Gurgaon, India – Unlocked Café, a new entertainment-slash-hospitality space in India’s Gurgaon, wants to get people off their phones. Visually immersive the moment you step through the door, the café offers all the incentives to do so: there’s full food-and-drink offerings, a board game library and even an escape room below. But the latter isn’t the only area where reality is spatially suspended, thanks to Delhi-based architecture and interior design studio Renesā.
What’s most impressive about the dining area is how it lures in audiences that may not typically find themselves drawn to the type of entertainment offerings Unlocked advertises. The escape room, thematically modelled as a ‘19th-century study chamber in a creepy basement,’ is separate from Renesā’s design concept, named The Geometrication. Yet, despite the board-game bar and kitchen being built with considerably less sinister intentions, the respective purposes of both areas are united by a central mission of promoting human connection; a return to this kind of analogue play may very well be what the doctor’s been ordering. Escape rooms are a relatively new typology – the first was built in 2007, in Japan – but in a little over a decade, it’s become a quite competitive market.
While designing the dining and playing space, Renesā studied Delhi and Jaipur’s Jantar Mantar structures – 18th-century astronomical observation sites – as well as Monument Valley, a 2014 mobile video game that leads a princess through mazes of geometric optical illusions. The resulting space is as they intended: a distinct ‘new realm’ for diners and players alike to lose themselves in, via pockets that arise from an array of interconnected, coloured volumes and archways. Heavy use of geometry and rich colouring recalls traditional Indian architecture, and sculptural lighting fixtures and furniture were selected to help drive home the fantasy.
Visitors may come for the Escher-esque spatial experience upstairs, and less so because they want to participate in the live-adventure game downstairs. Either way: as a multi-purpose space with considerable design appeal, Unlocked may offer the key to establishing even greater demand for offline entertainment.