‘Aja’ is a restaurant in India that generates intrigue by using the familiar urban Chandigarh setting and creating an unexpected landscape. Arch.lab created a unique environment to reflect the character of the city, and realised a space where nature fuses seamlessly with art.
The entire interior is sunken from ground level, separating the space physically and psychologically from the outdoor environment, with the restaurant space accessed by a sloping ramp.
Acting as a bridge between the outdoors and indoors, the ramp leads the transition from the two environments. A person’s body and mind are taken through a journey: to their own personal Garden of Herbs, evoking their senses of sight and smell with its aroma and flavours. Aja offers a completely unseen world with a unique blend of nature with architecture.
The most significant among the multitudinous materials used, is concrete, which was sensitively explored to achieve the desired impact and finish. Concrete, often referred to as “The Molten Stone” by Le Corbusier, was chosen to allow the freedom of casting into any form. This gave the designers’ artistic impressions of a monolithic creation, a permanent, physical form, fused with life.
The space is also designed to favour interactions, exchanges and relationships, with bench seating and long tables. Centred around ‘The Community Table’, a long black stone slab which sculpts round the Herb Garden, encapsulates the whole ethos of Aja. It puts the emphasis on the sense of collaboration and community.
Drawn chalk graphics along the cement walls bring the story of the food to life, inspiring food lovers to think about its diversity. The artwork also plays with ideas of contemporary urban food culture.
Adding warmth and texture to the space is the ‘Emerging Blocks’ art piece. From floor to ceiling it grows upwards, with stacked blocks of wood jutting out in an almost random pattern, the wood complimenting the family of custom furniture in the long narrow space.
The furniture was designed and developed to complement the special character and togetherness created in such a unique landscape. A structure of metal pipes merging, and criss-crossing in a labyrinth, culminate to form the chairs and bench tables. Bold solid wood, tops the pipes, with some dark stone topping other pipes to form tables.
Keeping in mind the sustainable concept of a ‘zero km market’, most of the elements for Aja, such as the vertical light fixtures, concrete wall panels and furniture, have been fabricated in and around the site, with the Herb Garden further adding to the sustainability of the project.
Images © Purnesh Dev Nikhanj