Tag Archives: Tote

Biophilia Essays: Tote

Biophilia means “love of living things” and is a term coined by German psychologist Erich Fromm in his book The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness (1973). It was subsequently made popular in Edward O. Wilson’s Biophilia (1984), in which Wilson proposed that humans’ fixation with living systems has its basis in biology, as well as in later literature. Of course, neither Fromm nor Wilson was the first to suggest such an affinity or even that it was an essential part of human nature; however, under the name of “biophilia” the idea would go on to spark a series of cultural movements, from conservation efforts to stylistic philosophies of architecture and design.

Biophilic Design

“Biophilic design” can refer to several trends in modern “green” design, but in most uses it indicates a design principle that goes beyond merely minimizing the impact of the built environment to create actual close contact between users and the “natural” world. By inviting nature into the design, whether through biomimicry, green curtain walls, extensive natural lighting (or simulations thereof), multi-species accessibility, or the like, a design reengages occupants with the environmental elements that, according to Wilson, are inherently intertwined with our genetic predispositions.

Featured Project: Tote

In seeking a germ of inspiration that could guide a coherent lighting solution, through numerous design discussions, AWA and the project architects arrived at the image of “day light filtering through dense foliage.” This seed was nurtured systematically: from special rasterizations of photographs of tree canopies, the designers were able to extract a simple pattern of light and branches to implement in the physical space of the building. White metal columns mimic trees branching into the ceiling of the banqueting and indoor restaurant spaces.Tote_1

More than mere sculptural additions, these column elements are lit by “pockets of light” that, through organic placement and recessing of the fixtures, recall sunlight filtering in dappled patterns through foliage.Tote_3

Even in the secluded, dimly lit bar, directional light on the faceted, double-height wooden wall panels suggests shafts of daylight.

Showcase: Tote

Tote is one of Mumbai’s hottest new restaurant, bar and banquet destinations, adapting a heritage building to the needs of five-star hospitality.

In the middle of one of Mumbai’s most beautiful open spaces, an old shell has been given a new interior. The conservation guidelines call for the preservation of the roof profile for three-quarters of the buildings and full conservation for the remaining one-quarter. Through the design, the colonial facade of the Tote building gives way to a thoroughly modern adaptation.

The restaurant is split into three areas—lounge seating on a veranda enclosed by glass panels; an indoor dining room sandwiched in between, and an alfresco space with the foliage of lush rain trees latticing the sky. This open-air section houses pits for a grill, tandoor and wood-fired ovens and tables sheltered by umbrellas.

When designing the lighting for Tote, we had numerous design discussions with the architects, and while looking for an inspirational benchmark, we found an image of day light filtering through dense foliage.

Once the vision was clear, we had the creative courage to carry it through the entire process, refining and tweaking as we developed the design. In the banqueting and indoor restaurant areas, white metal tree-mimicking pillars branch to the ceiling. Lighting is installed at the points where these branches meet the ceiling.

The lighting strategy in this space is to use the architectural pockets of light to mimic light piercing through the foliage of “trees” into the space. The bar area lighting strategy uses the double height space to highlight the faceted wood panels with shafts of daylight.

The false ceiling is a complex arrangement of three lighting systems built up in plasterboard and plywood coves. They offer the client flexibility to alter the lighting effects based on event type.

The Tote won The 2010 Restaurant Bar Design Awards in category International Bar and Best Bar design award.