Excerpt: Project Array, designed by 1405 Design Studio, is an ever-growing, innovative, open layout space responding to their assorted working styles and design sensibilities. The space needed to be both extremely functional, user-oriented as well as design intrinsic representing the brand and its various facets. A Space that has a very subconscious connects between the seller, the designer and the craftsman. This interpretation became a guideline: a highly personalized unit with individually defined and controlled space.
[Text as submitted by Architect]
The Brief of the project:
Project Array needed to be an ever-growing, innovative, open layout space. The workspace had to house about 85 people from different teams of the digital end of a high-end jewellery brand: Caratlane; technical, IT, marketing as well design. Our challenge was to respond to their assorted working styles and design sensibilities. As the team structure was malleable, the space needed to be as adaptive as possible to cater to future requirements. Evaluating the spatial proportions, it was quite clear that a false ceiling (the easiest tool to cater to the services in a commercial space) was completely out of the question & to add to that, being an office that is open for 24 hrs, we were also tasked with drastically reducing the day-to-day running cost; especially the electricity bill.
The site, a newly constructed commercial building offered a single floor plate of 4050 Sqft with standard post beam structure with randomly located columns, peripheral service block and a minimal clear height of 9’6”. With no flooring and no pre-planned services, this was an empty canvas waiting to be filled & we had exactly four months to do so: Design and Build.
The Design intent:
The space needed to be both extremely functional, user-oriented as well as design intrinsic representing the brand and its various facets. A Space that has a very subconscious connects between the seller, the designer and the craftsman.
We began with looking back at traditional jewellery making spaces. Where in each craftsman had his own workspace defined by the surface with the light concentrated on it, all arranged in cozy clusters of rows. We wanted our space to recreate the connection between the designer and the craftsman. This interpretation became a guideline: a highly personalized unit with individually defined and controlled space.
Anatomizing a typical commercial office set up, we took upon ourselves to really understand the users and design a space around them: curious about how they use their current workspace or rather how and what would they like their new workspace to offer.
This revealed a plethora of really interesting thoughts and requirements. Some longed for cozy corners (for quiet, distraction free work time or even some “me” time during a stress-day) while others wanted high tables (for posture correction). Others felt the need for settings allowing spontaneous one on one discussions (without one stealing another one’s chair), casual brainstorm zones and phone conversation booths. For those who doodled: writing boards on table tops, for table top plant lovers: shelves and ample amount of personal storage for all (for lunch dubbas, files, bags etc etc).
We began with creating a seamless layout: a combination of workstation rows, high counter seating, open discussion areas and informal huddle spaces: catering to assorted workspace requirements and varied personal working styles. Each of these was treated as sparse inserts surrounding the main workstations. The shell was kept seamless, treated as a monochrome canvas that concealed all the services in the floor and the walls.
For the workstations, we decided to break the typical down to customize our own individual modules that are holistic: a ‘plug & play’ system. Cueing from traditional jewellery making spaces, these workstations are arrayed into rows defining each ones own personal space; with personal lighting, working surface as well as storage.
Our modules house the communal working surfaces, open shelving, personal storage units, visitor benches and the task and ambient lighting: all in one single unit. In a well-structured, straight lined visual, the gently shaped ‘Canopies’ form the support framework of the modules. The ‘Canopies’ rise from the floor wherein two branches light up the working space, while the other two light up the circulation space. These branches are individually controlled and can be angled as per personal preference. While these repeat, each module functions individually and holistically clearly defining ones personal space and reducing the scarily high electricity bill. The module is composed of three materials: the framework with the light sculptures in black powder coated mild steel sections and rods, storage in natural finish finger-jointed rubber wood and working surfaces in a combination of natural rubber wood and white writing glass. The electricals concealed in the floor allow addition of these modules as per requirement, creating an ever-growing set up.
In the monochromatic shell, the ‘Canopies’ become an ‘arrayed’ insert creating a sculptural secondary envelope. They imbibe a subtle sense of enclosure and define lanes of circulation paths, without partitioning the space.
The story extends as the rows of ‘Canopies’ are interspersed with colorful patches of breakout zones. The site perimeter housed civil modulations creating niches that were filled up with our multi-level low Zen-like seating for those casual huddles & discussions & breaks. In an otherwise visually smart and sober space, these pops of color bring in a casual, quirky twist.
Further, the open cafe like pantry with multilevel seating displays a miniature form of our ‘Canopies’ carrying forward the casual multi-level seating concept. Monochrome sliding panels of writing glass and printed pin boards control the seeping in of the harsh natural light as and when required.
The material palette :
The material palette is kept minimal and visually restraint; a composition with grey, natural rubber wood and white with colour just sprinkled on top.
While the flooring and the ceiling is finished in charcoal grey carpet tiles and paint respectively, the other two surfaces of the shell adorn a quirky twist. Bold Monochromatic fabric prints interspersed with white writing glass form one periphery, while the crooked side takes on pops of colur in paint, fabrics in benches & cushions. The ‘arrayed inserts’ i.e. the workstation modules are composed of the three main materials: the framework with the light sculptures in black powder coated mild steel sections and rods, storage in natural finish finger-jointed rubber wood and working surfaces in a combination of natural finish finger-jointed rubber wood and white writing glass.
Our biggest challenge was the ceiling height of the site. Our entire approach to design of this space was to ensure that in whatever we do the existing ceiling height is not reduced. This led to smart planning of all the services including HVAC all along the periphery and ultimately the creation of the modules and the light sculptures that became the essence of the space. We also had an atypical task of drastically reducing the day-to-day running cost; especially the electricity bill. A challenge we responded to by creating the modular lighting system that is individually controlled.
This became a study of sustainability; how smart solutions can simplify and improve the day to day functioning of a typical office, a study of optimisation, how small interventions in product design can create a holistic solution to cater to all ergonomic and user requirements. This is a study of restraint, in design of elements, use of materials, time and cost, both during construction and after, a study of astute spatial design, where aesthetics is not an add-on but a by-product of logical decisions driven by purpose, context and function.