AN OFFICE THAT IS PART COMMUNITY SPACE, PART HOME, PART WORKSPACE – THAT WAS THE BRIEF ARCHITECT ANSHUL Chodha was given when he was commissioned to design an office for July Systems, a mobile data services infrastructure provider in Bangalore. Dipti Kotian checks out this funky yet highly functional office
CONJURING up high-tech solutions for a world that demands precision is as creative as painting a masterpiece, crafting a sculpture or composing a timeless piece of music. For the promoters of July Systems, a mobile data services infrastructure provider, the décor at their workplace in Bangalore had to reflect the culture of freedom that typifies the New Generation IT company. The freedom to think, to be inspired and create. Not art, but in this case solutions that allow mobile operators to intelligently manage the complexities of the new wireless environment. And keep the wheels of connectivity turning!
Says Anshul Chodha of Sanctuary Architects, “The brief given to us was to create a world-class facility, which reflected the high-tech nature of the company and induced creativity and lateral thinking as well as a feeling of community, well being, equality and honesty among the people working here. Hence the challenge was to create a space that was rather like a community space, a little bit like a home and a little bit like a lounge bar but keeping in mind that it needed to be an office at the end of the day.” A tall order by any standards! But Chodha took this brief as a challenge and rose to the occasion magnificently.
The end result is an inviting yet modern space where every single element serves a practical function while simultaneously attaining that fine balance between the aesthetically pleasing and visually intriguing. The clean, straight lines are broken up with a curved, skewed wall in the reception area creating two main circulation axes in the office. A ‘floating’ false ceiling detached from the walls adjacent to it creates the illusion of being suspended in mid air. Many of the monochromatic feature walls in the office have been designed to integrate differently coloured lights within, making each of them large and unusual light fixtures in themselves.
Areas created within this expanse of minimalism defy the fixed and conventional nature of regular corporate workspaces. In keeping with the cutting edge technology idiom of their work-place, the design involved the integration of high-tech materials like LED lighting, stainless steel and new generation fabric like parachute, chennile and leatherite. Using materials like coloured laminated glass and large expanses of toughened glass, Anshul and his team created various layers of coloured and monochrome reflections that function as design accents that emphasise the many different shades of the surrounding light. Frosted acrylic serves to diffuse and evenly distribute the light behind.
The colour scheme for the shell of the office is predominantly white, though it has been offset by neutral shades of off-white and ivory. Reflective stainless steel and black painted planes too have been used to accentuate the clean and uncultered lines of the office. White was chosen for its calming influence on stressed-out techie minds. Vibrant shades of orange and yellow have also been used to stimulate feelings of warmth, energy and happiness.
The ‘Floatex’ carpeting integrates the wall, ceiling and floor of each space in a continuum of a single colour. (The LED lighting changes colour and can actually be set to harmonise with the colour palette of the space). The restrained and careful use of stainless steel on a selection of curved surfaces and on parts of the feature walls lends a mysterious, light-reflecting quality to the rooms and all their contents; a quality designed to engage the attention of the occupants.
Besides the aesthetic ambience, the brief to the design team made an important demand: the design of the workstations had to be of the highest ergonomic order. “This was the most critical part of the project. The workstations were custom designed after testing various prototypes of different configurations. Finally, we decided to go with the 1200 fish-bone pattern units, instead of the standard 900. Various heights and widths of the workstation were physically tested with a set of employees of different heights before determining the dimensions of the worktable. This is when we discovered that the employees would need the width on the side arms of the table to accommodate large 17” monitors,” says Anshul. Each workstation has a storage unit below and a display cum storage rack to enable the user to customize his or her space. The entire configuration of this central area is extremely ‘ user friendly’ and also breaks away from the unimaginatively ‘boxy’ nature that is found in regular workstation design.
Another interesting and industry specific requirement was the creation of a communal space, a stress buster that would integrate work and play in an informal manner. The ‘Chill Zone’ does just that with its plush carpeting and two distinctive seating areas-a grouping of low, lounge style seats and the other a bar counter with stools that look out on the busy Hosur Road below. It’s a place where small groups can hang out as they brainstorm or collaborate over a cup of coffee. Edgily designed to mimic the ‘cool’ of any lounge in the city, this 1,000 sqft enclosure has magazines and books, a pool table and gaming machines, all combining to give a feeling that they are really taking a break. The multifunctional and multipurpose zone takes the stress out of the grind.
The end result not only meets the company’s requirement but actively conveys the employer’s concern for the wellbeing of its most treasured asset-its people!