Proud of its rich heritage, Ahmedabad-based Milan Prajapati is a fifth generation potter who carries forward his lineage and finds its place in the contemporary world. His family belongs to the potter community known as Kumhar or Kumbhar that makes pots and artefacts from clay.
While the indigenous art form has provided a livelihood for their family for centuries now, Milan prefers seeing the clay from the lens of cultural expressions. Their 7-month old restaurant, Mitti Ke Rang (meaning — the colour of mud), is a testimony to that.
Clay has taken centre stage at the restaurant. It mirrors a Kumbhar’s artefact, which is ecological, cost-effective and one that is peppered with cultural symbolism. In terms of sustainability, the material palette includes plaster made from turmeric and clay, reclaimed jute, wood and more.
“Clay has now become an integral part of our lives so I can never get enough of this earthen material that provides warmth and a peculiar texture. With a shoestring construction budget, we approached tHE gRID Architects, an architectural firm that uses recycled or local materials to build green spaces, in 2020. They took into consideration our emotion behind it, respected our values and created a visually aesthetic but cost-friendly restaurant,” Milan says.
The idea to link pottery and a restaurant certainly piqued the interest of Bhadri and Snehal Suthar, founders of tHE gRID Architects. The duo is known for using local and recycled construction materials to give a decorative spin to modern interiors. They implemented the same principle while experimenting with a rather unique palette called ‘Golden Plaster’.
To build an eco-friendly, low-cost restaurant
“Since they had a financial constraint, we explored their vibrant and historic legacy while designing the space. We told the client to let his family, who is still into this craft, use their talent, and, in turn, and we would use these various forms of the traditional, vernacular material in the restaurant. Keeping the clay intact as the fundamental material, we added naturally-derived ingredients like turmeric and kesuda extract. The best part about this structure is that we have not used any paint or material that generates a carbon footprint,” Snehal tells The Better India.
The architect-couple brought down the construction cost by a whooping 50 per cent. “We wanted to emphasise the notion that eco-friendly buildings can be low-cost while also being sturdy and luxurious in appearance. We saved on material and labour cost and constructed the 3,250-square-feet restaurant under Rs 25 lakhs,” adds Bhadri.
The entrance symbolises the client’s heritage and the theme of the restaurant — a potter’s wheel and different types of clay vessels and utensils which are gently illuminated by reclaimed jute-shaded lamps. The waiting area and anteroom continue the tale of a cultural legacy by showcasing objects from the client’s ancestral home — notably a hand pounder/grinder, with white and green spots.
Golden Plaster & Other Recycled Materials
Bhadri and Snehal arrived at a special concoction after multiple trial and errors with Golden Plaster. The final outcome was one that not only made the walls sturdy but also released a natural fragrance. The colours and texture resonate with the theme and core design. For an outsider, it is hard to believe that this is the first time Bhadri and Snehal have used Golden Plaster.
Bhadri explains, “We used clay in its various expressions. It was mixed with the dye extracted from the flower of the kesudo tree, turmeric and other organic ingredients like hay to birth a glorious golden coloured plaster that evokes auspicious moments and festive occasions, especially in the Indian context. The texture of the plastered surface bears a beautiful handcrafted look and wave-like designs that trace the rhythm of hand movements. The hay acts as a reinforcement that holds the paste and prevents it from developing cracks. The kesudo prevents the original golden colour from fading.”
Milan and his men’s skills came handy here as they plastered the interiors, thereby saving on labour cost.
Recycled wood, reclaimed jute, unfired clay vessels and terracotta tableware further reinforce the earth-friendly narrative.
Discarded wood has been recycled to build the ceiling and the furniture. Nearly 30 per cent of the ceiling contains wood. Likewise, they have procured jute strings from wedding mandaps to design lamps. It has also been used as insulation for drainage pipes and air-conditioned screens. The floors are adorned with local ceramic tiles.
Summing up the spirit of the restaurant, Snehal says, “The layout is straight-forward and driven by the extensive glazing that faces the road. The windows bring in plenty of sunlight that combines with earthy colours, subtle textures and the freshness of plants to create an energised experience. Cosy seating islands with chairs and comfortable wall-seating with sofas provide comfortable dining spots that are both — an open arrangement, yet private.”
Get in touch with tHE gRID Architects here
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)