Enclosure in Gujarat lends depth, form and meaning to amorphous architecture
by Nitija ImmanuelNov 09, 2022
•make your fridays matter with a well-read weekend
by Dhwani ShanghviPublished on : Jan 02, 2023
Over the last few decades, studies on the impact of workspace environment on human behaviour have elucidated a correlation between design and productivity that comes across as a result of a positive ecosystem of work culture, flexible spaces with the ability to expand the programme, aesthetics, and the organisation of workspaces. Additionally, expedient lighting—both natural as well as artificial, and ergonomically designed furniture enhances the user experience and facilitates collaboration, creativity, and focus. The Philanthropist’s Office in the Indian city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat aims to assimilate these experiences through a flexible design that breaks away from conventionally formalised spaces.
Articulating the vision of their altruistic client, Indian architects Janki Contractor and Atreya Bhattacharyya of Ahmedabad-based CraftsPOD Design Studio negotiate with the limitations of a commercial typology through a distinguished character of spaces and meaningful elements.
The office space, set within a commercial development, shares a common plot with 16 individual blocks. It occupies an area of 300 sqm across two floors. The spaces are segregated as clusters across these two floors—the conference-centric cluster and the cabin-centric cluster, with varying levels of accessibility. The ground floor, the more public of the two clusters, thus accommodates a reception area, a waiting room, a conference room, a meeting room, and a small work area.
A series of ubiquitous arch-shaped openings of varied sizes as well as varying levels of porosity, not only define the office architecture but also bind the space together through an inherent complexity that connects, separates as well as orients the spaces. Window-sized arched openings, for instance, separate the work area from the conference room, while also enabling a visual dialogue between the two spaces. Simultaneously, full-length arched openings serve as doorways between spaces, while arched profiles frame the furniture to orient users towards different spaces.
The first floor, planned to be used for smaller groups and accommodating individual workstations, houses a meeting room, a workspace, a reading room and the CEO’s office overlooking a landscaped terrace. Like the floor below, arched openings dominate the space and simultaneously segregate as well as unite the different spaces. The office is, in fact, centred around this element, whose specific form not only defines how spaces are used but also determines how furniture, lighting, and other miscellaneous products are arranged in different spaces.
Explaining the concept Contractor and Bhattacharyya say, “The roles of these openings are multifaceted, somewhere it defines where you sit, at other places it signifies entrances or does both. In an overall manner, these opening brings the spaces together, defining their character, and contributing to the nature of the space that it caters to.”
The spatial organisation of the office is conceived as a means to break conventional norms of an office design—blurring spatial boundaries and hierarchies. While the arched openings aid in achieving the former, the layout falls prey to conventional hierarchies whether in terms of separation of the public and private or visual access to the terrace and by extension to natural light. The conspicuous location of the CEO’s office—overlooking the terrace with the landscape design, on the first floor—in the private cluster, underscores this hierarchy.
However, a spatial organisation that evades astuteness is more than compensated for, through the various elements, material explorations, tailor-made lighting fixtures, and adaptable spaces. Two primary materials express the interiors—wood and brass. The furniture design, as well as lighting fixtures, are a celebration of the marriage of these two materials, each highlighted in the backdrop of the other.
Standardised brass sections coalesce the different elements of the interior design, its contrast simultaneously accentuating the wooden texture. Not only does it exhibit itself in tandem with the wood—as an inlay pattern in wooden furniture as well as granite table tops—but also expresses itself in isolation through standalone elements like ceiling lights, wall lights, arched frames and as structural members for furniture pieces. Together with the wood, the brass compliments reddish stone walls and stark black furniture, forming a motley composition of colours and materials. Consequently, the architects believe, the brass will age to undergo a patina, further enhancing the contrast between the different materials.
Elaborating on the lighting design, the architects explain, “Categorised into types, ceiling, wall and hanging lights, they serve the purpose of bringing order to the way elements are used, creating a contrast. The contrast exists between the solid and the voids, the dark and the light, complemented by the thin sections of brass around which they are designed.”
In an almost modernist approach to commercial design, the architects have crafted every minuscule element within the space—brass inlaid wooden furniture, cupboard handles, wall panels, lighting fixtures, down to the screws and hinges for the fixtures—to create a concordant space that accentuates the concept. The soft curve of the arch thus manifests itself in the ceiling lights as well, which along with the wall fixtures add texture and depth to the space.
The construction of the fixtures evolves from an intensive process that includes making 1:1 scaled drawings for the joinery as well as curvature details, resulting in a modular growth of the fixtures, combined in different permutations in accordance with the functional quality of the space.
The spatial narrative of the design results in a spatial organisation and an aesthetic that not only promotes collaboration and socialisation between employees but also allows for focused individual work.
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