Much before collaborative spaces became a buzzword, Venkataraman Associates were exploring this concept with vigour for an office building in Pune. Almost a decade ago, back in 2011, the Bengaluru-based firm was commissioned to design the Cummins India Office Campus (IOC), a Fortune 500 company dealing with solutions in diesel and alternative fuel engines and generators, and related components and technology.
The firm envisioned the corporate office as a tower, spanning 48,000sqm that were stacked over seven levels and accommodating around 200 employees. “The layout adapts to a variety of configurations, creating flexible spaces that are uncluttered and open-ended,” explains Naresh V Narasimhan, managing partner, Venkataramanan Associates. In addition to the work floors, the office was designed with a double-heighted reception lounge, cafeteria and crèche as well as parking facilities on the lower levels.
At the heart of the design was a people-centric approach that identified and understood the needs of the office space. To make it more user friendly, the design team spoke to employees and stakeholders — from junior employees to management, support staff to security team. The findings played a crucial role in designing a space for 800 employees in different fields that required diverse and careful planning.
“Keeping the analysis in mind, we designed each floor to cater to a different set of users,” shares Narasimhan. The lower floors were envisioned as agile workspaces, while the upper ones were structured for senior management. This design strategy maintained hierarchy and structure in the office as well as encouraged productive collaborations between employees.
An amalgamation of fluid and adaptive spaces factored in the equal need for private quiet working, professional collaborations and social interaction. So, cubicles and meeting rooms with semi-formal seating, focus booths and quiet corners were interspersed between workstations. Meanwhile, informal spaces such as idea rooms and huddle pods encouraged creative exchange and collaboration. At the lower levels, the open-plan concept was adopted to “allow for better communication within teams and increase employee efficiency,” says Narasimhan.
“The challenge in designing offices for an entity like Cummins size was understanding its variety of services and providing diverse space requisites for each service, as well as understanding the co-dependency of the various fields. It became imperative to curate collaborative and break-out spaces that responded to the operations and the interactions between departments,” points out Narasimhan.
Aesthetically, the office was designed to display a refined material palette in some spaces and a vibrant approach with inspiring posters, typography designs, etc, in others. The creation of multiple layer of interests ensured that the office never appeared monotonous, as one transitions from one space to another. On the contrary, the contrasting design details have co-existed harmoniously, despite the fact that some spaces boast grey-toned furniture in a pristine space, while another exudes warmth owing to red-hued seaters set against a brick wall.
Some other features that have remained unchanged are the natural light that streams through the centrally located service core that has played a crucial role in employee wellbeing and productivity. Another is the decision to have left the flooring uncarpeted — excluding spaces that remain acoustically sensitive — which cuts down on maintenance. The design focused on ‘pink noise’, a concept popular now in business settings, where noise masks low-frequency background sound, and in doing so, ensures better productivity and concentration among employees.
Executed over a span of two years, the Cummins IOC has proven to be an excellent example of a balanced collaborative space. From thoughtful, hierarchical planning to harmonious yet distinct aesthetics and specialised strategy in daylighting and acoustics, the project tackled the challenges of designing an office in an intellectual manner with long-term benefits.