Creative carte blanche
This courtyard has a mural depicting a French-style cafe, and replicates the French touch in the furniture and cobblestone-look flooring.
Architect Mihir Thaker explains the design logic. “Having known Ogilvy since 1991, I knew they needed something that reflected their creative status and nurtured their creative spirit—something very different from a typical office. I thus suggested the ‘garden office’—a non-office with an organic, free-form layout, not linear workstations,” he says.
Piyush Pandey, executive chairman of Ogilvy (India and South Asia), endorses Thaker’s approach. “Mihir understands the personality of the company and its leadership—we are a down-to-earth company and we want our office to be a celebration of creativity.”
Nita Joshi, a former advertising professional-turned-artist, styled the office and conceptualized its alternative look. Her understanding of the agency’s culture and senior management values (she is married to Pandey) led her to conclude that the agency was a surrogate home for its employees. “The long hours that people put in at Ogilvy lead to a certain kind of bonding, and a feeling of being one big family. People need to feel relaxed, and have space to chill out in the office,” she says.
A courtyard lined with old-fashioned street lamps leads further into the office from this circular pod of workstations.
Also See Many metaphors: The Ogilvy office (PDF)
This desire for a comfortable, domestic and earthy work environment was articulated by the architects as “rustic elegance”. But bringing the outdoors indoors was a challenge—the sprawling 95,000 sq. ft office occupies four individual floors in a high-rise glass box, with central air conditioning and sealed windows. Undaunted, Joshi and Thaker applied their theme to three distinct areas—the corporate floor and private cabins, public and circulation spaces, and the work areas of the 900-strong office.
Teams are seated in circular pods, zigzag workstations or cubicles with ample room for interaction, encouraging collaboration. Each floor has a lounge and a “courtyard”—public spaces open to all, for spontaneous discussions over coffee, or even a late night nap. Real stone and brick couldn’t be used so wooden-looking laminates, ceramic tiles and vinyl flooring have been used to create the feel of a retreat.
The planning head’s office has an ethnic theme.
A slew of mixed metaphors seems to have inspired Joshi. The courtyards resemble medieval European villages, with a terrace garden, open-air café and street lights. Lounges have tropical furnishings, wrought iron benches, charpoys and milk cans. The reception is a log cabin, and clients are received in the Cigar Lounge, which has an English country pub atmosphere.
The corporate enclave was custom-designed to reflect the individual personalities of its occupants, such as a log table for chief Piyush Pandey and a patio-style baithak (seating area) for planning head Madhukar Sabnavis. The result can be disorienting or charming for the first-time visitor, depending on aesthetic predilections.
Piyush Pandey’s office includes a sculptural log table and benches.
Oddly, for a firm with significant international presence, the emphasis on ethnicity sometimes excludes those on one side of the cultural barrier.
Although Joshi felt “rusticity has no boundaries”, the metaphor does lend itself better to the design of private offices rather than open workspaces. In the latter, decorative elements seem to have overwhelmed utilitarian concerns such as lighting and surface materials—for example, light filtered unevenly through bamboo chicks lining the large windows, hampering critical desktop work. Conventional Venetian blinds are now being considered.
Big move, new view
The design of the office is not Ogilvy’s only departure from the norm. The office is located in Goregaon, in a new business park that towers over the verdant Aarey Milk Colony—both physically and psychologically removed from Mumbai’s business districts and cultural hubs.
Charpoys and tabletops mounted on milk cans furnish this meeting space-cum-lounge area.
“We wanted everyone to be under one roof and needed the space,” rationalizes Pandey. “Seventy-five per cent of us live on this side of the city, so the mindset needed to change only for some of us, not for all of us.” However, weak transport links to Goregaon required the company to provide contract buses from key suburbs to the office.
Robot fish developed by British scientists are to be released into the sea off north Spain to detect pollution. If next year’s trial of the first five robotic fish in the port of Gijon is successful, the team hopes these will be used in rivers, lakes and seas across the world. The carp-shaped robots, costing £20,000 (around Rs14.9 lakh) a piece, mimic the movement of real fish and are equipped with chemical sensors to sniff out potentially hazardous pollutants, such as leaks from vessels or underwater pipelines. They will transmit the information back to shore using Wi-Fi technology. The robot fish will be 1.5m long: roughly the size of a seal.
Doctors rely on CT scanners for images of body parts. But an artist-turned-medical-student in Manhattan is using one to peer into cultural icons such as the Big Mac, Barbie and the iPhone, creating whimsical and occasionally creepy art. Satre Stuelke, 44, formerly an art professor at the School of Visual Arts, New York, is now a third-year student at Weill Cornell Medical College. Since 2007, he has scanned dozens of objects. The results include a Barbie with articulated white leg bones and this translucent wind-up bunny whose internal mechanisms are disturbingly reminiscent of a bomb. Stuelke’s work is on display at www.radiologyart.com.
©2009/THE NEW YORK TIMES
Generating energy and recycled water at home is closer to reality, thanks to a newly developed process that turns household waste such as food scraps into power and H2O. A team at Australia’s Queensland University, led by Simon Tannock, has designed a treatment plant to digest household waste and waste water under anaerobic conditions to produce methane and non-potable recycled water. “The recycled water... is expected to be Class A+ standard, so it will be safe to use around the home for toilet-flushing or in irrigation systems. The methane is a clean, renewable energy source,” Tannock says.
Your old college desk and a kitchen table chair won’t do for a home office, interior designers say. Some design tips:
• Choose colours to foster energy, such as yellow.
• This can be a good place to take decorating risks. Frame and hang up old diplomas, put up large prints of loved ones.
Designer Wynn Waggoner (Boulder, Colorado) uses feng shui techniques for clients’ home offices.
• Float the desk in the middle of the room for better energy.
• When money is tight, be creative. Instead of buying a file cabinet, take a crate, paint it and put bars in it to stack files.
• Don’t be afraid to mix styles or colours. Grandma’s antique desk is just fine next to the right contemporary chair. Just don’t scrimp on the chair, say design experts.
©2009/THE NEW YORK TIMES
Photographs courtesy O&M
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