It is not the size of the project that makes it distinctive but the process, the details and the approach. A small project can be packed with techniques that enrich the experience of using the space, while the manner and method can bring the space alive. It is for this expertise that Ritika Chopra, the owner of Prima Vetcare that deals in animal health products, approached Samira Rathod, the principal architect at Mumbai-based Samira Rathod Design Atelier (SRDA).
Chopra wanted a new office designed in the upscale Fort area of Mumbai. Here, it is noteworthy that the client and the architect, who are also friends, began on a note of great trust. "I had seen Samira design my partner's apartment earlier, and I loved everything about it. I knew she would be the one to understand exactly what I needed,” explained Chopra on the reason behind choosing SRDA.
The client’s requirements were simple -- an office space with three cabins, six work-stations and storage facilities. The space, meant for a staff of 10, would not have many visitors during the day, hence the intention was to make it comfortable and lively for the small team. It also required many filing and storage cabinets. It was Rathod’s unique proposal for the windows, very different from what Chopra had imagined, which made her confident about her choice of architect.
The architect focused on making the space vibrant to work in and enhancing its most favoured elements. “Some great aspects that intrigued me about the space were the natural lighting it received, and the verandah on its entire longitudinal edge that overlooked a tree outside. The moment I saw the site, I was sure I wanted to enhance these two features,” she says.
The client’s brief to the architect demanded the space to be a warm and welcoming address, which could be used post working hours as well. Hence it became important for the design to not make the office appear like a place of work, but more of a social space. “The client told me, ‘Here, this is my home where I work from’. We spend major parts of our lives in our offices; however, they are not treated very well,” she notes, adding that the client also specified the look for each of the elements such as curtains, or the size of every cabinet and was particular about the warmth that she wanted.
The office was planned in such a manner that the three cabins for the company directors were placed along the verandah, all opening into a green space. The cabins, with floor to ceiling glass walls, also let in natural light, creating pleasant, well-lit working conditions. Attention was also paid to small things such as ‘where will the car keys go?’, ‘where will gym clothes be hung?’ and ‘how can we provide a private kitchen?’
The architect and her team, together with the craftsmen, painted and polished the wooden partitions with layers of natural tint to make sure the feeling of warmth pervaded the entire space. The tables were designed in-house by Rathod’s firm, Big Piano. Other interesting elements were also incorporated - a lamp with a cow print and the door handles inspired from the famous late American-Japanese architect Isamu Noguchi’s artwork of wooden sculptures. False ceilings were created in the form of vaults since there were multiple beams that interlocked. A unique feature is that nothing in the office space is ready-made or bought directly from a store and placed inside.
After the space was occupied, there also emerged a requirement for blinds to be added for privacy, and owing to the growing level of understanding between the client and architect, a unique blind with bamboo and muslin cloth was designed. Asked if there was something she would have wanted differently, she says, "I definitely would have wanted more colour since my style is more flamboyant, but I feel very happy now since everyone who comes to the space loves it, and the warmth here is extraordinary."
For an architect, the finished project might not always result in what they visualised. “It was difficult to see a different end result, even though it’s similar. It's elegant, it's still a pleasure to see it.” Asked what she would have done differently, Rathod laughs, “May be next time, I will not use so much wood!”
While this project reflects Rathod’s signature style, her practice has seen an investigatory approach in many past projects. In the case of the Casa Rio clubhouse, for instance, one can see experimentation with form, placement, lights and varied materials to create metaphors. Although this particular project might not be unusual for Rathod’s practice, it sure provides the warm and communal space that the client desired.
Client: Prima Vet care Pvt. Ltd.
Area of office: 1000 sqft
Design architect: Samira Rathod Design Atelier
Principal architect: Samira Rathod
Project architect: Rakshita Bhatnagar and Varun Goyal