There are some buildings which are timeless, and some which continue to live across time through multiple uses and after-lives. In designing the interior and space for the corporate offices of Alembic Real Estate, Vadodara, The Crossboundaries took an opportunity to givethe interiors of a 55 year old large industrial building its second life. The site for the Alembic Real Estate office is set in the vast 200 acre Alembic Group campus which is being redeveloped and upgraded as a walkable and sustainable mixed use development called Alembic City.Here, a defunct distillery is now revived as an impressive art gallery, and deserted quadrangles come alive to evenings of music and public life.

Project Name: Alembic Real Estate Office
Studio Name: The Crossboundaries
Size: 77 Sq. ft.
Location: Vadodara, Gujarat, India
Photography: Ashish Chakroborty

©Ashish Chakroborty

A range of other interventions to bring forth tasteful art and music event spaces, a skate park and F&B experiences around various industrial and factory spaces of the campus are parallelly planned and moving forward in the Art District. Massive facilities of boilers, sheds, storages, distillation plants that once processed pharmaceuticals and chemical material now become potential spaces to hold an alchemyof public interventions. With this background and a glorious history as a leading industry and multi-generation company, the clients, Alembic Group, sought a sensitive approach along with a progressive outlook for the Real Estate office headquarters.

In dealing with the delicate context and rich legacy of the site set in the century-old industrial campus simultaneously undergoing adaptive reuse program, the designers at The Crossboundaries took balanced steps. Between keeping intact the integrity of a historic space, and striving for impeccable excellence in workspace design; and from working with a bare, blank canvas of industrial proportions to ensuring minimum damage to its skin, the design needed to bridge many gaps and cross many boundaries. Essentially a large voluminous space, with 12 foot high ceilings, and a grid of massive concrete columns with tapered caps, thesite offers itself along with its historic character.

For an office space to be shared and jointly occupied by two diverse businesses with a total of over 115 employees, the designers have developed a clean and efficient ambience. The overall color scheme is a range of muted greys,blues and blacks as an ode to corporate efficiency ,yet sometimes tempered with the occasional warmth of a brick wall and natural greens. The 10,000sq.ft office is largely linear, with the open office floor flanked by the main specialized meeting, conference and private cabin rooms. Around and adjacent to these, accessory functions such as informal seating, conversation booths and leisure spaces are arranged, interspersed with generous greens.

In a largely linear and orthogonal layout, the entrance foyer and office reception is a skewed and oblique protrusion that creates a first striking experience. Generating sudden drama with a cantilevered reception desk that appears to be in suspended motion, this space immediately demands attention with its proportions and scale.The oblong,feet long floating sheath around the reception desk is cast in matt grey, with the company name lettered on black. Setting the tone for the color and material palettes through the office, a system of neat, sleek MS partitions with a solid jet black metal door, ushers the visitor in.Throughout these initial spaces, walls are dressed in a muted silver-grey stucco, and a metal grid ceiling in black floats neatly overhead.

An element of absolute wonder in an otherwise formal and astute space is the massive elliptical sculptural ceiling light fixture! This 30 foot large customized element, the black ellipsoid light encompasses a corner which holds the waiting area, and extends beyond it, above the angled reception desk. As part of The Crossboundaries’ deepening interest and innovation in lighting design, this Cosmic Orbit light has been carefully custom-designed in plaster of Paris, cast upon a special armature of aluminum and wood. Being a large-scale, and one-of-a-kind installation, each curve and radii was precisely modelled and executed on site, with the final solid form being coated in matt-black PU polish. When switched on, the circumferential profile LED light in warm-yellow add an experience of hurtling through a cosmic expanse, and the weightlessness of being in space! An exposed brick wall as the backdrop, with warm spot-lighting and plush seating at the waiting zone anchors the space back to gravity.

©Ashish Chakroborty

Further inwards, a seamless expanse of micro Crete flooring leads the eye. The building’s original Kota stone flooring came with a character of unevenness, and was chipped away to create a levelled 8mm floor surface for an even and clean finish. This seamless horizontal surface extends across the office floor, except in spaces that are raised on a step, such as the waiting lounge platform.

