An office for a dating app is bound to have few precedents in terms of design. With little to fall back on in terms of visual references, the young team at Studio Wood Office has let their creativity flow and enjoyed the experience of being able to venture into hitherto uncharted waters, in their design for this office in Delhi.
Who would have imagined just a few decades ago, that it would be possible to create a dating app? Technology has changed the world. Trite though it might seem, businesses that no one imagined would ever exist, have actually flowered. Taking advantage of the fact that there are few preconceived notions of what such an office should look like, Vrinda Mathur, Navya Agarwal and Sahej Bhatia of Studio Wood Office have designed this space measuring 464.5 sq mts in Delhi, for Sachin Bhatia of Truly Madly Offi-Café.
In the 1977 Hollywood film ‘Oh God!’ George Burns, who essayed the title role, is known to have said that he could take liberties with his interpretation of what God should be like, because no one has ever seen God. Carrying forward the analogy, what should the office of a dating app look like? The lack of rules may sound like design heaven to some. But of course there was a brief. A young, whimsical, fun one, which the threesome at Studio Wood gleefully interpreted.
Aiding and abetting the Disneyworld fairy-tale sensibility of the design, was the fact that there was no hierarchy in the organisation. An informal, fluid space was desired without the need for secluded meeting rooms or designated areas beyond which the staff may not venture.
The office consists of a basement and a ground level which is spread over two separate buildings which are interconnected. Says Vrinda: “Sachin was completely open to cheesy imagery, to carry forward his avowed theme of ‘love’. In fact, his brief included the idea that you can find love almost anywhere and he gave us complete freedom to experiment with this notion.” So unleashing their imaginations, the threesome created a “Romeo and Juliet” wall complete with a ladder, a red heart elsewhere and yes…even pink furniture! “That was certainly a first for us,” says Navya.
The staircase connecting the basement to the ground floor has a sunny yellow railing, with an oversized arrow on the wall pointing to the cafeteria with a signage saying ‘Eat’.
Recreating the atmosphere of how everyday couples spend time together, the café has a green patch denoting a lawn, on which there are floor cushions. Other seating is a combination of a running ledge, a standard dining table-like arrangement and high bar stools. The lights are in metal with the three different designs belonging to the same collection. Two columns are clad in silicon, displaying yellow utensils.
Three conference rooms double as breakout areas, for when the staff is tired of the work desk. A sliding door is designed such that one room is always open. Tongue in cheek graffiti on the walls carries on to the rest rooms, with an inscription proclaiming ‘Take a seat’ for the ladies and ‘Take a stand’ for the men. Adhering to colour norms, the ceilings are pink and blue in the respective rest rooms.
“A ‘street’ runs through the spaces, which include work areas, the conference rooms and the breakout area, which is the café,” says Navya. “There are lamp posts, cycles, hearts and letter boxes, all recalling romance or love letters. Frames which resemble the Polaroid prints from yesteryears adorn the walls. We also used chipboard, a strong element which defines the aesthetics in a new manner. There is some concrete too and the table bases are made of metal.”
Grids for partitions have been enhanced with planters, recreating an outdoorsy feel in the basement level, which is usually bereft of natural light or a view.
Adds Sahej: “The chipboard which Navya mentioned is made out of packaging material, hence it is sustainable. We’ve also experimented with various other materials, so there’s brick bonding for the bar, where the bricks are set at an angle, to create a pattern which casts interesting shadows. We try to do something different with commonplace materials.”
In the work space, the MDF ceiling ‘grows’ from one column and branches out. Simulating a tree, the abstract representation recalls the outdoors. A mezzanine has been created, putting the 13 ft height of the space to good use. “We dug two steps down from the admin area to achieve this. The library thus created on the mezzanine is accessed by a ladder,” says Sahej.
It helped that the demographic of the employees was quite young. “We’re a start-up and didn’t have too much money, so I’m happy that Studio Wood has really cut down on our costs, to the extent that there is paint on the floor instead of tiles and two long work benches without drawers. They’ve even reduced our energy costs and minimised the use of glass,” says Sachin.
“Our young team of 40 people – their average age is about 27 years – wasn’t allowed to see the site when the work was in progress…it was to be a surprise.” When they finally did see it, their reaction simply was, “This is awesome!”
Text By Devyani Jayakar
Photographs By Arvind Hoon