Architectural firm Blank’s latest project is an office for a real estate and elitist car rental agency; here the firm elucidates how one can easily build a space that is low on frills and yet have a casual air about it.
There are some disadvantages, yet many advantages in turning a potential home space into an office. The windows are not merely decorative depressions, but large lookouts to the world. The bathrooms can play out in generous floor spaces and in the absence of too many walled-in spaces, one can easily re-imagine the place with tasteful glass walls, and wooden architraves and desks. This is exactly what Blank did with the 1200 square feet space it was entrusted with to be converted into the Bhaktawar Offices at Pali Hill, Bandra.
What used to be a 3-bedroom apartment, has been renovated and re-designed into an office space which is in equal parts both casual and formal. Blank worked the large space on hand by keeping the fundamentals humourless – the dominating colour scheme of the place is a mix of white and brown, and the general tenor of the place is: no-nonsense.
The doorway of the conference room looks out to the staff area, built to seat ten. Whites and browns dominate the design here as per the plan. The tops of the desks divide them in a manner such that two can easily sit on one side, without any divisions between them, thereby affording a large and comfortable work area. To cut out uneven garishness, the main dividing panels are not stuck with journal boards but a thick, bolted down fabric.
The ceiling may seem largely unremarkable, except for the arching ducts of the air conditioners. But the vaulted system it follows was intentional as the architects wanted to iron out and clean up the old structure. “When we started, we had to decide on the genre of the design – aesthetic or purist?” recalls Jugal Mistri of Blank. “We wanted to lighten up the weighty look of the earlier building.” So they cut out the beam-heavy build of the place and replaced it with pristine whiteness, thereby taking the purist route.
The existing thirteen windows ensured a brilliant influx of natural light, which the designers decided to capitalise on. “We wanted to work with the surroundings, so we kept up a two-light system,” says Mistri. Apart from the illumination from the windows, which the designers kept large and plenty in number, simple white lamps make up the lighting system of the place.
Some interesting show pieces adorn the conference room wall at one end. Figurines that recreate the New York skyline – a Statue of Liberty clone, a Chrysler building copy, et al – sourced from the Museum of Modern Art, New York, no less, conjure up corporate Americana.
These small additions to the interiors are actually the totems of this project – from the zig-zag wooden design on the doors to the general layout of the place, the idea was to ape the skyline of a city. “That’s what real estate firms do; they help build the skyline of a city, which then becomes the identity of that place. We wanted to replicate that instead of merely pasting a picture on the wall,” says Mistri.
The most noticeable design elements across the space are the doors, the division walls and panels. The work on the old Burma teak here again is gimmick-free, the texture and polish being simple and even. The size of the main doors is complemented by either frosted screens or extra clear German glass, and a Lego-like bending curve on one side. This quirkiness too is well within the overall seriously casual look of the place.
The clean lines of the design are punctuated brilliantly by the wide windows which look out to a green canopy. They provide a refreshing break from the geometrically-correct furniture and participate in the interior scheme without really being a part of it.
The one conference room is set apart by its wooden floor, as opposed to the general large tile look of the rest of the floor. The room is closed off by tall glass panels, with a table at the centre, a whiteboard covering one whole wall and a cabinet space hugging the window wall.
Coupled with the large windows and the translucent panelling, this office has a transparent feel, such that by sheer imaginative design proclaims a cubicle-free work culture, which this work place easily identifies with.
When the blank team started work on the project, they figured that they wanted to transform the space into the working spot for an “honest and passionate organization”. They have succeeded in this by cutting out all the jarring details of the previous construction, and by introducing a well-thought out skyline theme that emphasises the ambition of the place, subtly.
Text By Shruti Nambiar
Photographs Sameer Chawda