To remain quickly accessible and within reach to all executives, a 20-people board /conference room is designed adjacent to the entrance, away from the main office floor. Here, a few more colors, such as a calm yet confident blue begin to show and lend character to the space. On the short end, a blank white wall ,language of parallel, linear profile lights under a subtle black metal grid ceiling communicates direction and focus effectively. Near this formal conference room, a smaller, easier space for quick and short meetings, vendor discussions and video conferencing is designed. For transparency and easy access, a system of lightweight black metal partitions housing 8mm glass acts as a partition for the room. A sprinkling of fresh green indoor palms is a break from the cold and muted tones.

Towards the left of the accessory meeting areas and at the south-west end of the building, an oasis for calm contemplation has been created in the form of a library/reading room area and breakout space. Designed as an intimate gathering space, or to spend a quiet moment during a busy day, this linear room has a large metal rack spanning an exposed brick wall on its longer side. The sleek metal rack divides the wall into sections to display books and artefacts, flooded with spot lighting from the overhead track light. Due to the 10 foot height of the topmost shelf, a sliding metal ladder has been fabricated and placed for easy access. The loose furniture is an eclectic mix of easy single-seater loungers and asymmetrical tables sourced from a local furniture brand.

An extension to a space for casual conversation and relaxation, the open terrace not only draws the sightlines outward from inside, but also brings a glimpse of the open skies through the long picture windows, inward. The low parapet angles and continues to become a long, unbroken seating of black stonecapped on an exposed brick wall. The floor is covered with black grits spread across the surface to allow rainwater to pass through the slope.

Across the raised waiting area, two cubicula meeting rooms are provided, mainly for frequent monthly audit meetings that do not need interaction with the main office floor. A similar language of black painted 25mm metal grid housing 8mm clear glass is used to neatly partition the offices. On bare and low-maintenance walls, 8mm thick letters cut out in black acrylic become legible markers of the room’s function. Adjacent to the Audit rooms, a passage leading to the service areas is dressed in dark stucco walls, and highlighted by 3 wall hung lights.

©Ashish Chakroborty

Furthering an exploration of a raw, yet efficient and soothing palette for workspaces, the common toilets are an example of composing industrial elements and materials effectively. The female toilet has been designed with a casted concrete platform with 3 custom-fabricated mirrors that are wall hung on a brick wall. In the male toilet too the vertical surfaces have been undressed, and textured with natural grit. An installation of modular cubicles having dark-grey partition boards complement the rough yet usable look and feel of the washroom. Being a Real Estate office, construction materials have been displayed in their true form, with no artificial cladding or ornamentation, with only a variety of plants to brighten the service area.

At this contemporary office with a fresh and vibrant mindset, formal and informal meeting areas are designed to flow into one another, often defined and demarcated by a constant language of metal and glass partitions. The conference rooms 3 and 4 before the entrance to the main office floor are identical spaces encased in black metal and glass grid. Leaving behind accessory and service spaces, the main office floor is reached through a short passage and double-doors. The workspace layout spansfeet,through a forest of massive columns that have been neatly cladded with grey-painted ply boards and MDF, leaving the tapered capital exposed. For cost-effectiveness and minimal intervention, these rooms are treated with rough Dana plaster and tufts of fresh green plants that also act as acoustic buffers.

While the main executive desk areas are arranged in neat rows, private cabins and enclosed work cubicles are tucked away to the south east direction. As a new-age office space that transcends conventional hierarchies, the design intent consciously breaks down rigid social and interpersonal systems in a professional environment .Against a muted background of grey stucco, all workstations, exposed services and common functions are arranged according to a repeating, rhythmic ceiling  grid.

