WD House

A New Delhi eatery draws inspiration from early modern India for its decor

India’s little-known Modernist movement is very much on display in drawing rooms and government offices across the subcontinent. Austere, pale and studded with simple, angular furniture largely fashioned from rich-grained Burmese teak, it’s a look that is simultaneously evocative and stuffy — though a far cry from the Dubai-influenced fashion for opulence in demand today — and one increasingly finding favour among a younger generation of Indian designers today. In an upmarket New Delhi suburb, the newly opened W.D. House is just one standout example that draws heavily on the aesthetic.

The restaurant, like the design movement, has its roots in the city of Chandigarh — the Le Corbusier-masterplanned city a few hours’ north of the capital. Architecture firm Studio Organon initially conceptualised the restaurant design for a Chandigarh project, but the client was cautious. A few years on, however, when the owners wanted to open a venture in Delhi, the plan was revisited.

‘We found this dilapidated building in Greater Kailash and tried to give it new life,’ recalls Saurabh Dakshini, principal architect at Studio Organon. ‘Incidentally, there were already a few elements like the white marble floor and green marble cladding on the lift shaft that became the starting points.’ Drawing inspiration from local markets, Delhi’s bureaucratic buildings and public sector factories, Daksini’s team devised their own interpretation of the era.

‘The metal louvres on the facade and the brick jalidetail were essential and give character to the building,’ says Dakshini. ‘Then there are the colours — the smoke gray and clotted cream — which can be found extensively in the bureaucratic buildings throughout India.’

Importantly, they didn’t want the design to have the stamp of any particular architect, but rather, to speak to the era as a whole. It’s impossible to overlook, however, the use of Jeanneret chairs throughout, which have become synonymous with Chandigarh. Originally designed as an ‘everyman’ chair for Indian bureaucracy, the iconic design swiftly became part of the average north Indian household of the era, while also used extensively by the major  universities. Disregarded for decades, the chairs have come into their own today and can fetch upwards of US$40,000.

‘When the restaurant was ready, people who had initially been sceptical understood it,’ says Dakshini. ‘They recognised this aesthetic as part of India’s recent history and could relate to it.’

TextAarti Betigeri