Building a beehive

Building a beehive
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First Published: Wed, Nov 11 2009. 09 27 PM IST

The men’s restroom has a pink colour scheme.
The men’s restroom has a pink colour scheme.
Updated: Wed, Nov 11 2009. 09 27 PM IST
When you enter the VivaKi office, a holding company that brings together digital and media services, you know it’s a space where ideas are given form and converted into design and products. It’s housed on the ground floor of a three-floor commercial complex in Mumbai’s Kanjurmarg area, and ideas come at you from every direction the minute you enter—starting with the rusted wall at the entrance. Rust, to VivaKi, represents inclusiveness and openness to change, and that’s how they would like to describe the organization—a workspace that is all about change and new ideas.
A colony of nine
The men’s restroom has a pink colour scheme.
The space is deep and wide, so much so that as you walk in from the common atrium of the complex into VivaKi’s reception area, it is impossible to see the far end of the office. The organization heads at VivaKi decided to give the workspace a common name, The Hive, for an integrated identity.
The reception area opens to a large, common recreation space, next to which is the main conference area called Hive Central, with four conference rooms collectively called Hive Express. The rest of the space is divided into mini offices for nine companies, which provide services such as media planning, media buying and rural marketing, all under the VivaKi umbrella.
Kaushik Chakravorty, country head, Enhance (the retail branding wing of VivaKi), asks us to imagine a beehive. “Many times a single client hires all the services that we provide. So we are separate parts working towards a single goal,” he says. And that is what they wanted reflected in this workspace—many parts coming together as a whole.
The bee motif recurs in the artwork across the office.
Hive Central epitomizes VivaKi’s love for the “next big ideas”. Giving an appropriate theme to that space was important, so a contest was held among employees to suggest a design. The winning entry: the conference rooms painted like a train, with the area around them designed like a railway station, complete with a large wall clock and station bell. “The railway station signifies the spirit of Mumbai and is inspired from Bombay Central. It went well with Hive Central, which is a place for everyone in office to come together,” says Chakravorty.
A 120ft-long bright orange shelf divides the office into two parts and serves as a library wall. “We elevated the library to give another viewpoint to a space that’s flat,” says Sanjeev Punjabi of Spasm Design, who designed the space with his partner, Sangeeta Merchant.
On either side of this wall are the individual work areas of the nine companies. “Since there are different allied offices that need to be housed within one space, they wanted us to make sure that they all retain their individuality even while blending into a single working group,” says Punjabi. So every company space has its own colour scheme and graffiti.
Humming with character
The graphic behind the reception area introduces the concept of The Hive.
The Hive is bright and colourful because the heads at VivaKi wanted it to be a happy place for the employees to work in. “On opening day nobody thought it looks like an office,” says Punjabi. The brief given to Spasm Design was to make the space look young and quirky.
For Punjabi and Merchant, who had worked mostly on residential projects, this was their first experience of designing a big office, and they were given a free hand. “We wanted to challenge all norms and came up with all kinds of ideas. And the company heads were receptive,” says Punjabi.
In a major departure from the norm, they decided to “almost showcase” the restrooms. These are located centrally, right next to the conference area, instead of being tucked away in a far corner. Given the drainage system provided by the builder, they didn’t have the option of moving the restrooms elsewhere. The central space was also the logical location for Hive Central.
Hive Central is designed to look like a railway station, with four conference rooms collectively called the Hive Express; each room, or bogey, is numbered—H 1-4. The recreational area faces the Hive Express.
So, instead of choosing to disguise the proximity of the restrooms to the main conference area, Spasm made a feature of this handicap. The restrooms are just 5ft from Hive Express. Both areas have glass walls. So the restroom washbasins are visible from the conference rooms. “They wanted a transparent working environment and we took it to another level,” laughs Punjabi. Of course, the conference rooms do have blinds which can be drawn to block the view of the restrooms.
Another quirk is a gender bender in the restrooms: The men’s room has a pink colour scheme and the women’s, blue. The walls are cheerful, with graffiti by students of the Sir JJ Institute of Applied Art, Mumbai, who were also asked to come up with concepts for five other walls, as well as the cafeteria. Bees popped up naturally as a theme to signify The Hive.
Multifunctional space
The cafeteria walls are covered with graffiti designed by students of the Sir JJ Institute of Applied Art, Mumbai.
For recreation, there’s the “dancing platform” in the open space next to Hive Central. Before you start imagining a private discotheque-like scenario, Punjabi clarifies that this is their own terminology for a moving mezzanine. “We called it dancing platform because it is movable space,” he says.
The recreation space has been made multifunctional with hydraulic jacks that simply move the platform, normally set with a pool table and beanbags, up to the ceiling when a meeting is to be held. The floor below is lined with chairs that are otherwise tucked away in cupboards, and a screen is pulled down for videoconferences. “If this function can be used to move cars up and down in parking lots, then we thought we could do this here as a space-saving measure,” says Punjabi.
The individual company offices have an open plan, with workstations and glass cabins for the management. Access to each office is controlled by access cards and not everyone can enter every company office space. “We made the space, but the way these guys grew into it is even more interesting. They personalized it by giving it a name and their ideas like Hive Central took it to another level,” says Punjabi.
FACT FILE
Location: Akruti Corporate Park, Kanjurmarg, Mumbai
Area: 33,900 sq. ft
Cost: Rs1,900 per sq. ft, all inclusive
Duration (and date): Four months to design; the office was ready in December
Principal architects: Sanjeev Punjabi and Sangeeta Merchant, Spasm Design
Client: VivaKi, Publicis Groupe
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©2009/THE NEW YORK TIMES
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©2009/THE NEW YORK TIMES
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First Published: Wed, Nov 11 2009. 09 27 PM IST
More Topics: Homes | Interiors | VivaKi | Workspace | Design |