A busy road in the college campus having concrete structures here and there. Suddenly, a pause in the frame. Observing keenly, there stands a contrasting structure made of recycled shipping containers. A contrast in the color of the structure follows the form as well. Yes, this is the story of An Upcycled cafe in Noida – Cafe Infinity that surprisingly fits perfectly in a concrete puzzle. Ready to listen?
Also Read related article: Cargotecture: The Architecture of Shipping containers
Designed by Rahul Jain Design Lab (RJDL), the Cafe Infinity is located at ITS Dental College, Greater Noida. As the name suggests, the Café Infinity is in the form of the symbol infinity(∞). The essence of the concept is not only seen in the shape but also can be felt with its vision. It says that there are infinite possibilities that are workable using shipping containers as a structural unit. Also, it says that it is possible in practical construction despite the building function and location. The brief of the café demanded a sustainable structure which also should be a non-conventional one. Taking the hint from the brief carefully, the architect Rahul Jain decided to create a structure with a sustainable background.
The Story lead
To build a sustainable and non-conventional structure, the product that struck quickly was the Recycled shipping containers. With its economic feasibility and the modularity of the material, the design of the café took its first step. To leave the raw and industrial nature of the material undisturbed, the 40 feet containers were carefully crafted from their source form. Usage of shipping containers as a structural unit also reduces the overall carbon footprint which, on the other hand, a sustainable option.
Covering an area of about 2960 square feet, the concept of this Cafe Infinity starts with placing the modules of the structure i.e., the café outlet, the kitchen, toilet, and the seating. Further, the service modules such as the staircase are consciously placed. The actual concept of the design evolves by placing the two café outlets around two courtyards. The formation of these two courtyards, thus, results in the form of “infinity”. The seating modules are in such a way that they provide good views to the users. They are facing the courtyards where various activities take place. A semi-open dining area is zoned above the flat modules whereas the angular modules are considered as the elements of transition activities. The overall structure is kept tilted so that the whole form of the café visually attracts the users right from the entrance of the campus.
The Planning – Floor plans of Cafe Infinity
The North facing front elevation consists of two cafe outlets with an entrance to enter the café. Entering the café, the flight of steps with defined seating invites the user. Separate seating areas for staff and students are indifferent container modules. All the seating areas are provided with proper active and passive ventilation. As the shipping containers are linear in form, the falling daylight is sufficient for the interiors. Meanwhile, the dining furniture is kept in edges in each module which paves the way for circulation of the users.
The in-out transitions are sensibly planned for a flawless movement in this recreation space. Toilets are given access from the exterior considering the nature of the containers. The provision of staircases in the angular modules, in turn, makes the form of the café picturesque. The lounge area has a larger width compared to the seating area providing better privacy and visually more connected to the exterior.
Interiors of An Upcycled cafe in Noida – Cafe Infinity
The interior elements of the café aim to give a leisurely environment, especially for the students. The industrial nature of the shipping containers is well handled in the interiors. It can be seen evident with the raw container wall in the lounge area and gypsum board wall in the seating areas. Wooden flooring along the linearity keeps away the feel of being in a metal box. The concept of extroverted interiors adds more experiential value inside the café seating spaces. A minimal color scheme performed with white, wood, and grey makes the space more elegant. Most importantly, the furniture is also of recycled material such as recycled wood and steel. Warm white artificial lighting and the perfect material surfaces uplift the mood in the air of the leisure space.
Building a structure with metal experiences more climatic issues. Especially, for a site like Delhi, the effects of heat gain are a must considerable one. But such a problematic situation has been solved in Café Infinity with the right planning and proper usage of materials. The interior walls of the container modules are lined with Rockwool insulation followed by a gypsum board. On the other side, tinted glass is for the exterior-facing wall. The use of tinted glass lets in the light as well as preventing heat gain. The flooring is of wood which is also a good insulating material. The most important heat-conducting element is the ceiling, which is provided with a layer of Rockwool and another layer with a gypsum board.
A series of louvered recycled container doors act as a passive heat blocking element. In addition to that, it also provides privacy from the public hospital building on the southern side of the site and directing the view towards the stadium. Climbing the staircase, one side of the steps is with wood which acts as a seating spot. The rooftop dining space has fiber cement board flooring – a water-resistant material.
The Overall picture
Breaking the linearity of the structure, the way the design of the landscape is with an organic outline is a balanced contrast. The visual and spatial connectivity of the café with the exterior environment makes it blend together well. The form of the structure is not only landmark-worthy but also the finest hangout spot. It is indeed a recreational space for the younger minds of the college campus to inspire more about such ecologically conscious works. In a world where new RCC structures germinating day by day, creating structures with upcycled materials like in Café Infinity is a need of the hour.