Design Case Study: The Hut Cafe by Architecture Plus Value

Architectural Case Study Dated:  Oct. 11, 2017
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Courtesy Architecture Plus Value

Fact File: 

Project name: The Hut Cafe
Project type: College Cafeteria + Student Activity Centre
Category: (PB) Public Building
Location: REC, Thandalam, Chennai
Area: 1300 sq m / 14,000 sq ft
Client: Rajalakshmi Engineering College, Thandalam, Chennai
Material Specifications: 
Structure: Mild Steel Tubular Sections; Roofing: Terracotta Tiles & Translucent Polycarbonate Sheet,
Flooring: Rough Granite-Strips (Quarry Waste), 
Walls: Terracotta tile cladding
Furniture: Pre-cast Concrete Furniture, S.S.Tables, Built-in Furniture with Brick-work & Granite Topping.
Project Completion: November 2016
Project Cost: Rs.1,19,00,000/- (1.19 Crores) or  Rs.850/- per Sq.Ft.

Client's Brief:
The client required a place within the campus where students could eat food as the existing canteen facilities were badly designed and inadequate. The brief was to keep the costs as low as possible. The site provided was an un-used piece of land within the campus which was filled with a grove of existing fully grown-trees.

Courtesy Architecture Plus Value

Eat..Learn..Socialise...that was the motto of the Hut Café. It is located at one of the Chennai's premier Engineering Colleges. The idea was to provide a great location for the student community to bond and socialise during their formative years. The space should not only serve as a cafeteria but also as a melting pot for students to hang-out, discuss and learn in a creative, natural environment. 

Hut ViewCourtesy Architecture Plus Value

Design Approach: 
The architects understood the potential of such a place being the ideal melting pot for the thriving student community. To provide the same, a detailed analysis was done over the student life inside the campus. The un-used piece of land provided as the site, was documented in detail to locate the existing trees. The design of this Hut cafe was devised in such a manner to use the site potential to the fullest and serve the thriving student community. The design was conceived as having three flexible components.

plinthCourtesy Architecture Plus Value

Plinth: This accommodates built-in seating for the students and was designed with the natural terrain of the site. It was designed around the existing trees and maintained the root profile. The flooring is from unfinished granite strips procured from local quarry as waste by-product. 

hutsCourtesy Architecture Plus Value

The Pods (or Huts): Next the huts or the pods were located in the spaces between the trees without disturbing them. These huts were built from structural steel with terracotta tile roofing and also housed pre-cast concrete seaters. 

garden viewCourtesy Architecture Plus Value

Bridges: The spaces in-between the huts were connected with metal pergolas covered by a translucent polycarbonate sheet. These bridge the gap between the huts. The pergolas are designed to accommodate the existing trees which pierce through them, connecting nature with the spaces. The kitchen areas were located near existing buildings where there were no trees. They are designed in a flexible and utilitarian manner with clearly demarcated areas for Serving (Counters), Cooking and Services.

5Courtesy Architecture Plus Value


The Hut Cafe is completely sustainable. The building uses extremely low amounts of the energy and is built to be naturally ventilated and lit. Low-energy fans and LED lights are provided at several spaces. Trees are brought inside the building and due to this the natural climate of the building remains cool during the entire day. The materials used in the Hut Cafe are all sustainable and locally produced. 

The Hut Structure and Pergolas were made from rectangular mild-steel sections. These can be dismantled and re-cycled for future use. Indian-made Mangalore tiles made by cottage industry supporting local craftsmen. 
Flooring is made from granite strips of varying widths. These strips are produces as quarry waste in local mining activities providing a low-cost and re-cycled flooring for the building. 

Thus, from energy usage and material stand-point Hut Cafe stands as an excellent example of a Sustainable building.

The Project has re-vitalised the entire REC Campus. The Student community thrives in the spaces of the Hut cafe. The Students use the space not only for eating food but also as a place of learning & study during the college hours and to Hang-out, Socialise and form life-long relationships with friends and colleagues.  All the trees were conserved on site and made a part of the built-environment. The trees add tremendous value to the café. The building is entirely sustainable and was a low-cost project which made the client very happy. Maximum materials used were re-cycled the construction costs were very low. The use of low-energy fittings ensure a low life-cycle cost also. The integration of the natural environment into the building ensures a very healthy habitat for the user's and the client.

The design has created a place of happiness and learning amongst several constraints, which were turned into opportunities to add value to the lives of the masses.

Design Detail:

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