In Mulund, Mumbai is located the charming and compact 1200 sq ft design studio of Icon Projects. In spite of its modest size, this office exudes an air of vibrancy and freedom that stands for the work ethos of this firm and its employees.
Designing a commercial office space is no longer a vanilla activity of repeating things that you have done before. Today, brands want their office spaces to reflect their values and culture. They want their employees to be excited to come to work, and they want the space to encourage imagination. For Icon Projects, designing their own office was a special opportunity to articulate their identity.
When Amit Porwal, the principal architect of Icon Projects, bought this property for his office, he was excited as it mirrored his imagination to the T. The earmarked space was on the third floor, which was also the topmost in the building, with an attached terrace and a double-height ceiling. With no beams running through the space, it provided a clear uninterrupted space to plan.
The prime element of the office is the lawns spread out in the adjoining terrace. Porwal explains, “We were keen to have an open space attached to the office, something that is very rare in Mumbai. Being in a creative field, this is important to us. It provides a sense of serenity to the team.” The terrace has evolved into a getaway for the employees to catch a coffee break or to even celebrate birthdays. It also takes centre stage when visitors come over to the office.
Another important feature of this design is the smart utilisation of available space. Porwal decided to add a mezzanine floor exploiting the 12 feet 6 in ceiling height. While the lower level has a reception, meeting room, principal designer’s cabin, the work areas and a huddle space, the mezzanine has an executive cabin, the finance team area and a multi-functional modular room that doubles up as a conference room and a training station.
Despite packing in two levels, there is no feeling of clutter. “I didn’t want the office to look very dense by over-utilising the space. We didn’t want a cramped look,” says Porwal. Resisting the common urge to add more workstations, he has managed to keep the seating capacity in the office down to just 24.
There are other interesting techniques employed that complement the spacious appearance. Watch out for the glass bridge that connects the two segments in the mezzanine! Not only does it lend a futuristic look but it also serves as a seamless link between the two floors. “We didn’t want the team sitting at the mezzanine floor to feel left out. So we ensured that there is a visual connect between the two levels. In this office, people can see each other from any corner,” explains Porwal.
The glass bridge also has another beautiful purpose to it. It allows smooth transmission of light right from the reception area on the ground floor to the farthest point in the mezzanine. Sitting at the topmost floor with an adjoining terrace, the office enjoys profuse sunlight, especially from the north and west. “Except for the reception, we have minimal artificial lighting throughout the office. During meetings, we open up the blinds to allow natural light to come in,” says Porwal.
In a creative environment such as this, the colour scheme is as important as having open spaces and abundant light. Bright orange representing the Icon Projects’ logo and green, a personal favourite of the principal architect, infuse a youthful and artistic vibe to the place. The effervescent chairs, a conscious attempt by Porwal to give a skip to the usual black and grey, are hard to miss. White cubicles and grey flooring balance these bright shades, and along with the textural mix of glass and wood, there is an innate fluidity in the office layout.
For the wall décor, Porwal opted for a lively piece rather than a static element. The sculptural piece with the tagline ‘Evolving Beyond Excellence’ is all about the sense of liberation. “We wanted it to communicate that you’re here to enjoy your work, your creation and professional journey,” shares Porwal. In addition, there are two interesting wall panels – one at the reception signifying the victory of attitude over altitude, and the other, a ‘hand’ symbolising the coming together of people to create something innovative.
Designing a residence is considered to be successful if it blends with the personality of the individual or the family that it plays host to. For an office design though, its win is in providing its employees a space that stimulates them to be productive and original; a space that almost feels like home; a space that has an unmistakeable positive energy to it. Here, at Icon Projects, all of its design elements come together to create a net energy positive space.
Text By Ramya Shrinivasan
photographs Courtesy Ravi Kanade