5 reasons to love Surat: From culinary finds to sustainable architecture

JUN 12, 2024 | By Namrata Dewanjee
An outside view of the Surat Diamond Bourse; Photograph by Edmund Summer
SOY in Surat, Photograph by Ishita Sitwala

Don’t you think preconceptions can often be misleading? Surat, often envisioned as a diamond-encrusted metropolis or a relic of maritime glory, is undergoing a fascinating metamorphosis. This bustling hub of commerce and culture is rapidly transforming into a sophisticated urban centre.

Think sustainable architecture with ethical construction practices. Circular fashion. Resilient strategies. Not to mention, an emerging epicurean scene. There you have it, a city with an eye to the future and a culture that is rooted in its vernacular traditions. A future with a heart of gold, you might say (or diamonds!) 

#1 A New Weave

While much has been written about its famed mills and textile history, young and upcoming labels are witnessing a swell in the city. Initiatives like Urban Suburban and Patlun Jeans champion ethical production and sustainable practices. At the intersection of sustainability and sartorial sensibilities, Canvaloop is a Surat-based material sciences company that creates fibres and yarns from agro-waste, such as hemp, pineapple and banana. These labels are redefining Surat’s textile leadership by incorporating recycled materials and reviving traditional weaving techniques. This new wave caters to a growing desire for transparency and eco-consciousness, offering a refreshing alternative to mindful patrons.

Surat is known for its textiles and handicraft work; Photograph courtesy Pixabay

#2 Aware Architecture

Modernist masterpieces run galore just a stone’s throw away in Ahmedabad from Doshi’s Gufa to Corbusier’s Mill Owners’ Association. Surat, however, takes a more contemporary 21st-century approach. Architects here are incorporating various climate-conscious practices. The architectural forms feature a passive solar design that maximises natural light and ventilation to reduce reliance on artificial lighting and air conditioning.

Morphogenesis has fashioned the world’s largest office space dubbed the Surat Diamond Bourse incorporating passive cooling techniques such as large volumes and thick Lakha red granite walls. OpenIdeas Architects, on the other hand, has conjured a residence with a parametric solar sensor kinetic facade. 

An outside view of the Surat Diamond Bourse; Photograph by Edmund Summer


An outside view of the Surat Diamond Bourse; Photograph by Edmund Summer


This home in Surat designed by OpenIdeas Architects is inspired by sustainability; Photograph by Fabien Charuau

#3 A Green Certificate

In the heart of the city, a factory designed by EssTeam also abides by the principles of sustainable design. From increasing water efficiency to material and resource management, the brick-and-concrete creation provides a comfortable environment for the inhabitants. This focus on sustainability is not just about the environment but reflects an awareness of ecology and holistic building practices as well.

“It’s a simple painted brick and concrete building but we created an additional green skin which filters the harsh sunlight onto the space and it prevents and reduces the heating of the walls and the heat load decreases. Thereby the air conditioning becomes more efficient,” explains Snehal Shah, the MD and Design Director of  EssTeam Design Services. As the planters grow dense, the light dapples inside, making the space come alive with a play of light and shadow. Who said sustainable architecture cannot be visually striking as well?

As the green screen grows dense, it will create a barrier between the harsh exterior climate conditions and the interiors; Photograph courtesy EssTeam Design Services


The factory is surrounded by verdure from the creepers on the facade to the green cover on the site; Photograph courtesy EssTeam Design Services

A residential project by EssTeam in Surat dubbed Svasti is a Platinum-certified Green Home as per the rating system of IGBC. What does it entail? The home conserves resources, energy and water while improving indoor air quality.  “In Svasti, we captured the southwest summer wind into a funnel and released it gently into the house creating a venturi effect. I experienced this during COVID (March-April) when I was sitting in one of the corners of the house and working the whole day without a fan,” explains the designer.

He continues, “The whole house is daylit naturally. There are large overhangs over all windows where we can keep the windows open in the heaviest of rains. The windows are designed to allow natural wind flow throughout the house throughout the year, it makes living comfortable in Surat’s hot and humid climate.”

The home designed by EssTeam is environmentally conscious and comfortable for the inhabitants; Photograph by Ishita Sitwala


The interiors are naturally ventilated and daylit; Photograph by Ishita Sitwala


EssTeam mindfully shaped the space to be water, energy and resource efficient; Photograph by Ishita Sitwala

#4 Culinary Kaleidoscope

Surat’s culinary scene is as unique as it is delectable. With a predominantly plant-based population, restaurants and eateries are able to experiment with innovative vegetarian and vegan cuisines. There’s also a burgeoning interest in hyper-local flavours resulting in a delicious fusion of local traditions with international influences. From the sweet Surat Ghari to the savoury Locho, a culinary adventure awaits around every corner. 

The mirrors framed in reclaimed wood and delicate glass pendant light fixtures add characer to Trezoro; Photograph by Noaidwin Sttudio; Styled by Trend and Tone

Don’t be mistaken, Surat also caters to the globe-trotters with eateries such as Trezoro by Studio-M Design with its old-school charm and light-filled interiors and Japanese restaurant SOY by NEOGENESIS+STUDI0261 with its dark moody atmosphere. Prefer your sushi served in a space adorned with minimalist Japanese artwork? Look no further than Vintage Asia. Boasting outlets in multiple metropolises, Thyme and Whisk now brings its fine dining experience to Surat with Asian and Indian inspired cuisine surrounded by resplendent verdant green and light wooden interiors.

Enough about East Asia, hop aboard and take trip to Europe at Leonardo Italian Mediterranean Dining. With lush planters and warm accents livening your brunch plans, the age old questions still remains, “Where should we go for dinner?” Spice Terrace at JW Marriot offers gluten free and vegan options, putting an inclusive spin on luxury dining.

Customised lighting fixtures create a warm ambience for the perfect Asian dining experience at SOY; Photograph by Ishita Sitwala

#5 Flexible in flux

Talking about the built fabric of the metropolis itself, Surat is a shining example of India’s Smart Cities Mission and is one of the LEED-certified cities. Thoughtful infrastructure initiatives include an automated public bus system with contactless fare payments, with plans for a metro rail system and improved railway transport. 

Like most cities in a developing nation, Surat too faces complexities such as an undiversified economy, water security, flooding and development stresses. However, it released its first resilience strategy in April 2017 envisioning an urban environment designed to adapt and thrive in the face of challenges. Social equity is prioritised, ensuring all residents have access to resources and participate in decision-making. Infrastructure is flexible and multifaceted, offering multiple ways to deliver essential services. By fostering innovation and collaboration, Surat cultivates a culture of preparedness, empowering communities to bounce back stronger from adversity.

River Tapi passes by Surat; Photograph courtesy Pixabay

Read now: A grey box of wonders: Chirag Torawala repurposes a bungalow to sculpt his studio in Surat