Framing eloquence in the vernacular with ‘Matter. Space. Soul’ pavilion in Bangladesh

Erected as a porous bamboo and wooden pavilion in Bangladesh, the restaurant pavilion by Two Fold Studio champions vernacularity, sustainability and essentiality in architecture.

by Anmol AhujaPublished on : Jul 25, 2022

The 'shape' of architecture has been a unique subject of fascination for creators ever since the evolution of primal residences, and as endeavours of human construction ventured into more public realms. An accepted understanding of "good architecture" with all its abstraction in tow would agree on its essence–the essential–being intact, notwithstanding its shape. In its own essence, therefore, a basal architecture would lean toward stripping down and baring, one of the founding tenets of modernism itself. However, vernacular interpretations of that tenet, particularly in South Asian countries that struggled for long in establishing an economic stronghold and a post-colonial architectural identity, have emerged from a need more than a desire for statement-making. The Matter. Space. Soul restaurant pavilion in Bangladesh, a peculiar albeit entirely functional spatial typology mostly owing to its location, is a beautiful fusion of the two and an interesting locally produced manifestation of that tenet. The structure, elementally reductive in its form and being, is minimal in the most literal and true sense, wherein not envelopes or layers, but entire elements constituting the mass of the structure are stripped away. What remains is a beacon of extreme utility championing vernacular construction and materials, and an architecture that finds notions of beauty away from form. 

  • The pavilion has a linear plan with alternating ‘bays’ for seating spaces | Matter. Space. Soul Restaurant Pavilion | Two Fold Studio | STIRworld
    The pavilion has a linear plan with alternating ‘bays’ for seating spaces Image: Ashraful Islam Shimul
  • The structure is located at the border of an expansive paddy field | Matter. Space. Soul Restaurant Pavilion | Two Fold Studio | STIRworld
    The structure is located at the border of an expansive paddy field Image: Ashraful Islam Shimul

In studying the mannerisms of this structure, Geetanjali Shree’s International Booker Prize winner, Tomb of Sand, comes to mind. Within the confines of a dilapidated home in the northern belt of India, Shree examines tales narrated by each 'material' constituent of the house - doors, windows, brick walls, cracking, peeling plaster, and the rooms themselves - have borne witness to the tribulations of its flailing protagonist and her family, emerging as narrators themselves. In the context of this discussion, this is a rather interesting parallel, since Dhaka-based Two Fold Studio’s intervention in Noakhali, a district in the historic Chittagong division in south eastern Bangladesh, all of 155 sq.m. in measured expanse, professes doing away with the latent narrators of Shree’s tale. Even if the typology of spaces is entirely different, it is pedagogic to do away with the notion of a confine in architectural spaces, truly embracing the exterior. 

  • A narrow walkway grants access to the elevated deck of the pavilion | Matter. Space. Soul Restaurant Pavilion | Two Fold Studio | STIRworld
    A narrow walkway grants access to the elevated deck of the pavilion Image: Snahasis Saha
  • The structure provides expansive views of the surrounding paddy fields, providing avenues for patrons to engage with nature | Matter. Space. Soul Restaurant Pavilion | Two Fold Studio | STIRworld
    The structure provides expansive views of the surrounding paddy fields, providing avenues for patrons to engage with nature Image: Snahasis Saha
  • The pavilion is stripped down to its essential materiality and utility | Matter. Space. Soul Restaurant Pavilion | Two Fold Studio | STIRworld
    The pavilion is stripped down to its essential materiality and utility Image: Snahasis Saha
  • The interior of the pavilion is interspersed with greens, along with each alternating bay | Matter. Space. Soul Restaurant Pavilion | Two Fold Studio | STIRworld
    The interior of the pavilion is interspersed with greens, along with each alternating bay Image: Snahasis Saha

The restaurant pavilion's inception came about with the client’s wish to extend his existing restaurant space, away from the metropolitan, wanting patrons to "breathe and isolate". The site fit that description, and the structure was realised as a stilted bamboo pavilion bordering expansive paddy fields, as far as the eyes could see. "Two seasons offer totally different perspectives of this land," state the design team at Two Fold Studio on the site conditions that led them to conjure the structure’s bare form and being, completely responding to Bangladesh’s dominant climatic conditions, and those of the site being immersed in either standing water for the paddy fields or the discharge of the monsoons nearly all year round. "In tropical climates such as ours, what we need is porosity in form,” the team continues, explaining the genesis of the lightweight pavilion. Complete natural ventilation, optimum daylight, and stunning views are all harnessed then as second nature by the porous structure.

