The Balcao is an outdoor porch found in most Goan homes to this day, characterised by thick curved walls with seats built onto its sides, finished in bright colored hand casted concrete. It is a welcome gesture of the house where it gently invites you within. The balcao is a crucial part of a Goan home as this is where one spends most of their time, casually relaxing and napping in the afternoons, reading a book, writing , having the morning tea or even chatting with the neighbour or a passers by, it holds space for many such activities.
At a time of modern architecture and rampant urbanisation, all houses tend to become very self contained, private and detached, separated away from the city or the neighbourhood. The balcao becomes all the more important
at such a time as it is built with the idea reinforcing the kinship between the house and the neighbourhood. It is where the indoor meets the outdoor, a place where the boundaries of the exterior and interiors are blurred.
“When we first visited the villa, one thing we noticed that it did not have a balcao that welcomed you. The house was an enclosed shell. We naturally wanted to connect the indoor and outdoor parts of the house and thought it would be best if the bar becomes the bridge for that connection in the form of a balcao.”, Arko, Founder and Principal architect, Otherworlds.
The entire restaurant would then grow out from the bar, extending outdoors making further enclosures, embodying the notion of the balcao. We thereby imagined the restaurant to be an extension to the house and while being part of it, would also feel like a part of the city.
Some of the external walls of the house were broken down and opened up to create space for an outdoor porch where an island bar was inserted, almost as if it’s hugging the house. An island bar encourages chance encounters and enhances interactivity. The bar hence doesn’t function as a traditional bar where people sit on chairs facing towards a wall but rather towards each other and also on its side in benches. It curves at one end hugging the house with a planter that grows both inside and out.
Hovering above the bar is a floating library of assorted liquor and books that turns into a lit centrepiece chandelier in the night. The whole structure is made in metal and fluted glass and painted in a light green hue all over. Hung from the external walls of the house, it faces both outside and inside. The arches of its form are meant to recontextualise the omnipresent arched windows on the façade of the house. It structure also holds lamps that branch out from its ends giving light to the benches built along the bar wall. It is here where the white marble slab that makes the bar top folds down and turns into small tables to form intimate two seater spaces along the bar.
We were largely influenced by organic forms found in nature and the ephemeral quality of natural light. Goa being an extensively tropical place, most of everyday life is spent in the outdoors, within nature. The intention was to create an immersive atmospheric experience that inspires a feeling of being in a tropical lush outdoor space under an overgrown natural canopy. Tall slender columns hold an expansive bamboo canopy with vast elliptical openings (skylights) that allow diffused natural light to filter inside the space, transforming it throughout the day.
Susegad, derived from the Portuguese word sossegado (quiet), is often viewed as the relaxed laid back attitude and enjoyment towards life that is seeped into the culture of Goa. This interplay of light and shadow adds an ethereal quality in the atmosphere creating a calming presence that evokes the susegad feeling.
Influence of organic forms can also be seen in the design of the lights of the restaurant. Found perched onto the slim columns, these lamps take inspiration from a leaf as it falls and bends in two halves. Thin metal sheets were bent to enclose a light sphere and fabricated to sweeping stems in typical floral fashion. These lights add a sense of whimsy to the entire space.
When in Goa, one likes to be in the outdoors more than the indoors, spending hours sitting outside in the back garden or in the front balcao, reading, eating, chatting, sleeping, doing almost everything. “We wanted to mimic this propensity for nature in the Goan life to create a sense of belonging. We knew the restaurant needs to be a submersive experience with a distinctive mood to create a feeling of presence, well- being and harmony”, Arko.
As the bar becomes the new balcao that the house was missing, it extends outside forming planters and seating while making further enclosures. The monolithic olive green massing of the extended balcao is sheltered under a hovering bamboo skin. This bamboo mass sprouts from its moulded green plinth reaching the full height of the house and gently tapers down. Dotted throughout the bamboo canopy are vast elliptical skylights, allowing sunlight to filter through and cast a gentle dappled glow over the outdoor dining area. The surreal atmospheric presence of these massive ellipses scattered and floating above creates a calming susegad feeling.
The interplay of light and shadow adds an ethereal quality to the atmosphere, creating a serene and enchanting setting for the guests to indulge in their culinary journey. These elliptical openings can also be traced on the floor as their shadow patterns form green and white marble shapes found immersed in the hand cast bed of green concrete.
“As you enjoy your meal sitting on your balcao bench at the bar under a low hanging leaf shaped lamp, you meet a friend sitting on the other side waving at you. We wanted to celebrate these serendipitous encounters that happen everywhere in Goa, owing to its intimate scale. These are the little moments that make a space memorable and gives it a sense of belonging.”, Arko.
The outdoor dining space is planned around the existing coconut trees in compound of the house. It takes the form of meandering walls enclosing concrete cast benches washed in a gentle green hue. The benches around planters and trees make space for two or more families or groups who can sit on either side and enjoy a meal while also being encouraged to make a friend or two.
