Inside Dhirubhai Patel’s dynamic workplace situated in Mehsana, India, an unusually constructed partition wall takes centrestage within a minimal design. The structural detail and craftsmanship of this striking element has the hallmark touch of Ramesh Patel and Associates, an architectural practice known for their meticulous attention to detail and distinctive experimentation with complex geometry.
Project Name: Wave
Studio Name: Ramesh Patel and Associates
Designed as a real-estate office, the cosy 400sqft enclosure presented a unique opportunity for a space that not only prioritized ergonomics, but also reflected the style of the business it was set to accommodate. Accordingly, four subdivisions for the primary functions were created- first through a continuous vertical wall in the middle, along the length of the room, and then through smaller partitions along its breadth. This layout was then populated with furniture in the form of sleek veneer-finished desks extending gracefully from the peripheral walls, flanked by comfortable swivel chairs. A large leather couch at the entrance and plywood cabinets for storage completed the workplace setup.
The conceptualization of the central surface was derived from a need for strength, visual connectivity, and seamlessness. Constructed as a system of modular “wave”- like structures arranged in staggered formations and supported by pockets of glass in between, the final form of the wall was the result of extensive form exploration and optimization. The decision to construct each module out of two inclined planes was a conscious effort to create a zig-zag line rather than a straight line, to obtain a longer, more stable configuration. This increased the effective thickness of the wall to 150mm, but provided considerable depth and strength to the structure.
The extensive use of plywood in the project, particularly in a manner that not only forefronts it, but also celebrates it as a building material was inspired by the need to hero materials commonly used in construction and real estate. It is even more remarkable to note the understanding of material tendencies and performance, and the corresponding treatment attributed to each. For instance, each module of the central partition wall consists of a groove and beading detail that eliminates the appearance of plywood edges and helps hold the glass in place. The grooves, positioned along surface edges, remain aligned at the same position for each module along the height of the partition wall, consequently maintaining clean lines and reinforcing continuity.
It is equally intriguing to note the manner in which glass is brought into play within the design of the partition wall. Fitted into the voids created by the placement of the plywood modules, each glass panel is designed to remain in a state of shear, a structural mechanism through which its brittleness is replaced by stiffness. Under this condition, glass becomes an integral element in the partition wall that lends rigidity and durability to its anatomy.
The advantage of using glass in its structural capacity is especially highlighted in two sections of the central wall that function as its doors. Camouflaged cleverly within the modular array of the partition, these doors consist of a base that does not rest upon the floor, making glass the sole supporting element for the entire framework. Taking a step further to refine the aesthetic impact, the base of the door is broadened using an additional inclined member that merges with the existing geometry.
Another ingenious detail incorporated in the design of the door is the usage of an offset pivot. In order to eliminate the gap between the door edge and the wall, which would inevitably create a break in continuity, a decision was made to displace the central pivot of the swing door. The result is a door that swings only on one side, but integrates perfectly into the wall system, thereby obscuring it completely when not in use.
It is, however, the effortless fluidity of the partition wall that makes it truly stand out. As one enters the office, they perceive a continuous surface which directs the eye inwards with its rhythmic modular geometry. The contrast between the black and white of office furniture and the warm brown hue of the plywood captures the viewer’s attention almost immediately. The effect is further enhanced by lighting placed directly above the wall, which highlights each planar surface, emphasizing its form and assembly. Yet another dimension is observed as light passes through the polygonal glass panels embedded within the partition, producing a kaleidoscope of shadows on the surfaces of the office.
In its totality, the carefully executed design of the office creates a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Taking conventional materials and using them in unconventional ways, implementing sophisticated detailing and generating progressive architectural forms altogether shape a space that bring together work and whimsy under the same roof.