“Good design seeks a wholesome solution to a strategic question,” asserts Raja Arjun, Founder & Design Manager at Office of Cognitive Design, Founder & Director Enterprise Strategy at A.Q.B Group and Founder & Brand Manager at Hunger Management. He is a fourth generation entrepreneur, whose results-driven approach in enterprise strategy has assisted in generating a collective turnover of over 100 million USD for multinationals and start-ups alike. Arjun’s primary focus remains on creativity, business and psychology, asserting design thinking at the core of everything he does. In fact this has been his operative discipline and work methodology. With every job, he strives to make an incisive and positive contribution to this way of thinking, producing and promoting in a holistic manner.
His academic work has been nationally recognized by the C.O.A (Council Of Architecture) and as a young professional his work is a blend of business and design. His portfolio displays a rich collective of diverse fields which include project management, architecture design, exhibition design, production design, automobile design, Interior space-making, product design and service design. Key clients include and not limited to Lakme, MTV, Impressario, OML, GNT Germany, Pink Peony Spain, Sony Music, BMRCL, Mantri and QUALCOMM.
Raja Arjun was awarded excellence in design, with top 50 Architectural Thesis in India (COA – Council of Architecture – 2011 ) among various other awards that he has received both nationally and internationally. Some of these include Best design restaurant in India (Vogue Magazine – Jam Jar Diner), Innovation Award (Design Forum – Spain ) and interestingly even Best Motor cycle design of the year ( Auto show – 2011, Bangalore)
OCD (Office of Cognitive Design) is an award-winning global design collective, comprised of design managers from India, Lebanon, United States, Colombia, Turkey, Germany and Brazil, where they give their customers an internationally rich and diverse approach to any design challenge and take a human-centered, design-based approach to help organizations in the public and private sectors innovate and grow.
Here is a feature on a project Samsara, which Raja Arjun shared with Gallopper.
The Backdrop :
The 2009 Indian economic slowdown viewed against the exponential growth in scale of housing projects, pushed many underfunded construction companies out of the market place. This experience taught real estate developers an important lesson of relevance. One such group of experienced developers who wanted a second shot at the real-estate sector with emphasis on design, formed a ‘design construction’ company in 2012 with an energetic group of young design talent. The team, geared to be relevant and responsible in constructing future living environments, were keen on reflecting the company’s core value –“to challenge the status quo in the real estate sector” – in an experimental office interior. This created the perfect laboratory to experiment and craft a space that best represented its business values.
SAMSARA, which means the cycle of death and rebirth to which life in the material world is bound has a total area of 9050 sq. ft. and the concept of the project lay in representing the strong company core values into physical manifestation.
The lower level having an area of 4,950 sq. ft is split almost equally between operations and customer interaction. The dividing line is formed by tessellated panel partitions made from reused MDF or plywood, which open in strategic places to give the visitors a peak into the company’s transparent operation style.
The focus was to build a visitor journey and carefully construct a sensorial experience that conveys much of the company’s ideologies. From the monumental dynamic reception table, the visitor is guided to the skylight atrium waiting space to be bathed in warm sunlight and soothing views of the sky above. The play of light on the moss green tessellations creates a relaxing yet pantomime environment.
All discussions with customers take place in neutral white meeting rooms finished with a false ceiling to create a softer space and large windows that celebrate views into landscaped areas or the city beyond. The workspace is discussion oriented, in contrast to many traditional real estate offices. With natural light and ventilation, it is a space that encourages activity.
The upper level, having an area of 4,100 sq. ft. is dedicated for high level business meetings, having the largest working space dedicated to the Director’s cabin and the second largest for the minimally designed corporate meeting room.
A delicate glass bridge connects the reception with the library. The bridge punches thorough the atrium volume and gives the visitor a unique perspective of the tessellations and the space below.
The director’s cabin is raised by 400 mm to create a more intimate scale within, in comparison to the rest of the office. A gentle ramp leads the visitor into the cabin with treated black kadappah flooring and a white gloss false ceiling which helps the room look larger than it seems. Vertical wooden accents coupled with large sliding windows are designed to make the room feel taller than its 8’ height. The cabin is flanked by two open spaces, a tropical garden with bench seating on one side and a lunch space overlooking a small water body surrounding the green tinted Shahbad clad toilet cube on the other. Rum butter walls compliment the wood used in the space and the green from the flanking open spaces. Retro furniture with naturally dyed leather add pops of color to the space, bespoke lights and curated collectibles add character.
A well equipped studio is attached to the Director’s cabin. Made from reused water-proof MDF salvaged from sparingly used worktops or unused excess plywood from the company’s completed projects. The reused material limitation gave birth to the distinctive tessellated pattern.
Most of the wooden furniture has been made from reused Burma teak, sourced from the beams of dismantlement / demolished colonial buildings. Only local stones have been used. Chocolate Kadappah and shahbad clad the office to lend natural color to the interiors. 40% of the partition structure was made from reused steel box section scaffolding, from the company’s construction. They form an exposed white structural web which adds character to the space.
Common construction materials like PVC water pipes and alluminum glass channels have been used to power efficient LED lights. Lumineirs traditionally used in ships and for filming were re-assembled to make bespoke lights unique to the project.
Being a complex project with multiple angles and materials, they hit a roadblock when it came to fixing the tessellations. The solution came from an unlikely, shy and timid junior carpenter around 19 years of age. Raja Arjun recalls “We had observed him to be regularly pushed around, but after he shared the solution, which was used to build the atrium, he became a hero onsite. Enjoying a new found stature, he become one of the most active contributors to the project. Often, texting at night with crude sketches of new details. Onsite, we had infact made it a ritual to discuss the next day’s work, the previous night.”
He goes on to add, “We did this by involving everyone working on the project. We would brainstorm and come up with improved solutions. At the very least, our designs would be validated the day before it got executed. This for us, encapsulated the spirit of the project.”
He closes, “This is a co-created space and we would like to thank everyone involved.”