The Mumbai-based BRIC Design Group is an expert hand at realising projects that are smart amalgamations of minimalist interior design and green architecture, using the traditional Indian language of art and motif-making.
Mumbai-based BRIC Design was set up in 2006 by designer-architect, Brijesh Chinai. Since then, the firm has made its name by applying a highly intelligent mix of ‘contextual design’ and green architecture to its projects. “BRIC Design’s expertise in passive solar architecture/climactic architecture and its use of technologies and systems that are intelligent and responsive, ensure optimal access of wind and sunlight, as well as maximisation of energy performance, water resources and waste recycling,” according to the firm’s official statement.
The three following projects display the best of the firm’s talents, as well as its penchant in adding a uniquely global-Indian cultural touch to the most modern or historical of spaces.
India REIT (Piramal Office), Mumbai
BRIC Design has the right idea here. Too many offices in the world are stuffy, sterile, and anti-creativity. So when handed the project to design the work space of a “major fund house dealing in real estate” in Mumbai, the design team decided to buck all trends. In fact, the team hated the old ideas so much, that it ran in the opposite direction with the speed and enthusiasm of a kid heading to a Jungle Gym. BRIC Design refers to its work here as “corporate madness”, and it is indeed an apt description.
The Piramal Office is a hyper fluid space, with lines between formal and informal spaces dissolving into a melting pot of primary colours. The tone of the rooms is set by the slightly-psychedelic white, grey and black checkered flooring. It invites you to shed formality, while at the same time granting the office a more expansive feel.
It also brilliantly offsets the lacquer-sheen of the white ceiling and the workstation divisions. Adding to the madness are colourful furniture pieces, and a huge graphic wall that runs across a big chunk of the space reminding everyone not to forget to be fun.
The wall-length windows are covered in sheer white curtains and just a step away from this are panoramic views of Mumbai’s skyline, which can become a part of the décor itself. A more subdued part of the design scheme here is the dexterous use of solid, polished wood – whether in the library-cum-projection arcade or in the warmly-lit entrance conduit which projects the aura of serious business.
The lighting scheme includes simple ceiling fixtures and hanging lamps, but the overall reliance is on a diffused effect rather than spotlighting. This is especially on display at the work stations where the desk is overseen by giant fan-like, double screen flaps that soften the light from the overhead lamps. The BRIC Design team’s success here is having established that tenuous balance between fun and business, without tipping completely over to any one side.
Daseshwar Residential Project, Mumbai
If the Piramal Office established BRIC Design’s talent for fun, then the Daseshwar residential project presents evidence of the firm’s genius for depth. The home’s overall feel is classic BRIC – minimal, compact and elegant, but hiding multitudes in its less obvious details. The flat has been designed to hark back to the floral-print glory days of the London era, realised here with careful selections of antique and modern furniture pieces.
Almost everything in the flat suggests that it is happy to belong to an era gone by, because it was just too aesthetically pleasing to be left behind. The living room especially revels in the combined effects of the intricate POP ceiling, jaali accents, woollen Kashmiri carpets, plush sofas, robust wall frames showcasing Indian art forms and figures, chandeliers, and small tables with curvaceous stumps that bring to mind columns and prayer bells of ancient Indian monuments.
Then there is the formidable door, borrowing all the ebony gravitas of 10 Downing Street. The spaces in fact are all so delightfully nostalgic of a century gone by that the appearances of a flat-screen television or sleek modern bathroom fixtures seem almost jarringly anomalous. But it is to the credit of the design team that nothing of that cognitive dissonance really happens.
Greenwoods Restoration Project, Mahabaleshwar
“The guiding approach throughout the restoration process was to retain all the parts of the building which were in good condition and specify materials as close as possible to the original for the damaged ones. Local materials, artists and workers were employed to bring consistency and authenticity in detailing the architectural vocabulary of the place. The house has been restored to a level that it appreciates the same grand life style of the Maharajas.”
Greenwoods, as it stands today, is everything that an Indian hillside escape is imagined to be – the main texture and hue is earthy and wood-heavy; trees dot the landscape and colourful flowers seem to explode all around; the interiors of the homes have the heavy feel of being from somewhere in the, possibly British, past; and the promise of magical sunrise and sunsets is ever-present. This majestic sprawl became a private summer retreat in 2009, but being one of the early inhabitants of Mahabaleshwar, its architectural legacy is rooted in the aesthetics of pre-independence India.
The BRIC Design team decided to keep these aspects of the project alive, while adding a good dose of sustainable elements. “It was Mahabaleshwar‘s first high-profile restoration venture which included conservation of buildings and energy,” confirms the team. “It included restoration of the built mass, adaptive reuse of the underutilised structures and conservation of natural resources like water and energy.”
The dark wood interiors pay a handsome tribute to the site’s British history through lots of floral-motif upholstery, tasselled bed linen, and an abundance of cathedral-like arches that hold foldable doors and windows. The Marathas are paid homage through intricate craft pieces in the rooms. A great restoration project prepares an old structure for the vicissitudes of time to come, without compromising its past. With Greenwoods, BRIC Design did just that.
Text by Shruti Nambiar
Photographs Courtesy The Architect