Studio Course’s latest design for an office space applies the philosophy of building lasting spaces that are functional and minimal yet beautiful. The architecture firm has created an understated design that relies on its materials and layout rather than on disrupting embellishments.
In designing the office space for Monish Jain of MJ & Partners, Pune, Studio Course adopted the mantra, ‘it has just what it should have’, with an unwavering confidence. This essentialist approach stems from an acknowledgement that the rules of the game can be simple; the objective here was not to impress but to stay loyal to the intent of the building.
Kalpak Shah, the principal architect of Studio Course, says, “The client approached us by looking at our work in a magazine. They liked the contemporary design and use of wood in our other project.” The brief was uncomplicated – a sophisticated design with plenty of storage space for books and folders. The rest was open to experimentation.
As the building was a typical RCC structure with beams and columns, the design team had a challenge in hand to up the aesthetic.
“Our studio philosophy is to avoid false ceilings and use a natural palette. So, rather than concealing the RCC columns, we decided to flaunt them,” explains Shah. He implemented this by painting the columns grey, which rendered a calm balance to the rest of the interiors which were dominated by wooden textures.
Shah refers to this approach of adding only as much as necessary as “Indian minimalism”. He explains, “We retained most of the existing structure, and just painted or textured them differently. We also kept the space functional, ensuring that the warmth of Indian architecture in buildings continues to exist even as we remodel.” The design team also increased the size of the windows and exploited natural lighting and cross ventilation to create an airy set-up at a lower budget.
Another challenge for Studio Course was the restricted footage area. The 1000 sq ft space was originally a residence with many smaller rooms that had to be redesigned into workspaces.
All of this had to be done without making the office look cluttered and hence, the layout is devised in a straightforward fashion – the entrance leads to a cosy reception, flanked by a conference room on one side and cabins on the other.
Further down to the left is the primary cabin with a work desk, chairs and an additional comfy couch for a relaxing break. To the right is the work spaces that seat the law firm’s employees.
“While the open work spaces are fan-shaped, the conference rooms and cabins have been outlined using glass partitions bordered with black aluminium. These partitions not only help block the noise outside, but also add to the visual connect between areas,” says Shah.
Creating better visual transparency was a key objective for the design team. To achieve this, they decided to break down the many walls running between the rooms. The idea was to allow employees to see each other from their work spaces, establishing a natural sense of camaraderie.
To reduce crowding on the eyes, the colour and material palette has been restricted to just a couple of choices. Muted shades of grey, white and black accompany the rich browns of the veneer furniture and the natural stone surfaces of the floor. “No gloss in any of our works,” emphasises Shah.
“We even kept the accessories minimal, added them only in the few spaces that were available to decorate such as the painting and vase in the reception. My favourite is the brass lamp centred on the conference table,” he adds.
The chamfered language of the furniture, too, is in line with the minimalist strategy of the space. Sloped edges along the work spaces and cabin desks permit ease of movement though the floor. The conference room table tapering inside, while making a design statement, facilitates a comfortable seating posture.
An interesting requirement from the client was to have a mix of closed and open storage spaces – closed for the files and folders often arranged haphazardly and open shelves for the voluminous law books. “This was a challenge because we wanted to come up with something that addresses the requirement, yet is not too heavy on the eyes,” admits Shah. Eventually, the shelves’ sleek form turned out as one of the key attractive points of the cabin.
A law firm is meant to be a symbol of erudition. With its non-extravagant approach, Studio Course achieved this, by conceiving an office space that exudes confidence and trust, a space that becomes a platform for forging business relationships with a straightforward, no nonsense approach.
Text By Ramya Srinivasan
Photographs Courtesy Hemant Patil