Behind the making of Kanpur’s The Pink Zebra, the restaurant that won the internet

Reecha Kulkarni / April 13, 2018

You can now check into director Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel… the one in Kanpur. The Pink Zebra of The Feast India Company opened its funky doors last week, a vivid cocktail of bubblegum pink and Art Nouveau glitz spread over three floors, channeling the moviemaker’s visual style of restricted colour palettes and love of symmetry.

The 4,000 sq. ft. space featuring a restaurant and bar is punctuated with black lines, retro vibes, a partially sunlit terrace and stripes for days.

We were curious to know what went into restoring one of the oldest buildings in Kanpur. Sanchit Arora, the head architect of Renesa Architects, took India Design ID through the process – from moodboards and ‘Before’ photos to finding the right aesthetic.

The Mood Board

“The most interesting part about this project was (the process of creating) the moodboard. We went through a tour of the old city of Cawnpore, the new-age Kanpur and collected some snaps of the variations in the design philosophies — starting from the period of the British Raj to present day…

“The old authentic colonial factories throughout the city actually indicated using arched facades and ornamental details…

The Right Aesthetic

“The clients were pretty straightforward about wanting something that wasn’t already present in Kanpur and that the restaurant had to be something that could get the whole city talking about it.

Pink Zebra

“The idea of adding the popping black and white lines of the zebra across the colonial structure created a vibe that spanned different ages.”

Why Pink?

Pink was the colour of public buildings in the city of Cawnpore during the British Raj Period. These buildings are still present within the city’s fabric, and we found them during the search for a colour palette.

“Ultimately, we came down to using a light shade of pink (RAL-3015) that induced a subtle tinge into the spatial character of this already busy space, while giving a funky vibe to the architectural branding and the gastronomical ideology.”

Recreating a Wes Anderson set

“I have been a huge fan of Wes Anderson’s work since my childhood. I have grown up watching his films, his ideologies, his design lines, his love for colour palettes, symmetry — everything about his design concept is quirky, yet so simple.

“The clients loved the concept of using Wes Anderson’s design ideology in this project and were very excited to accessorize the space: the waiter costumes, the food and events according to his philosophy.

“We at RENESA Studio had to run through all his movies frame by frame to get the right feel for the space.”

The process

“The Pink Zebra is inside a 100-year-old structure which has seen many changes in the past, from being a residence to a commercial space, then a retail space.

Pink Zebra

“Half of the existing structure was made in RBC (Reinforced Brick Concrete) and the other half in the new age RCC. That put a lot of constraints on the design, but then, most of the load-bearing walls were retained within the design. The expressive artsy false ceiling concealed the installation of heavy girders in the ceilings.

“The limitations of the structure did provide a lot more design expressions and added to the character and ambience. The external staircase and lift well were added later, mainly made in MS steel and composite construction techniques to not add any extra pressure to the old structure as well as blend with the aesthetics of the Pink Zebra.”

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