestals in an art gallery, one can find the wide range of gelato and coffee take center stage atop the collection of stone blocks. We believed in dealing with the constituents of ‘affogato’ as pieces of art rather than just everyday consumables by creating a space that celebrates it,” reveals Kasturi.
The minute you approach the café, curved walls flow into the interiors, much like a warm embrace. Aligned with Travellers’ Palms, white gravel and minimal tables and stools, the outdoor seating sets the mood for a chill evening from the get-go. “Large, curved glass facades allow one to directly view the cacophony of people and food inside. Due to the nature of the site being subterranean, when standing at the entrance one can only see the randomly aligned stone blocks with the coffee machine and gelato and the menu on the wall,” further elaborated Vineet.
A set of steps that appear to flow and become one with the wall. They help you maneuver your way down to what the designers call ‘the pit’, which is an insitu seating that almost feels like it’s scooped out of the ground. Exactly opposite the steps and ‘the pit’ are these seemingly randomly kept stone blocks/pedestals, showcasing either the coffee machine or gelatos or baked goods. Two hidden doors behind the stone clad blocks lead to the ‘back of house’ spaces and the washrooms.
We meant it when we said Affogato has literally no décor. Three materials—concrete, stone and wood are the unsung heroes that lend this café the kind of authenticity you come across very rarely. The same layer of beige micro concrete can be spotted across the volume of the space, be it the floor, walls or even the ceiling. Keeping up with these bare appearances, Kasturi and Vineet decided to switch the cosiness of the café up a notch through minimal furniture. “We wanted to play with this idea for the cafe where we play with a singular texture for all the surfaces- walls, ceiling and floor and let the coffee and gelato be the heroes of the space,” share the duo!
Affogato is Kasturi and Vineet’s first commercial project and it came with its own moments of contentment and challenges. When they first inspected the site, it hit them with a sweet nostalgia of their time in New York visiting small private art galleries in the bylanes of the Lower East Side Manhattan. The way those hole-in-wall spaces with large glass facades and bare interiors managed to attract people with the sole focus on the exhibited art struck a chord with them and became the inspiration behind the design of Affogato.
Sharing anecdotes from their design journey— “Commercial projects are super-fast paced! We were on site almost every day most of the time designing on site, which is something we have never done in the past. All our designs are locked at the primary stage itself! Nonetheless, we loved the chaos and the adrenaline rush for the 3 months that we designed Affogato!” conclude the duo.
FACT FILE :
Name of the project: Affogato
Firm Name: kaviar:collaborative
Design Team and Designation: Kasturi Wagh and Vineet Hingorani – Partners + Principal Architects
Location of the project: 17th Road Khar, Mumbai
Area (Sq.ft): 600
Photo courtesy: Syam Sreesyalam