A significant marker of the underlying grid is the precisely installed system of various custom-designed light points, aligned with a layer of exposed services overhead. In an ordered system, overhead sprinkler system, electrical grid,HVAC ducts and cable tray  are stacked from top to bottom from the ceiling in a complex but tidy arrangement. In signature The Crossboundaries style, the electrical cables are neatly grouped together equidistantly, and run the height and length of the ceiling to terminate into specific light fixtures. In a stroke of ingenuity, pump-motor body and spare parts were cleaned and painted yellow inside, and connected by bent MS pipes to create a system of hanging spot-lights over worktables. Along with other services being gently suspended from the grey Dana plastered ceiling, the rows of cables terminating in lights are set distances are also hung at a calculated level.

Keeping with the industrial character of the site, an array of 14 reclaimed lights from old factories have been repainted and reused along the columns to highlight informal seating sections and space-dividers. A swooping loop of rust-colored GI sheets runs and curves above the central spine of the workspace layout. This installation acts as a cable tray, and also holds two parallel profile LED lights, creating an infinite loop of lighting above the office floor. An interesting composition of reds, blacks and greys unfolds at the ceiling level, while at eye-level muted shades of grey interspersed with greens create the office ambiance.

©Ashish Chakroborty

The main-office floor for executives is largely linear, with unidirectional rows of sleek tables arranged such that there’s more face-to-face interaction and less dead-zones, as per the client’s vision for their new office. Intermediate cabana-areas are created as small-group seating, as conversation-islands in the otherwise free-flowing, open-office scape.

An open-plan office layout is extremely functional and efficient but also comes with the occasional need for privacy and noise-cancelled zones. To cater to this, ingenious Phone booth pods were designed and placed in one corner for executives to conduct phone calls or individual chats at ease in privacy. These phone booths, quite literally are compact capsules with a metal framed glass door and an internal lining of corkboard for soundproofing. Elements sourced from industrial waste and scrap become productive and beautiful additions to these designed capsules, complementing the overall raw, industrial look and feel of the site.

For instance, an acid-stained spindle-wheel becomes the door handle, and large sized ball-bearings on the door surface act as grips and embellishments. Connected to the opening and closing of the door, a plumb bob suspended by a wire through a pulley bounces up and down, adding a sense of delight and drama to the experience !These small elements invented and installed with joy by The Crossboundaries help to humanize and lighten the otherwise high-stress office environment.

Another such intervention is a sleek 24 feet long bar-like table, doubling up as a discussion table as well as quick serving counter for the adjacent dry pantry. This long black table is coated with matt black industrial paint and is supported on a tapered white base coated in micro Crete. This table also acts as a divider when necessary for the dry pantry, and as a linear space for a long-throw projector screen that can descend from one end when required. In an age that sometimes sees a rapid loss of memory and regard for historic spaces, buildings and institutions, this project is an important means of giving second life to forgotten spaces.

Harsh Boghani

Architect Harsh Boghani graduated as an architect from SVIT, India with a gold medal and later went to pursue a Masters in Architecture from Institute of Advance Architecture of Catalonia Barcelona, Spain (IAAC). He later honed his design talent by garnering vast and varied experience apprenticing with some of the best design practices in the world; including MAD Architects (Beijing, China), RSP Architects (Dubai), ARUP (Singapore), and NU.DE (Mumbai). Thus enriched by this diverse global exposure, he later returned to Baroda to join his father’s practice.

Born as an offspring of a 30-year old practice founded by Architect ShaileshBoghani, THE CROSSBOUNDARIES emerged from the need to expand the principal firm’s repertoire. Augmented by the new vision infused into the practice by Ar. Harsh Boghani, THE CROSSBOUNDARIES nurtures itself on the famous quote by David Allan Coe: “It is not the beauty of a building you should look at; it is the construction of the foundation that will stand the test of time.”

THE CROSSBOUNDARIES explores new realms in design; borrowing from the synergy of aesthetics, design, ideologies and culture. While the principal practice Architect ShaileshBoghani, mainly handles the architectural projects, the newer off-shoot – THE CROSSBOUNDARIES takes up varied challenges in interior design, furniture, lighting, products & Installations – crafting out spaces and styles suiting contemporary needs and perceptions.

THE CROSSBOUNDARIES is a platform space where we work in collaboration with Artists, Architects, Designers and Graphic Artists.


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