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The Vaayu Sky Lounge designed by architect Sandeep Khosla is the ideal place to unwind when in Bengaluru, says Apurva Bose Dutta.

Bengaluru has some incredible assets to brag about. Amongst its attractions are the salubrious climate and pulsating nightlife. Though the city may have begun to close down by 11.30 pm, it still proudly wears the tag of ‘pub city’ that it had earned thanks to the many English-style pubs of yore which gave it a unique character. Helping to underpin this tag is Sandeep Khosla, principal architect and founder of Khosla Associates, through his design of Vaayu Sky Lounge – a chill-out zone that languidly overlooks the cityscape.

Khosla Associates has always been associated with tropical architecture, characterised by vast spaces nestling in nature and semi-permeable designs “which are under shelter but with [their] sides open”, Sandeep says. Vaayu, located on the sixth level above a Chinese restaurant in the Eva Mall on Brigade Road, is a part of the BJN group, a leader in hospitality projects.

A collaboration between Khosla Associates and TSK Designs (who were responsible for the branding), the lounge has been planned for seating 80 in an area of 2500sqft. Khosla says, “The idea was to create a vast contemporary space with a feeling of tropical architecture – a concept for outdoors.”

To translate this into reality, a series of pavilions structured from mild steel were created with tensile roofs linking them, their white colour transmitting a coolness to the whole area.

Adding to the tropical look are the water and plantation features. The lounge exhibits a splendid design vocabulary in its interspersing of covered and open-to-sky areas.

As Sandeep puts it, “It’s a different experience just sitting there and being able to gaze at the stars. In most of our successful projects, I have noticed that the outdoor ones are much loved, because people love being outdoors.”

The wind blows quite strongly here, validating the name ‘Vaayu’ given to it by Tanya Khosla, heading TSK designs. The presence of plastic vertical blinds to cut off the wind, displays a functional approach to design.

TSK Designs and Khosla Associates, who generally collaborate for hospitality projects, share the same studio space — leading to a better interpersonal relationship between the architects and the product designers, and enhancing the final result.

One predicament that confronted the architects in Vaayu lounge was to camouflage the unpleasant view dominated by non-picturesque buildings. This gave rise to one wall bearing wooden slats running along the vertical surfaces, and another wall sporting bamboo plantations masquerading as design elements while simultaneously cordoning off the external view.

To provide a better view of the city, yet another face of the lounge has chairs and a counter facing the exterior so that one can just sit and take in the view.

The purpose of this lounge is to provide an area where only snacks can be served, so it is furnished with lounge seating such as low tables in flame-finished black granite and sofas in leatherette and teak, all designed by the firm itself.

The bar counter might well be the pièce de résistance of the lounge. With an integrated barbeque grill set into the counter itself, customers are treated to some live cooking. The floral background amidst the ribbed flame-finished black granite forming the backdrop of the bar counter is an exquisite piece of laser cutting on rusted metal sheet.

Backlit with LED lighting, Khosla likes to term this as “a breaking of rules” in the otherwise linear axis design. This repetitive plant-like motif takes the tropical design two notches higher.

Lighting at such places can make or break the ambience. The designers have managed to create divine lighting with the use of lanterns and subtle lighting in the canopies, water bodies and the bar. Many effects are created by LED lighting. The colour scheme remains subtle – white, grey and brown.

Khosla’s architecture is synonymous with the use of local materials that speak a contemporary language. Little wonder, then, that this project echoes his characteristic style. Whereas rough Kota stone embellishes the floors, there is dressed Sadarali stone (native to Bengaluru) for the edges of water bodies. White pebbles around the planters add to the effect.

Dealing with the structure and the view are the two challenges that the architect cites in this project. “It’s a different world out there,” says Khosla, who had to shield the lounge from some of the nearby buildings. The scale of the pavilions had to be manoeuvred accordingly. A pipe coming from the mall underneath was turned into an industrial element.

Structurally, the project was a huge challenge. Khosla says, “When you build on a terrace, you do not have a set or prescribed column structure. Since the pavilions were staggered, it involved a thorough research of clever transference of load to the beam. The fabrication of the structure and the integration of lighting into it also required stupendous effort. Many structural engineers felt it wouldn’t work, but we were able to make it work.”

The clients, who gave a free hand to the architects in this project, walked into the lounge after it was completed and had no second thoughts about approving the outcome.

Bengaluru has always had a number of stylish lounges/pubs, but the Vaayu Sky lounge with an elegant alfresco décor brings with it a revitalising haven where one can lounge under a starlit sky, drink in the view of India’s Silicon Valley, feel secure within the gazebos and savour some of the live cooking.

You would have to reassure yourself that such great designs come from simplicity of spirit. The Vaayu Sky lounge turns out to be a surreal rendezvous with the cosmos.

Note: Bangalore-based architect Apurva Bose Dutta is an architectural journalist. She can be contacted at apurvabose@yahoo.com

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