Who ever came up with the proverb, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ was spot on! Within the first year of having our twins, we understood that we needed grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, friends and neighbors – this realization took us to Karachi.
While in Karachi, we partnered with Sibte Sajjad, an architect and maker himself, who envisioned our workspace as an amalgamated business model – integrating a wood workshop, contemporary furniture retail and architecture/interior design studio by day and a cafe by evening. The Roadside Cafe is a popular hangout with a relaxed ambiance, offering an interesting combination of street food with celebrated local music.
The most enjoyable features of the café are the bun kebabs , sekanjabeen and the murals on its walls, painted by the resident artist, Irshad who was a billboard painter for most of his life. His murals depict Pakistani artists, sportspersons, activists, politicians, scientists, architects, actors, qawwals, designers, writers, musicians, and of course, the café staff.
There is some memory and nostalgia painted on these walls for all of us. It’s nice to sit here, reminisce and watch people react to these murals. The works of art keep changing and on some days, one can find Irshad painting a new composition.
Bamboo & Box Beams, Prefigure and Waste to Fuel (WTF) were conceived and developed here, amid our many enriching experiences in this fascinating city. Our mashup workspace brought us in contact with amazing individuals with whom we built relationships, shared laughs and crazy ideas, co-developed projects, discussed life and its meaning – in a way, we found ourselves here – people in Karachi are awesome!
Insert a doodle of packing and moving – Karachi to Islamabad
Maybe it was the call of the mountains, or our need to run wild and free, either way, the prospects of moving to Islamabad seemed promising and exciting. Hyperforamace Racing (HPR), an automobile garage became our workspace and soon we found ourselves gravitating toward the idea of opening a cafe within it. Our experience running the Roadside Cafe taught us that nothing brings people together, the way food does!
HPR is the hub of jugaar, bringing that character alive within the cafe space and its program became our inspiration. Work began as usual, we talked, discussed, argued, brainstormed, planned and designed on paper – which made us realize that this project had to be tackled in unusual ways, given our limited resources and skyrocketing aspirations.
The Roadside Cafe was designed to function as an energy efficient model, utilizing Karachi’s prevailing winds to its advantage, thereby requiring little energy to run. Islamabad, on the other hand, has a very different climate, so energy efficiency became our biggest concern – one that led us to install a thirty kilowatt photovoltaic grid-tie system capable of net metering. Now, we rely completely on solar energy to satisfy the electricity demands of the entire facility.
This has been, by far, our most spontaneous, unorthodox, intense and rewarding project, taking two tumultuous years in the making! We’ve built this place up with a team of extraordinary people; an electrician, a painter cum plumber, a carpenter, a mason, a welder, a cook, a chef and a waiter, who now form the core team at the cafe. Together, we have experimented with materials, methodologies and techniques – made mistakes, sought out solutions and experimented some more. Each team member possesses unique talents, forged and molded by their experiences and interests – what we don’t know, we are learning hands-on, as a team.
As architects, we have often wondered what elements create cohesive, interactive spaces that exude character and energy, capable of drawing in people to adopt such space and start owning them? We’re still wondering because nothing at this cafe is how it should be, we’ve used scaffolding pipes as structural members, shipping pallets for creating a loft, road paint on rough cement floors as finishes, gypsum plaster and newspaper as finished wall surfaces, we’ve even left the psychedelic insulation exposed on the ceiling, but somehow, it all comes together ; )
On 20th February 2018, in partnership with five enthusiastic and supportive investors, we began operations – beginning our adventure in community engagement! Jugaar Adda is situated in Cafe Garage and collectively, these two functions create a vibrant, warm and engaging space for the community to come together over bun kebabs and seekanjabeen, laugh, share ideas, thoughts, make, play and learn a little about themselves and the world around them.
Find out whats happening at Cafe Garage here
Read more on our material explorations by following the links below