  • The pavilion’s elevation is adorned with operable bamboo screens, intended to also provide guests with privacy and protection from weather | Matter. Space. Soul Restaurant Pavilion | Two Fold Studio | STIRworld
    The pavilion’s elevation is adorned with operable bamboo screens, intended to also provide guests with privacy and protection from weather Image: Snahasis Saha
  • The screen in operation | Matter. Space. Soul Restaurant Pavilion | Two Fold Studio | STIRworld
    The screen in operation Image: Snahasis Saha

On the other hand, the resultant exposure to heat is seemingly offset by an excessive influx of southern wind and through operable bamboo screens that offer guests a requisite level of privacy, while also regulating the ingress of these natural modulators. The bamboo screens also constitute a majority of the pavilion’s facade design and a front elevation. The design warrants the screens stay mostly open during the monsoon season since issues of privacy are alleviated during rains, as opposed to the fields full of farmers during harvest season. With no formally designed furniture within the pavilion, flexibility of usage and movement is offered to patrons, encouraging them to use the minimally designed seating platform to comply with local eating and culinary traditions. "Since the space within is important, it becomes a living entity with a soul and it is not about external appearances as with a sculpture," states the team on the realised ethos of the design.

  • Patrons are encouraged to sit on the minimally designed seating platforms to comply with local traditions | Matter. Space. Soul Restaurant Pavilion | Two Fold Studio | STIRworld
    Patrons are encouraged to sit on the minimally designed seating platforms to comply with local traditions Image: Snahasis Saha
  • The structure is stilted in response to the paddy fields with standing water and imminent flooding in monsoon | Matter. Space. Soul Restaurant Pavilion | Two Fold Studio | STIRworld
    The structure is stilted in response to the paddy fields with standing water and imminent flooding in monsoon Image: Snahasis Saha

As a beacon of sustainable construction and design practices, the pavilion is entirely composed of locally sourced bamboo and wood with an intent to reduce the overall environmental impact on a sensitive site and ecosystem. Details of the bamboo joinery and those of the wood with the bamboo construction remain discoverable for the guests, forging a deeper connection with the architecture. The pavilion's deck is connected to the at-grade mainland through a narrow elevated walkway. At its end, a completely linear plan with 'bays' designed in rhythmic alterations to serve as seating spaces round out the pavilion’s design scheme. "Our basic vision was to disclose an example of sustainable architecture that stands out in terms of aesthetic contentment, counteract the waste of forms and meanings, and speak its own language," comments the studio.

  • The open and porous composition of the pavilion allows it to harness stunning views around, along with natural light and ventilation | Matter. Space. Soul Restaurant Pavilion | Two Fold Studio | STIRworld
    The open and porous composition of the pavilion allows it to harness stunning views around, along with natural light and ventilation Image: Snahasis Saha
  • The pavilion at dusk | Matter. Space. Soul Restaurant Pavilion | Two Fold Studio | STIRworld
    The pavilion at dusk Image: Snahasis Saha
  • Visible details in bamboo add to the rawness and a sense of connection to the structure | Matter. Space. Soul Restaurant Pavilion | Two Fold Studio | STIRworld
    Visible details in bamboo add to the rawness and a sense of connection to the structure Image: Snahasis Saha
  • Visible details in bamboo add to the rawness and a sense of connection to the structure | Matter. Space. Soul Restaurant Pavilion | Two Fold Studio | STIRworld
    A formal seating and dining arrangement in one of the bays Image: Snahasis Saha

A project of this nature invariably comes with an added iota of social responsibility and capital, and the architecture not only responds to that sensitive need, but nearly entirely subsumes those to become it. Reinforcing the imperative need to use local materials and incorporating craft and the skill of local artisans in projects, the structure seeks to reinstate these with dignity and a window of possibilities flung wide open for rural architecture. "In Bangladesh, architecture does not demand a lot to construct. Our basic need is just a shade and a raised platform that can protect users from sun, rain, and water,” didactically states the studio.

  • Structural isometric diagram for the pavilion | Matter. Space. Soul Restaurant Pavilion | Two Fold Studio | STIRworld
    Structural isometric diagram for the pavilion Image: Courtesy of Two Fold Studio (2FS)
  • Stylistic illustration showcasing the pavilion resting idyllically over paddy fields | Matter. Space. Soul Restaurant Pavilion | Two Fold Studio | STIRworld
    Stylistic illustration showcasing the pavilion resting idyllically over paddy fields Image: Courtesy of Two Fold Studio (2FS)
  • Matter. Space. Soul Restaurant Pavilion: Roof plan | Matter. Space. Soul Restaurant Pavilion | Two Fold Studio | STIRworld
    Matter. Space. Soul Restaurant Pavilion: Roof plan Image: Courtesy of Two Fold Studio (2FS)

Project Details

Name: Matter. Space. Soul
Location: Noakhali, Bangladesh
Architects: Two Fold Studio
Gross Built Area: 155 sq.m.
Program: Pavilion
Lead Architects: Tasnova Afroz Luna, Snahasis Saha

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