The project is Openideas Architects (OIA) own office in Ahmedabad, a space that is a veritable showcase of the principals’ design ideologies and their interest in materials, crafts and product development.
The fact that it was to be a workspace of three architects (principals of the firm) was a double-edged sword: ideas were many, but the endeavor was to find restraint. Thus, the programme and the aesthetic direction was a culmination of myriad opinions and several thought directions that were sifted to create an interior environment that balanced creativity, pragmatism and sensitivity towards materials and craft. “Pragmatic space planning, innovative use of materials and form, sensitivity towards work environment – these are the features of this project. A high quality of finish product was the central aim,” elucidate the architects. In fact, openness — visually, philosophically and work wise — was the central idea while planning the space, in keeping with the firm’s ethos, which is built on openness (OpenIdeas).
The present property is actually a result of combining two adjacent units of an office tower floor plate. Spatial recalibration involved knocking down of a couple of walls and the redoing of the flooring. The existing form-finished concrete ceilings were retained as they fit in with the desired aesthetics.
The programme is articulated as three grids: the outer grid houses two cabins for partners and a conference room; the central grid accommodates the reception, foyer and wc/pantry; and the internal grid comprises the studio space. Aluminium, wood, glass, concrete and lime plaster form the staples of the material palette. The reception area, foyer, conference room and studio all these spaces are enclosed with glass partitions which make spaces fluid and transparent. The small work studio for partners and main cabin are enclosed with opaque partitions for privacy. The ceiling and floor of the office is primarily concrete, walls are dry wall cladded with aluminium.
The predominant cold grey feel is contrasted and balanced with bright colors woven into the experience by way of furniture and art. Walls are lime plastered and no chemical paint is used. The emphasis being on the use of natural materials. All workspaces are designed along the fenestration. While the studio is blessed with glare-free north light, strategically-positioned indoor artificial lights enhance the art filled in the office. The intent, say the architects, was to use nature materials in an innovative fashion.
While classic pieces, distinct in form and materiality — Eames’ molded plastic chair, Wagner Shell chair, Chair One gby Konstantin Grcic, produced for Magis — act as everyday inspiration, bespoke pieces were based on the idea of ‘motion’ and are a result of the principals’ preoccupation with detail and interest in product design. The various table designs are a good illustration of this penchant. The reception table “flow” is made up of solid wood with a smooth, undulating surface. The idea was to show motion and force in the geometry, a static material used in dynamic way. The discussion table in the studio is made from colored pigmented concrete — creating an artwork of sorts that imbues the coldness popularly associated with concrete with a certain warmth and playfulness. The molten glass coffee tables were made by melting imported colored glass with a clear one — to create delicate concentric patterns. On the other hand, the conference table is made up of a 2-mm copper sheet in its natural state, always in a state of transformation owing to the continued development of organic green patina.
The theme of movement is reinforced by the sliding panels in the studio which showcase projects both completed, ongoing and unbuilt, an inspiration for the team by constantly reminding them of the work fulfilled and to come. Dry aluminium wall panel was result of ingenuity, involving a tongue and groove interlocking sections rendered with the inexpensive aluminium sheet used to make expanded metal grills for Indian railways.
The OIA office is an example of workspace design that can be achieved by careful attention to detail, sensitivity to materials and design intent evaluated rationally.