One of the most assured implications of an economic slowdown for interior design is that creativity is challenged. Budget cuts and a “no-frills” approach need not, however, result in soulless, monotonous spaces. In a previous Workscapes column, we examined ways in which common site constraints could be tackled by imaginative space planning. Today we would like to highlight how an inventive outlook can transform the most mundane architectural elements into the talking points of an office.
Chairing the debate
Seating as a design element has yet to capture the imagination of interior designers and furniture manufacturers in India. Chairs are often the last item on the agenda for an office. However, varied seating to suit different workspaces—from receptions to meeting rooms—can visually alter office landscape and provide aesthetic appeal. Anil Salian and Associates applied this approach to Atos Origin’s 50,000 sq. ft Mumbai office. An ordinary meeting room in this software company turns into an elegant drawing room by simply placing reclining cane chairs in the centre.
Lighting up the sky
Ceilings and lighting are closely connected in their design and form, and are unfortunately often the most neglected parts of office design. Ceilings can be constructed to reflect different zones of lighting, or be straightforward plastered panels. Nitin Killawala and Associates used geometry to alter a 30,140 sq. ft space dramatically for information technology company AIT Infosys in Mumbai. Given a rectangular site with a grid of beams after every 3.5m, the architects decided to intersperse ceiling panels of different heights, placing workstations to match the ceiling plan. Each desk is thus lit by a pocket of direct light, enhancing user comfort in a visually arresting way.
Also Read Workscapes earlier columns
Some of the most expensive elements in an office are the best hidden. Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) must be well planned to ensure comfort for employees and efficiency for the organization. Design can thrive among ducts and vents too, as demonstrated by Edifice Architects for telecom provider Vodafone’s 89,000 sq. ft corporate office and call centre in Mumbai.
Asked to convert a former textile loom shed into a modern office, the architects used the existing architectural features of the mill to their advantage. As conventional suspended AC ducts would detract from the expansive volume of the space, underground AC ducting was suggested as an innovative alternative. Existing basement ducting, earlier used to suck wool out of the loom shed, was converted into AC ducts. Vertical AC shafts, rising to 9ft and diffusing cool air from the upper end, were positioned directly over the ducts. The solution created a comfortable work environment without increasing energy costs, an excellent example of seamlessly integrating services into office design.
Photographs courtesy the architects