Tertulia derives its identity from the Catalan word of the same name meaning an enjoyable and pleasant conversation between friends. Mumbai being a mostly organic city with passive place making, is a city that fosters this feeling in every part of its urban fabric. Fortunately, Goa also has a similar sense of community, though it is much more intimate and personal.
As with both places, especially the latter, owing to its intimate scale, people often fortuitously meet and make new acquaintances and friends everywhere. We wanted to celebrate these chance encounters by incorporating an open welcoming island bar in the design, while also adding built in benches close to each other separated by a planter, that encourages incidental conversations. We believe that these are the little moments that create a sense of belonging in the space and makes it memorable.
The clients brief was to create a space that would be a relaxing day bar in the morning but also turn into a high energy spot for your weekend dancing in the night. We wanted to re-imagine their Bombay brand in Goa’s context that would reflect the susegad life in the outdoors, while also celebrating the soirees of the quintessential goan in the evenings.
Materials and Processes
The palette largely incorporates locally available materials, found in Goa. For instance the bamboo, which is largely used to built temporary structures along the shoreline, enclosures which are dismantled during monsoons and then rebuilt. Bamboo adds the idea of impermanence to the space and creates a sense of organic dynamism.
The green pigmented hand cast concrete floor, largely termed as IPS in the Indian context is found in most places in the country and is also used to finish the balcao in all Goan homes. When one adds broken stone chips in this concrete mixture in order to strengthen it and also aesthetically enhance the appearance, it becomes a material called the terrazzo, in the Indian context. We strategically used terrazzo to create elliptical forms found within the green bed, on the floor and in some places on the walls.
While also innovating on the process by adding randomly broken larger pieces of green and white marble slabs in an irregular arrangement within the elliptical shape. These incidental shapes found in the space are reminiscent of the shadows of the vast elliptical openings in the bamboo canopy. Aimlessly scattered all over, they are found on
the floor, partly on the wall in some places and even on steps. Terrazzo and ips both being handmade materials, come with their own imperfections and gradually age over time.
These imperfections give the material, an appearance of sculpted character and also a sense organic dynamism that we intended to achieve through the design. The wood used in the project comes from the state tree Matti. The wood is coarse, fairly straight grained, dull to somewhat lustrous without any smell or taste. This economical hardwood varies from light brown to dark brown and brownish black while being figured with darker streaks. Early in the process, we decided to adhere to a handful of materials and colors for the project.
This was to keep the overall aesthetic, minimal in order to create a calming experience. The green also recalls for the tropical outdoors and inspires feelings of affection and care. The brand association with green and white tones has also been an important factor for choosing the specific palette. Tertulia identifies itself as an eclectic tropical bar and restaurant that engages its visitors with its gentle and welcoming vibe with a sense of belonging.
The green had to be a very subtle green, not too green but also not a faded dull shade. At the same time it had to complement the wood, bamboo and the denser metallic shades. The terrazzo work was executed in collaboration with local workshop studio, Jyamiti and Sea. The colours were obtained by playing around with a mixture of white cement, grey cement and green oxide pigment. We created samples with varying proportions of these three materials to get different shades of green. The tricky bit with coloured concrete is achieving the exact shade of colour. Cause once the cement sets and is polished, the result is quite different from the initial wet mix of the cement. This means that a better understanding is needed to identify how a wet cement mixture needs to look in terms of its colour to eventually arrive at the final colour when it’s set and polished. The setting and polishing takes about two days each so overall the process being intuitive was lengthy and required a lot of patience.
Everything in the space has been custom designed and manufactured by local craftsmen and contractors from the lights to the wooden and metal chairs. All the slender bamboos are carefully handpicked, locally sourced from Goa and were fixed under the roof to make the floating bamboo skin.
Project type: Bar/Restaurant, FNB, Commercial – ADAPTIVE REUSE
Location: Panjim, Goa
Size: 6200 sqft
Photographer: Suryan and Dang
Contractor teams: Civil- Rajeev Srinivasan Consultants, Flooring- Jyamiti and Sea,
Fabrication- Vikra Enterprises
About The Firm:
Otherworlds is a multidisciplinary design studio based out of Goa, India, where the sole vision is to break the norm of stereotyped spaces and create “other” unique experiences in spatial and visual domains in the real, virtual and speculative worlds. While our work cross pollinates between multiple fields of art and architecture, we believe we should never be able to succinctly define what we do, which makes us collaborate with creative minds of all kinds and widens our work to a diverse range of possibilities. Our practice is heavily informed from our beliefs in creating an all-inclusive queer affirmative society. Through our practice we aspire to defy the pyramidical power structures in the design community by forming values on inclusivity, sharing and co-creation. We look forward to working with you!