by Vinu DanielApr 01, 2022
Apart from the realm of hospitality design in India, which the recently constructed Justa Nuo in Delhi exhibited, it is perhaps the field of workspace and office design where a need for a radical overhaul may have emerged in the face of the pandemic. The notion of permanence associated with offices came under question, as multi-million complexes and square-faced cubicles lay vacant for the better part of a whole year. As with hospitality design, this period saw the birth of the prevalence of the digital nomad. Conversely, another school of thought, relatively archaic, professes that while workspaces remain essential to a certain way of conducting business - especially for small to intermediate non-corporate offices, the principles involved in their design have been seen to be needing a major need for a redux.
The influence here is dual; while the effect of well-planned and designed workspaces on employee well-being and productivity came under an academic microscope, only gradually transferring to actual design, the post-COVID impact on such spaces seemed much more dire. Along with the well-being and mental health of employees, the post-COVID workspace now had to take into account a spatial schematic that could facilitate business and social conversation safely. While these two principles seem at odds with each other, they also work in tandem in a lot of other ways, seen manifested in this earthy, near-grunge workspace designed by Earthitects for their own team - the in-house design arm of India-based Evolve Back Resorts.
Based on a largely linear floor plan, the planning of the workspace and the formulation of its layout may seem to appear largely constricted to follow a certain rhythm, owing to accommodating all its employees and the office’s ancillary spaces. However, the first induction of drama into the space, and the manifestation of a certain 'natural' hand, happens particularly through the bespoke furniture crafted for the space, and the material finishes they embody. Tables, seating, workstations, even lighting, have all been handcrafted using wood “which no one else wanted”. The design team views this wood reclaimed from timber yards following years of neglect and natural weathering under the sun and rain as nature’s building blocks, and a representation of the design studio’s ethos of building in oneness with the natural environment.
A particularly interesting manifestation of bespoke design in the space are individual pods designed to accommodate semi-private workstations for employees in the open office. Suspended from the ceiling and crafted in faux leather, the “air-pods” are intended to promote flexibility and interaction amongst fellow workers, while still being confined to one’s own space. Apart from mechanisms to have controllable light and storage within the pods, they can also be used as spaces to quickly jot down or write ideas and information. “With focus on user engagement, the open workstations encourage collaboration and team spirit,” states the team on how the pods look at regulating social interactions within the office space, while drawing interesting comparisons to nature’s cocooned beings. In contrast to the pods, the marketing spaces are designed to be open and interactive, while cabins are separated by sliding doors with an intent to create expansive, multifunctional spaces during large meetings and events.
The design team also interestingly views the organicity of the curves in the office, including the serpentine arrangement of workstations through the linear space, as a way of eliminating human error when it comes to rigid lines and right-angled planes. Similarly, the studio ascribes to a practice of designing they term “defensive design”, including planning for contingencies in the design stage of the the project itself - influencing user behaviour through spatial design to reduce human error. The measures involved in this philosophy of building include not designing the seating in the cafeteria to be ultra-comfortable, and concrete seaters in meeting areas.
Apart from the plenty of natural light the rectangular floorplate receives via the bank of fenestrations on one side of the office, the artificial lighting scheme for the workspaces too is subtle and concealed behind fixtures crafted from eucalyptus poles. Furthermore, the eucalyptus wood contains oil which protects it from infestation. In a fusion of wooden grains and textures, natural live edge wood used for tables and other fixtures contrasts beautifully against the faux-leather upholstery. Yet still, they form a milieu of materials that thematically belong together. Door frames, handles, and storage are also crafted using natural pieces of wood, along with their rough edges. By designing in tandem with nature, as is the studio’s philosophy, the Earthitects’ office space is able to maintain optimum levels of performance and work patterns for employees, including their social and mental wellness.
Name: Earthitects And Evolve Back Workspace
Location: 2nd Floor, St. Patrick’s Business Complex, 21, Museum Road, Bangalore 560025, Karnataka, India
Design Team: George E.Ramapuram, Muhammad Jamaal and Irene Ann Koshy
Floor Area: 4200 Sqft