Architecture F&B Healthcare Sustainable design

RJDL Architects designs infinity-shaped cafe within reused shipping containers in India

February 17, 2020

Rahul Jain Design Lab (RJDL) Architects has designed a cafe on the premises of a dental college located on the outskirts of India’s capital New Delhi, with the aim of creating a recreational space for students, faculty and patients alike.

The design team visioned a sustainable structure that goes beyond the conventional and pushes the boundaries of design and built form. Using recycled 40ft shipping containers due to its sustainable nature as well as its modularity and economic feasibility as compared to a conventional reinforced concrete structure. The 268m² cafe is designed to stand out due to its form factor, and also in terms of its positioning, breaking the rigidity of the existing site layout. Focusing on the outer structure and containers’ industrial form, the interior is kept neutral.

The idea centers on two courtyards – the unit comprises two cafe outlets in the front, two dynamic staircases acting as seating and providing access to the viewing decks, services and washroom areas at the central container, seating areas for faculty and visitors and a lounge area for students. The seating is woven around the courtyard and provides an ideal vantage point of the inner courtyards and the outer landscape, which is often utilised for sporting events as well as other activities of the institute.

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The organic landscape layout complements the rigid geometry of the containers and provides fluidity to the site circulation. Large glazing of staircases merges the rigid built form with the landscape, which in turn complements the industrial nature of the architecture, but also promotes activity, and adds vibrancy to the entirety of the site.

Passive cooling and insulation are provided with the use of 50 MM Rockwool insulation, gypsum panelling, fibre cement board for rooftop flooring, tinted windows, mechanical cooling, strategic placement of windows and openings to make the building adequate in the extreme weather conditions of the site. Louvers made of reused shipping container doors located in the south direction minimise the heat gain as well as give privacy from the public hospital adjacent to it while providing a view of the stadium.

The idea of using infinity was conceived to emphasise the infinite possibilities of a shipping container as a structural unit, regardless of the building type and site.

Photos: Rahul Jain

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