mid-day's 39th anniversary: Walls of fame
One half of the architect team that changed the way we look at restaurant interiors, says decor should be about what's on the plate, and in the world outside
Zameer Basrai, 38
Co-founder, The Busride Design Studio
Dressed in a navy-blue shirt and jeans, Zameer Basrai leans awkwardly on a white wall for the mid-day photographer. He giggles at the snapper’s suggestions, but gradually plays along, raising his chin, tilting his head, folding his hands. We are at The Busride Design Studio in Bandra’s Ranwar village, which Zameer runs with his older brother Ayaz. It’s close to where the brothers grew up. The architect duo who made brick exposed walls trendy, began their journey in an office down this road. 'We worked from there for a decade, but it was too small to invite clients to. We had to take them for a chat to a dive next door,' he laughs, telling us the dingy Yacht Bar was hardly the place to make an impression on a client.
Basrai was introduced to the idea of conceptual creation early since he would accompany his architect father, Shakir Basrai, to project sites. A B.Arch degree from the School of Architecture in Ahmedabad was followed by a Masters from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 2006, their first project was The Institute of Design in Pune. 'Back then, we had a hippie imagination of driving to beautiful sites in a bus with our team, make it a never-ending party,' he says about the choice of name. Soon, Busride Design became the firm behind iconic restaurants, Smoke House Grill, Café Zoe, The Bombay Canteen (TBC) and Jam Jar.
TBC continues to be his favourite project, for many reasons but also because they had a clear brief. 'The TBC boys told us they were serving food inspired by nostalgia,' he says of the Kamala Mills resto-bar with its signature Art Deco glass windows and patina mirrors. Their most recent project is Lower Parel’s Typhoon Shelter, a resto-bar that serves up a contemporary take on Hong Kong's traditional typhoon shelter cuisine. Its ceiling is fitted with a screen that plays images of an approaching typhoon.
Early on in their career, the brothers were introduced to culinary entrepreneur Riyaaz Amlani, who roped them in to design the Delhi outlet of Smokehouse Grill. As the cliché goes, after that, there was no looking back. The three went on to collaborate on Mocha, Social, Salt Water Café and Smoke House Deli. When we tell him that before they came along, no one really knew or cared who was behind a hit eatery’s interiors, Zameer blushes.
'People are no longer looking to have leisurely, long dinners. People munch all day, conduct meetings and work out of cafés,' he says, explaining how their designs try to reflect the shift in urban culture. That he had his own brother to work with was a boon. Ayaz, he says, takes the tangential approach, while he sticks to logic. 'We talk different languages, but create a new one together.'
Ayaz has moved to Goa where he is setting up The Busride Lab, a space for research and development. Zameer says with success comes the responsibility of giving back. 'You reach a point in your practice when you want to slow down and carry out research, and realign. We are very involved in our Bandra neighbourhood and it’s changing every day. Right now, we have no idea what is going to be of prime importance to it five years later. [But] someone needs to stop and think. The idea is to project into the future, and act now.'
Before I turn 40, I want to
Create what I call 'soupy' or free-flowing spaces. Flexible and abstract, they should be able to accommodate different uses by moving a partition or dropping down a divider.
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