‘Samanvaya’ – an architect’s office is an integration of functions, materials and ideas. The team expresses its ethos in a script that responds directly to a functional design and use of natural and reused materials.
“Samanvaya’, ‘Pratibimba’, ‘Charitra’, ‘Thathya’, ‘Prakasha’ and ‘Vismaya’ – these words sound like chants from an ancient script, but in fact they describe the essence of the office building of Essteam, an architectural and urban design practice based in Surat, Gujarat.
The five storied building houses two diverse functions and the harmonious co-existence of these two different programs architecturally gave the building its name – ‘Samanvay’ which means synchronisation.
An architect’s office is not only his pride, but is a space that also showcases his craft. Many a times it is the first impression of the office space that clearly conveys the work ethos of the practice to the client. The first look of the building shows a three part design treatment that highlights the unique quality of each material used in its natural form.
Architect Snehal Shah, Essteam founder, says, “The first challenge we faced was to functionally resolve and architecturally express the co-existence of two separate entities in one building. The boutique required blank display walls and artificial light while the architect’s office needed ample day light, abundant storage, design studios and meeting rooms.”
The design team started by placing the service block at the rear end; in the process getting clear usable floor area sans obstructions. Then the team designed the lower part of the building, housing the boutique, with blank walls of concrete and copper, while the upper office floors were given strip windows. The terrace crowns the structure where bamboo makes a finale statement. This reflects in the elevation, which the architects describe as ‘pratibimba’.
Explaining the term, Snehal Shah tells us, “Today’s society worships superficiality and promotes mediocrity. So, with a degree of sarcasm and sincerity we decided to distort reality and give it strange proportions, gaudy colour schemes, meaningless orientations and so on.”
Upon stepping into the Essteam office, the most evident aspect grabbing our attention is the clear division between the public spaces laid out on the lower floor and the restricted upper floors where the design studios are set up. This apparent separation of zones was in direct response to a common complaint voiced by the staff, ‘when clients come, there is too much distraction and interruption.’
As we move inside, the term ‘Charitra’ becomes self explanatory. ‘Honesty in material as well as spirit’ an Essteam motto is clearly visible in the layout, material choice and textural qualities. Their mission scripted on the wall is the welcoming note at the threshold of the space, mostly dominated by the light brown shades of the partition which bestows a warm and welcoming appeal. Giving the office exclusivity are quirky details – a manifestation of innumerable ideas that impart the ‘vismaya’ factor, or as the team describes it: ‘an assimilation of elements of surprise and admiration’.
Browsing around, another quality that comes to the fore is the sustainability factor. Pretty early on, the team decided to make Samnvaya ‘a zero-wastage building’. They elaborate further, “This meant that any waste generated during the construction had to be consumed in doing up the interiors of our office. This was a real challenge and it pushed us to the limit to bring out the best in us.”
The biggest wastage, the shuttering material was reused to create peripheral storage bands, while pinewood strips donned the role of partition walls. Empty tin containers became personal mailboxes after a dash of paint. Even the stone waste was reused as peripheral seating on the terrace and in the toilets.
A fallen palm tree was used to make a dining table and chairs on the terrace which clearly is the epitome of ‘zero-waste’. Bamboos that formed the scaffolding were cleaned and tied together to becoming the parapet crowning the structure and performing the dual duty of a privacy screen and shading device.
The Essteam office is much like the Matryoshka or Russian nesting doll, opening more dramatic elements each time one looks at it. The space is not a random adaptation of design, but a well articulated detailed plan that catered to all facets of structure. Architect Snehal Shah and his team at Essteam have indelibly presented their own space in a language that clearly spells out their ‘mantra’ and approach to architecture.
Text By K Parvathy Menon
Photographs Courtesy Pooja Kedia, courtesy EssTeam and Urban Initiatives