Colour Coded

With the design of the pragmatic and vibrant office of Project Go in Bengaluru, architect Elayaraja Mayavan and his team at MYVN Architecture prove that a transitional office space can be a design haven, on a tight budget at that.

Text: Carol Ferrao
Photographs: Sujan Suresh, courtesy MYVN Architecture

At the reception, the vibe is professional and serious owing to its dark and neutral palette. The floating marble-clad reception table over the black backdrop create a somber ambience that is in contrast with the rest of the office.

With the culture of start-ups comes a host of challenges and an invariable openness to innovation and fascinating design ideas. This mix of exhilaration and limitations gives design professionals opportunities to come up with refreshing, one-of-its-kind office designs for up-and-coming ventures. When GoProducts Engineering India LLP approached Elayaraja Mayavan, principal architect of MYVN Architecture, to design their 18,000-square-foot workspace in Bengaluru, an impressive synergy between a tech start-up and a design firm was forged. Not only was the budget modest and the timeframe short but the design also had to take into account the temporary nature of the space. Of course, these aren’t new challenges for an architectural firm, but how MYVN has tackled them without resorting to over-the-top aesthetics is truly remarkable.

For the Bengaluru-based practice, this was their second project with the client Project Go, which is a subsidiary of Go-Jek, an Indonesian technology start-up that specializes in ride-hailing, logistics and digital payments. The architect and his team had impressed the company with their capabilities having won a competition to design an office for Go-Jek’s technical team in India. “The brief was crisp — to craft a temporary workspace under a tight deadline of 45 days and within a stringent budget. Working with the client for the second time allowed a better approach towards their requirements,” recalls Elayaraja, who once again had to deliver a trendy but functional workspace in the same building.

The site was on the sixth floor of an existing building with remnants of the previous office dictating the flow and aesthetics of the space. On the periphery were cabins from the old office and services like washrooms. The bland, existing false ceiling left much to be desired. Elayaraja’s first impression of the space was that it was an “utter mess.” However, it was one he couldn’t completely overhaul given the budget. Breaking away from the bleak nature of the space, he began to identify strong, design features that would infuse the office with pulsating energy and an innovative streak.

It was crucial that the structure was subjected to minimal changes, hence the existing cabins and toilets had to be retained in their original location. “There were no major structural changes in the site due to the budget constraints. However, rework and repairs were done in the toilet services,” explains the architect. Since the false ceiling could not be replaced, exposing it was a more viable and pragmatic solution. As the design scheme began to take shape in Elayaraja’s mind, he knew right away that bright colours would be an inexpensive way to liven up the office.

An element of contrast was also introduced between the workspace and the spill-out zone through the informal low and cosy seating. The moveable partitions function as writing boards on both sides.

The requirements of the office were placed in a linear and peripheral manner across the fairly rectangular space, with a curved edge on one corner. When you enter, you find yourself in the extremely professional ambience of the enclosed reception area with its sedate palette of black and neutrals. It stands in contrast with the lively, youthful workspace inside, making it imperative to explore the interiors and understand its nuances. The predominant black comes from the floating, marble-clad reception table and the adjacent dark walls, with the Go-Jek logo enjoying a place of prominence in the composition. “The inclusion of the fluorescent acrylic panels (on the ceiling) adds another dimension to the space with its translucency and symmetrical rhythm. The black lacquered glass on the back accentuates the monochrome scheme and sophisticated design,” explains the architect.

When you step into the actual workspace, you are engulfed in a sea of white with bursts of colours demarcating certain spots. If the reception gives you a serious business vibe, the interior workspace exemplifies how the professional environment thrives on innovation and youthful energy. The entire central space is divided into four rows of workstations and one spill-out zone that is sandwiched between two rows. A dining cum casual workspace occupies one corner, alongside the conference room. On the periphery you will find the meeting rooms, which were created by retaining the existing west-facing cabins; and Coder Caves — niches designed with a combination of polished plywood and grey fabric to facilitate group or private discussions.

Towards the north, the curved edge of the floor plan has a glass facade that overlook the streets. “Telephone booths were introduced here so one can enjoy the view while working in seclusion,” says Elayaraja. These glass booths in grey tones offer the much needed respite from the open office culture — as employees can attend calls and work with no disturbance. Their compact nature makes them suitable for short term use, preventing misuse of space and time. If the employees are looking for a change in ambience, they can also work by the high workstations that have been paired with bar stools.

To avoid clutter, the workstations maintain an extremely pragmatic form with no divisions as seen in the conference table-style desk finished in white, writable laminates and supported by sleek X-shaped legs. “The power supply for the workstations has been taken from the ceiling to avoid the additional cost of reworking the flooring. The lighting has been customized with white painted plywood that reflects diffused light which is well suited for employees working on screens.

For added flexibility in the floor plan, the workstations are designed to be movable with detachable plugs on the ceiling. In between each row are writable, lacquered glass partitions, also in white, that bind the whole space together by enclosing and dividing the space. It acts as a skin for the workstations and provides privacy when needed. Besides allowing for greater flexibility in the spatial layout, these sliding white partitions balance the bright colour palette in between spaces.

The dining space, which leads to the dry pantry, doubles as an informal workspace where individuals can work, or a group can huddle around for quick discussions. The bar stools and meeting room chairs were sourced from Urban ladder and a vendor from Rajasthan, respectively.

Talking about the colours, Elayaraja shares, “Bearing in mind the fun and energetic working environment of the company, a vibrant palette of yellow and green was used. The Go-Jek green is dominant and has been paired with grey, black and wood.” Mostly painted on to the ceiling, pillars and occasionally on the sides, the bright colours stand out against the serene white workstations. It also helps mute down the clutter of service lines on the ceiling. Care has been taken to introduce the colours in a symmetrical, mirrored fashion. Thus, the linear workstations look like reflections of each other, but as if existing in a different dimension within the same plane (think a cheerful version of Netflix’s Stranger Things and its fantastical parallel universe theory).

Being a transitional space to be executed on a limited budget was no limitation for the MYVN team who managed to include fresh, off-best design features. The parabolic acrylic ceiling in the conference room is one such intervention. Crafted as an installation over the table, the fluorescent, translucent panels create a beautiful rhythm of curves on the ceiling without overpowering the space. The minimalist, stark-white conference room benefits immensely from it, with daylight as well as overhead lights adding new dimensions to its sculptural composition.

Since the design brief stressed on the temporary nature of the space, every decision had to be prudent and serve a multitude of purposes. “The company has plans for expansion in the near future, hence, this office space was designed to accommodate its employees for the time being. The workstations are movable and can be used in a bigger space as well,” specifies Elayaraja. By rerouting services via the ceiling, opting for modular, sleek furniture and minimum structural additions, MYVN ensured that there was no room for wastefulness, just clever manipulation of function and aesthetics, without sacrificing one or the other.

To design a temporary workspace within 45 days on a stringent budget that nevertheless resonates with the company’s burgeoning tech culture. Using bright colours and by implementing the network of services on the exposed ceiling, the design focuses on flexibility and pragmatism, while shaping an energized office space.

Entrance facade: Glass and wood
Ceiling: Acrylic
Floor: Carpet and tiles
Display Units: Plywood
Walls: Paint
Partitions: Lacquered glass

Project: Project Go
Client: GoProducts Engineering India LLP
Location: Diamond District, Domlur, Bengaluru
Area: 18,000 sq ft
Principal architect: Elayaraja Mayavan
Design team: Guruprakash Govindaswamy, Shandeep Suresh, Vartika Jangid, Thoufeeq Ahmed
Electrician: Achu P Enterprises
Interiors Contractor: Espania