A Cafe That is Much More Than Just a Cafe

Kamala Cafe, designed by Studio Praxis in Ahmedabad, nurtured by the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) Foundation that supports women across the city by enhancing their working and living conditions, is a walk through nature creating individual memories. By Naomi Mathew

Kamala Cafe in Ahmedabad is designed by Studio Praxis as a self-sustaining facility nurtured through the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) Foundation, supporting women across the city by enhancing their working and living conditions. The built structure blends and reacts with the natural elements on site creating a fluid play of nature and architecture. The design of Kamala Cafe hopes to inspire visitors to rekindle the relationship of our souls and senses through exploring the details of spaces that deeply correspond to nature.

“I believe that we are too busy in our lives and always entertained by our work. We attempt to create a pause in one’s life to look around. There is a sense of pausing, enjoying the beauty, meeting new people, and learning from them at the cafe,” explains Maneesh Kumar, founder and principal architect of Studio Praxis.

Situated in the hot and dry climate of Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India, Kamala cafe is a respite from the bustling city that surrounds it. It allows the visitors an opportunity to be detached from the sense of chaos and hectic of the city; a place to relax and reconnect with nature. Creating engaging experiences within the project meant emphasising the connection between the visitor and the environment. Spaces were designed specific to requirements of the various programs run by and for women under the SEWA foundation.

Maneesh Kumar, the founder and principal architect of Studio Praxis, believes that life can be made more joyful by improving the quality of design through the senses. His design practice is more experiential and emphasises clean geometrical lines that balance forms inherent in the materials with the symbolic allusions to the local context. He founded the firm in 2012 with the name Praxis, derived from ancient Greek, which refers to the process by which a theory, lesson or skill is enacted, embodied or realized. According to him, it is the ‘Doing’ – “The Doing of any activity with complete dedication and focus is what we call YOG, and by this means we strive to achieve perfection in all aspects of our work. We learn through experimentation, building a fundamental knowledge of materials and methods. This is a crucial aspect of every process. We maintain the same focus, not only in architecture and interiors but in products and furniture.”  Praxis to him is not a way of life. It is life itself – integrating mind, body, and being.

SCALE in conversation with Maneesh Kumar of Studio Praxis

SCALE: How do you envision a visitor’s journey within the cafe?

MANEESH: The design intends to look like a piece of art, to be remembered, experienced and interpreted in different ways. The journey to the cafe starts from the noisy roads of Ahmedabad entering the narrow-textured stone trails of silence and being pleasantly surprised by the fresh smell of plants. The walls were laid out with different sizes and shapes of raw stones to comprehend the beauty of randomness. As each visitor explores the gentle nature around, creating individual memories, they find themselves drawn to the central court. This is a nod towards traditional architecture, with a large Gulmohar tree in the middle that nudges eyes and minds towards the sky. The calmness of the courtyard also sparks conversations and positive interaction.

To experience nature’s composition,

I started wandering barefoot,

Perceiving the innocence of stones,

Suddenly my eyes caught the charm of plants,

Peeking out of the bricks planned to describe the pathway,

I discovered an art of brown and green tones,

To pause and look around.

SCALE:  How is the simple experience of dining elevated in this cafe?

Maneesh: The cafe is designed around the natural layout of the site encouraging serendipitous encounters with the environment for the visitors. The central dining area is surrounded by foliage which mimics the sense of belonging in nature. While dining, visitors are intrigued by the drama of light, reflection and shadow performed by the sun through the large circular puncture on the wall. The raw sandstone wall frames the blue skies and green silhouette of vegetation, while the chirping and tweeting of the birds provide a relaxing soundtrack.

A calm pool of water with water lilies provides a sense of serenity and comfort from the hot and dry climate of Ahmedabad. Observing the birds as they splash water with their beaks from the water pool and playfully chase each other reminds the visitors to appreciate the smaller things in life. The metal roof with water channel spouts helps in appreciating and enjoying the sound of rain during the monsoons. The connection with the environment can be easily established here – among the winds flirting with the branches of greenery, cool breeze through the punctures of the walls reaching the lily pond, the gentle sound of water and happy chirpings of the birds.

SCALE: How does the design of the cafe aid in the SEWA Foundation’s mission of supporting women?

Maneesh: The various spaces within the project is designed to be adapted for different activities that are run by the SEWA Foundation. The spatial organisation of the cafe consists of a formal dining area and informal cosy dining space which are both supported by the kitchen that serves organic and nutritious food. There is a separate area dedicated to cultivating organic vegetables that is easily accessible to the kitchen facilities. An open courtyard at the entrance is used for the various workshops and activities conducted for women empowerment by the Foundation.

Women who work in the cafe are also taught how to grow vegetables, cook, and organize their food as well as acquire skills such as team management, organization, and the creation of capital.

SCALE:  Can you tell us the different design practices you follow to create meaningful spaces?

Maneesh: The simplicity of thought and action guides our response to all our design solutions. Using natural and appropriate materials and methods of construction we create climate-responsive designs that are sustainable, and comfortable to live in, and spaces designed to be more experiential. We experience the world around us through our senses. We believe that by improving the quality of design through the senses one can make one’s life more joyful.





Design Team: Maneesh Kumar, Arthur Duff, Kalpesh Siddhpura

Text: Priyanshi Shah

Structural Engineering: Nelson Macwan (Sujal Parikh and associates)

Contractor: Jaimin and Rahul

Photographer: Harsh Bhavsar

Client: Self Employed Women’s Association(SEWA)

Instagram : StudioPraxis _ Instagram