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Small office, big ideas

Small office, big ideas
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First Published: Wed, Jul 22 2009. 10 03 PM IST

Updated: Wed, Jul 22 2009. 10 03 PM IST
If ever there was an office that proved that the pencil is mightier than the square foot, this is it. Orchard Advertising’s 2,000 sq. ft Chennai branch audaciously defies spatial limitations with a tightly integrated and low-cost interior fit-out using recycled materials.
The unconventional workstations are made from bicycle tyres, used table lamps and tubular steel frames.
The Bangalore-headquartered advertising agency, along with its older sibling, the Leo Burnett agency, is owned by Publicis, a €4.7 billion (Rs32,195 crore) global media and communications group. When it was seeking to set up an office in Chennai to serve clients in Tamil Nadu, Orchard appointed KSM Consultants to design and execute the office fit-out.
“The idea of reusing scrap materials and turning them into furniture as a theme for the office emerged during brainstorming between the agency and us,” explains Sriram Ganapathi, associate director, KSM. “The basic design premise was that an advertising agency deals
with fresh, innovative and radically different ideas that reach the psyche of the general consumer. We felt that our interior product should also inspire the end-user to try anything out of the ordinary by using simple and extremely available elements.”
Material significance
Newsprint decorates the pantry storage unit.
Drawing inspiration from the street, the architects assembled a motley collection of artefacts as a cost-saving measure and a strategic device. “Our approach was purely functional, with a brutally honest utilization of the materials used without covering up any aspect of details. Even though the clients didn’t have such a tight budget, once we started, we were on a roll and the clients were very supportive,” says Ganapathi.
Workstations are supported by bicycle wheels and tubular steel frames facilitate cable management. Meeting tables are constructed from used plumbing pipes and glass tops. Old table lamps have been fitted with CFL bulbs and linked to the steel framework to provide task lighting to the workstations. Internal partitions and doors consist of corrugated roofing metal sheets with hardwood stiffeners. A second-hand, mild-steel ladder lying unused at the site came in handy to support the bar counter. Newsprint decorates the pantry storage unit.
Maximizing space
The “industrial street circus” theme was extended upwards to make the most of the limited footprint. Modified street lamps connect walls and the 15ft-high ceiling. Exposed GI (galvanized iron) pipes serve as AC ducts. Coloured fabric, suspended from steel wires, criss-crosses the ceiling and further animates the volume of the space. Attention was also paid to the lower levels of the space—tube lights have been inserted into slit PVC pipes to use as skirting and light the lower levels of the walls. By ensuring that the ceiling design, workstation layout and lighting work hand-in-hand, the architects have overcome the lack of elbow room and enhanced the feeling of space.
Also See Exposed AC ducts and brightly painted vertical surfaces add to the ‘industrial street circus’ look
A canopy of coloured fabric and overarching streetlights energize and expand the space
Bean bags and pool tables complete the informal look of a creative space
A detailed, hand-drawn sketch depicts the holistic design approach, integrating ceiling, furniture and lighting
Client approval
With its bold colour palette and rugged, haphazard demeanour, Orchard’s design is an acquired taste, certainly not for the faint-hearted. “We are a fairly sober and sedate bunch of people in our personal lives and the office makes a statement to the contrary with its exuberance and jolly spirit, making us very happy to be there,” says Harish Krishnamurthy, deputy general manager and project director of Orchard’s Chennai branch.
“It makes a great impression on clients who walk in and are initially taken aback, but then have respect for its creativity and are comfortable with jhathak (bright) colours,” he laughs. “Without a doubt, it has had positive impact on business. Judging from the reactions we get, it is fresh and will last a few more years,” he adds.
Not bad for just Rs12 lakh and a large dose of ingenuity.
Rare clocks on display
A priceless collection of rare clocks is on display in Jerusalem at least 20 years after they were stolen from a museum. It was one of the most brazen thefts in Israel’s history. A burglar broke into the Mayer Museum for Islamic Art in a quiet section of Jerusalem in 1983 and emptied out the collection of 106 clocks and watches. In 2004, the thief apparently confessed to his wife on his deathbed and authorities then learnt of efforts to sell some of the pieces. That led them to the clocks and watches hidden in different places around the world. All but 10 of the timepieces have been restored to the museum. The collection was reopened to the public in its original location on 20 July.
Mosaiculture is the horticultural art of creating two- or three-dimensional sculptures using living plants. In the photo, a young girl waters a panda-shaped topiary in Tokyo, grown to promote the upcoming flower exhibition Hamamatsu International Mosaiculture 2009, which will be held in Hamamatsu city in the Shizuoka prefecture of Japan from 19 September.
Add substance to your walls
Transforming a bare wall can be daunting with a modest budget and limited DIY skills. But it may be easier than you think:
• Artist Lisa Congdon, co-owner of the Rare Device shop in San Francisco, turned her eclectic collection of plates into a display. Consider palette (Congdon used vibrant colours against a white wall) and scale (she varied sizes). She suggests sketching the pattern and laying it on the floor before putting nails in the wall.
• Many wallpaper designs could be considered artwork. Frame and hang them in a grouping. One frame style unifies the bunch.
• To create an inexpensive photo display, sandwich photos in a pleasing configuration between two sheets of Plexiglas.
• For renters, wall decals are low on commitment and cost.
• Paint stripes. With some tape and a ruler, you can create more visual interest than a solid hue.
©2009/The New York Times
Time for some tree plantation
The rains are here at last. It’s time to plant the saplings you have been meaning to. But the havoc each storm wreaks leaves you unsure of your choice of tree. Look around after a storm and you’ll realize some soft-wooded trees are more vulnerable. The Persian lilac or Junglee Neem (‘Melia azedarach’) is one. The first warning came from a Gurgaon farmer to whom I was giving away trees I had grown. He took the neem and jamun but would not touch the lilac. “It grows faster than the other two,” I said. But he knew better: “It’s not as sturdy and doesn’t last very long,” he countered. The gulmohar has been losing branches with virtually every storm. Those that seem to withstand stormy weather are the banyan, peepul, jamun and the regular neem.
Benita Sen
Photographs courtesy The Architects and Sharp Image
Write to us at businessoflife@livemint.com
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First Published: Wed, Jul 22 2009. 10 03 PM IST