An Indian restaurant in the Middle East achieves a design aesthetic that can be transported around the world.

» It's not easy being the first born; expectations are high. When Asha's, a contemporary Indian restaurant named for the Bollywood singer Asha Bhosle, opened in Dubai, it was the first in a franchise that the client hoped to expand into other countries. 'We wanted to bring a bit of modern India to the country Asha's would be located in,' says Mary Rushton-Beales, principal of the Lighting Design House. The restaurant required a distinctively Indian aesthetic, but one that could be transported convincingly around the world.

Interior design firm Graham Taylor Designs developed an overarching theme of fire and water, which lends itself to rich colors and mood lighting-as well as to the mission of universality. In addition to being tied to Indian spirituality, 'these elements apply to a broad spectrum of life and experience globally,' says Yvonne Taylor with Graham Taylor Designs. 'Everyone understands the power and importance of fire and water.' In the waiting area, three water-filled bowls share the space with a wall of candles. Two more bowls are located on either side of the bar. Concealed below, a metal halide source with a sparkle wheel uplights the bowls via 80 fiber-optic points. Hidden under a lip, fluorescent lamps encased in orange sleeves graze the pedestal on which the bowls sit, while narrow-beam low-voltage AR111s spotlight the floating arrangements.

Throughout Asha's, warm white and orange sources are combined and dimmed to different intensities depending on the time of day via an elaborate eight-zone control system. The result is an ambient light that soaks the restaurant in red and yellow hues. In the banquet seating area, 3000K white and tangerine-colored cold cathode in a circular ceiling cove dim to create a soft peach during the day and a deep orange at night. Above the bar, large pendants housing white and terra-cotta candle lamps also produce flattering orange hues.

An Indian cultural aesthetic resides in the arty materials-chunky dark wood, rustic stone, filigreed metal, glass beads-and in the custom luminaires conceived of by Graham Taylor Designs, in conjunction with Rushton-Beales. In the booths, a pendant decorated with ruby-colored glass set in a censer-like metal housing casts a glow that, as suggested by the luminaire's form, seems to come from brightly burning incense. The bar pendants and floor lamps feature a custom-printed fabric with patterns influenced by organic Indian designs. The beaded curtain backdrop for the banquet seating area 'frames the space with light in a delicate way,' says Rushton-Beales. 'It had to be evenly, but not overly, lit.' The narrow ceiling slot required a small fixture, since it also hid the curtain track. A low-voltage 1-inch-diameter 20W dichroic luminaire, set 16 inches on center, downlights the curtain from its position in the ceiling slot.

The décor is suggestive but not overwhelming. 'India is a panorama of life and diversity,' says Taylor. 'Our challenge was to distill the essence of India into a limited number of elements, and still create a commercially viable concept with universal appeal.' Apparently, that has been achieved. A second Asha's opened in Kuwait, with 12 more scheduled to open in England. emilie sommerhoff

project Asha's Restaurant, Dubai
client Wafi City, Dubai
interior designer Graham Taylor Designs, Kuala Lumpur
lighting designer The Lighting Design House, London
photographer Awkward Brothers Digital Imaging, Surrey, England
manufacturers AC/DC Lighting Systems, Encapsulite, Illuma, Lutron, Super Vision International, Targetti