10 years into the business Surat-based Essteam remains motivated by just one impetus – the chance to innovate and re-define the boundaries and understanding of modern-day design.
Essteam was once known as S Team Design Services. But its re-christening has not dimmed its passion and acute eye for design perfection. The firm seems to revel in breathing design in every form available. Its core portfolio is a mix of residential/industrial/ institutional/interior and more projects, but its modus operandi is without fail to build a design example out of every initiative. This is amply aided by a team that is a melting pot of professionals trained in interior design, graphics and urban design apart from architecture.
Principally led by Snehal and Saloni Shah, the firm lays out its vision as – “We strongly believe that honesty towards materials, well resolved services, functional innovations, consideration for our environment and minimalist attitudes and approaches, spiced up with contemporary abstract compositional sense manifests into products that become the essence of today’s urbanity. The widely prevalent eclecticism is doing a big disservice to the society and we are determined not to be a part of it!”
The decade-old Essteam’s urban design and planning off-shoot is a sister concern called Urban Initiatives; while its design-art ambition is realised by the hyper-talented team of Oblique.
It is not every day that a design house is handed a refurbishment assignment for a temple. When Essteam was afforded just that, in the form of a derelict 400-year-old structure of faith dedicated to the sun, the team decided to go back to the root of the belief system here – aka, the sun. “Taking after its name, the Sun – the universal source of energy and light – is at the center of philosophical premise from where the design of this temple emerges,” attests the team.
The temple now stands as a slick modern re-interpretation of what might have existed earlier. It is flushed with the presence of the sun in the form of the obvious infusions of natural light, but also in tone of the spaces – varyingly under shadow and light. It bodes so well for the project that it was named ‘Koty-ark’ – energy equivalent to the power of a thousand suns.
The brilliance of the team’s efforts here is to be found in the use of materials – the ceiling is clad in form-finished RCC, while the floor is swathed in gleaming marble befitting a place that inspires calm. The ‘Garbha Griha’, or the sanctum sanctorum, is a veritable solemn ceremony of building materials, encased as it is in stainless steel and then embellished with pebble-embedded resin sheets. The doors are made of solid teakwood, while the walls sport interesting butch-work moulded from marble waste.
The direction of light, from the top and in abundance, was also influenced by the location of the old temple in one of the many famed claustrophobia-inducing narrow streets of Surat. Cultural sensitivity and high innovation makes this a remarkable project indeed.
This project was a “rejuvenation” of an existing, popular establishment. But some critical elements of the construction posed significant challenges. The basement dining area sported seven columns, encompassing spaces between them that were tricky to include in a wholesome scheme.
The team had to conjure up a fine dining haven and a banquet cove within this 1400 sq. ft.fractured space. To avoid the build-up of an awkwardly split space, Essteam employed geometric trickery and backed it up with admitted “theatricality”.
A façade made of plywood coated with polyurethane resilience, looking like a giant castle made of crumpled paper, hides some of the disturbing columns, and adds superb pizzazz to the place. Two other columns get the wooden batten treatment to hide their past.
The project, completed in 2012, solidifies Essteam’s ability to look through practical impossibilities and find suave solutions. The central façade hides the unwanted details and presents a serving counter, and walls in the diners. How amazing is that!
Oblique is one of the most exciting initiatives taken up by Essteam. Dreamt up as a confluence point for high design and ground-breaking art innovations in 2007 by architect Snehal Shah, artist Walter D’Souza, and Kaizer Batliwala, its portfolio today features 50 very interesting projects.
The entity, functioning as a separate company now under the proprietorship of senior architect and planner, Saloni Shah, considers its works in metal, especially stainless steel its forte, at the same time, it also offers its expertise across a wide range of materials, be it paper, glass, stone or vinyl.
In its lifetime, Oblique has launched two product ranges and continues to build installation projects for corporate, hospitality, and other customers. Inspiration from natural forms is a recurring theme in their portfolio. The butterfly, for example, has been re-imagined as a surreal being moulded in metal, and has been used as defining mural designs, and even as part of lighting décor.
Under its ‘mobile’ range, Oblique has come up with hauntingly beautiful bird sculptures that are typically hung from rods, and intend to make a broader statement about equilibrium and freedom. The awe-inspiring detailing of its Kalpavriksha project, 25 feet tall and installed in the atrium of Krushi Bazaar Mall, Surat, establishes its expertise in amalgamating the ever-evolving genius of design and art in a short span of time.
Text By Shruti Nambiar
Photographs Courtesy The Architect