Morphogenesis’ design of the flagship Harley Davidson office in Gurgaon performs the balancing act between the ‘globalness’ of the brand and the ‘localness’ of its presence in India.
“I’d rather be riding my motorcycle thinking about God than sitting in church thinking about my motorcycle.” – Anonymous
And if that motorcycle is a Harley, then he’s probably not thinking much beyond the wind on his face. Harley Davidson vroomed into existence in 1903 and in the 100 years since, it has become a synonym for motorcycles. In 2010, Harley Davidson made its foray into the Indian market. A space was needed that would serve as an office and a display facility for dealers. Morphogenesis, a leading architecture firm based in Delhi was roped in to design this flagship facility to showcase the bikes.
Sonali Rastogi, from the designer duo at the helm of Morphogenesis says, “The brief from the client was to develop a concept that would be representative of Harley in India while maintaining the distinct Harley brand identity.”
The Harley Davidson offices world over maintain an informal work culture and the office in Gurgaon had to be designed along the same lines. Thus it was necessary for Morphogenesis to come up with an overall concept that was minimalist and modern and represented the brand identity and work ethos of the company. At the same time, they needed to customise and personalise the office so that it would blend into the Indian context.
Sonali says, “They were one of the most professional clients that we have worked with. They gave us maximum creative license. As a team, it was exciting for us to be so deeply involved in a project where we were responsible for integrating the brand values into our design.” The design team which comprised of Sonali Rastogi and Neelu Dhar spent a considerable amount of time developing the idea to the very last detail, before the execution phase began.
The client was also keen that the workspace extends beyond being just a corporate office. They wanted it to also accommodate events, workshops and parties when required. “It needed to be an open plan with a provision for some semi-private spaces” she adds.
The office has been designed as a single and unified space, some compact enclosures have been incorporated but in a manner that allows them to be opened up and transformed into gathering spaces. Inscriptions of biking ideologies take up one wall behind the lounge-like waiting area.
The wall behind the reception table is made up of paintings of a range of Harley Davidson fuel tanks. The visitor immediately gets the vibe of a contemporary and casual set-up and feels at ease to explore further.
The biking inscriptions from the graphic wall in the reception extend into the corridors. The chrome of the Harley bikes on display gleam and flash at the visitor and the promise of adventure is enough to set the adrenaline rushing. The book shelves fitted within the walls of the main office space along with pictures blown-up to narrate the story of biking in India, match the casual, employee-friendly beat that the design concept is aiming for.
It is evident across the office, that the design team gave careful consideration to every aspect, large and small. Actual handles of Harley bikes as bathroom handles, rear-view mirrors to display signage, the table in the pantry that resembles the side stands of a bike-are all inspired from motorcycles. Orange, black and grey dominate the office colour palette, just like they do in the Harley Davidson’s iconic colour scheme.
One of the most interesting elements in the design is the very Indian perforated jali that has been used wherever it is required to separate spaces within the office. The shapes of the perforations have been derived from the globally-recognised Harley shield. The jalis also carry forward the semi-private quality of the workspace by providing transparency and openness but at the same time segregating. Sonali says, “Yes, the jali concept works very well for our perception, but, as a team what pleases us most about this office is that it provides the design punch.”
She adds, “We believe in creating architecture of somewhere as against architecture of nowhere.” The design philosophy at Morphogenesis is to be contemporary and global but not universally global. The Harley project with its theme of ‘Harley in India’ aligns itself perfectly with this thought.
Text By Himali Kothari
Photographs Amit Pasricha