Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Akbarally’s Men in Mumbai, India by DCA Architects
August 10th, 2016 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: DCA Architects
Originating in Mumbai in 1897 as the first departmental store in India, Akbarallys flaunts the antiquity of its rich legacy that derives from its existence of over 118 years. Conversing with the historicity of the city, today the 10,000 square feet ‘Akbarallys Men’ is a multi-branded departmental store for men. With a shop-in-shop format, the store reinvents its original, over a 100-year old concept of ‘everything under one roof’- but ‘this time for men’. The store houses an extensive collection of clothing and other necessities for men from all premium Indian and international brands along with its own range of bespoke clothing. Maintaining its antique character that was bequest over its structure in the prime, significant ‘Fort’ area in Mumbai, the brief was to transform the old site into its contemporary avatar, while retaining the celebrated inheritance.
The store has been in this location since the 1950’s and was renovated multiple times over, each time with layers over its original form and structure. Despite being located in a heritage zone, the structure is not bound by heritage norms, which allowed for great flexibility in the design process. Refurbishment and a complete face-lift were hence, the way forward. DCA Architects therefore decided to remove the multiple layers of renovation, and in the process,stripping the shell to its core, opening up the multiple layers bit-by-bit and exposing the old structure.What came out was a blend of half- broken cornices and capitals, old arches and multiple structural systems, and all of these- good, bad and ugly have been retained as is, to demonstrate the authentic character of the site for a novel aesthetic.
To carry the look forward, and celebrating the spirit of industrialisation of the bygone era, salvaged old ship and machine parts were sourced from the Mumbai ship breaking yard, and used cleverly as props that align with the primal theme of the store.The entrance façade of the store has been refurbished using cor-ten steel to uphold the design, offset the interiors of the store and maintain the old structure and bequest.Space planning and enhancement has been crucial to the design intent; Most of the store has been therefore painted white in order to visually maximise the space available and sub-mezzanine levels are created to work around the structure in order to obtain better clearances and clear circulation patterns. Added features such as an in-house barber shop and a pedicure and manicure stations catering to quick grooming and styling needs, have been designed within the store, to add to the indigenous approach of the store, and enhance the customer experience.
The peeling of layers of interiors bestowed the site with treasures of old wood, which were reclaimed and used in some furniture and in flooring of premium sections of the store (on the mezzanine). This flooring has been complimented by the use of chequered plate on the casual section of the mezzanine, and IPS on the whole of ground floor, and black and white terrazzo in the ‘barber shop’.This raw, rustic and primal intent for materiality is carried forward by using coloured galeecha glasses and antique mirrors in filled in lacquered mild steel framework to form the partitions and panelling through the store. The shelving and display system has all been designed as ‘nuts and bolts’ to create a unique identity, and at the same time creating a flexible display system to meet the needs of modern retail.
Augmenting the crude, yet chick aesthetics, an exposed ceiling has been maintained throughout the store. Cable trays run throughout the store carrying all the services, and track lights have been used to light up the merchandise. Antique chandeliers have been used to augment the ambience of the occasion and heritage wear sections. All the double height spaces have a layer of metal grid on the top to create a layered frame work, and to suspend clusters of Edison lamps to create an atmosphere of celebration whilst being a reminiscent of the by-gone times.
Restored back to its original structure, the store’s interiors in shades of black and white are minimalistic and classic. The pillars continue to bear beautiful mouldings designed during its primordial days. The entire space has been embellished using curated antique furniture in leather and accessories that are sourced from local vendors and the renowned Mumbai ChorBazaar, and reused as highlights to enhance the functional and luxury quotient. Old chandeliers, rugs, antique glass and tables, carts, chesterfields, sandooks(old trunks) and vintage mirrors, either locally sources or belonging to the family inheritance, all augment the elegance of the store’s overall ambience, while enhancing the functional elements of retail.
About DCA Architects
DCA Architects is an award-winning design consultation firm based out of New Delhi, India. With a unique ethos of Dream.Design.Discover.Deliver, the DCA Group provides services in Architecture, Interior design and Design Coordination across a wide range of building types including Offices, Residential, Retail/ luxury retail, Hospitality and Brand Identities.
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