Black Magic

Nuru Karim


BAD Cafe in Bandra, Mumbai, is a yoga-soul-food-arts sort of space with a tactile skin and stark black-and- white interiors. It is also the most unconventional meeting point of the real and spiritual, both inside and outside.

BAD Café sits not facing loud traffic noise, but between quiet lanes accessible by foot or bicycle from the parking zones of Bandra West in Mumbai. “Remotely located from traffic snarls and insulated from typically high levels of air and sound pollution, the project is sheathed in tranquillity and peace,” confirms the team. Its aim is not to rupture the air, but to add to its goodness.

The 3-level building has a stacked form that vertically divides the functions of its spaces to host yoga, culinary, and cultural activities. The latter includes fashion, art, music, and even salon-style cerebral discussions. The structure is topped off by an open-to-sky terrace courtyard.

The café’s façade has been treated like human skin. Inspired by the many subcutaneous nerve connections and pores, the façade here is grafted with a whopping 25,992 recycled PVC electrical conduits. Black in hue, and placed “with the precision of acupuncture needles”, they look like trance waves emerging from a dark vertical river.

The idea is to project the concepts of connection, of union, of being linked and joined to the inside workings of the body and the world, and finding peace in that zone. “Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual discipline; the BAD experience is all of the above and much more. Designed as a tactile, sensory experience the project harbours a range of hybrid activities,” states architect Nuru Karim of NUDES, who led the design team that brought the café to life.

The black-and-white interiors are stark, and are lit up predominantly by concealed lighting flowing up and down along naturally-textured white brick walls. The space eschews all need to stack on symbols and totems that declare its intent. There are no Buddha statues or lotus motifs here. The message of the space is clear, and is to be realised in its experience alone. By breaking the conventions of interior design, BAD Café urges its guests to apply method and feel to yoga and the food, and not symbolism and show. It is a deep-thinking design manoeuver that succeeds in visually distinguishing the space, while retaining the core idea.

But, let’s get back to the skin of the building. The cylindrical pipe array is incredibly tactile and too striking to be forgotten easily. It has been affixed into box panels made of aluminum with a CNC finish, and apes the pore-dotted expanse of the human skin beautifully. This array keeps the insides connected with the outside and apart from being an architectural diagram of the overall message of the café, also becomes a solid energy-saver.

The design team from NUDES was aware of the historic setting of the café and believe that the structure is a harmonious addition to its genteel surroundings. “It shares a peaceful co-existence with its neighbours, its presence gradually unveiled as one meanders through the narrow by-lanes of the historical urban fabric,” states Karim.

To sum it up, BAD Café has the aura of a mendicant, and the skin of a roughened rodeo biker.