Monday, May 21, 2007

Café Italiano & the Badam tree

After you have been in Varkala a few hours, you walk along the cliff wondering which restaurant to have your first cup of coffee. How does one know what place has the best view, the best coffee and the best price? And then, there is the music or the silence to choose from. The first day, you try one place for coffee, another for lunch and yet another for dinner. You begin to savour each cafetaria and each restaurant a little at a time. Some you walk into a second time and yet another time perhaps. You find that a shaded place to sit with a good view of the sea is the most popular combination.

At Café Italiano, the shade comes in plenty, with a badam tree being the centre of place. The floor of the café is covered with sand. The tables are simple wooden ones and the chairs are cane. There is the outdoor eating space, with tables under the badam tree and there is an indoor eating place, with tables at a timber and tile-roofed verandah.

And, is there a design element that is a key to Café Italiano’s success as a space? It is just the badam tree. It is the natural shade from the sun that this ‘God’s own country’ restaurant offers you with your cup of coffee. There are the terracotta murals along one side of the café. The murals do add to the aesthetics of the place. The sign that says ‘Café Italiano’ is a strong element and an important part of the design.

The “light and no light” that Louis Kahn speaks of is so much a part of this café with badam tree. When ‘Design for Tourism’ follows ‘Designing with Nature’, it creates a built-environment that has serenity and delight – the two elements architecture can bring to our lives.

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