Studio culture – as with all manifestations of the human intellect – is the embodiment of a pattern of work that nurtures the craft of building. Architecture workspaces are especially readable in this context as architects are, in this case, designing for themselves. With every workplace as distinct and specific as the work it produces, the people who design and work in these environments reveal their ideas in the space.
In this first edition of the STUDIO series, we enquire about the processes, approaches, work ethics, and the trajectory of a young, Bengaluru-based BetweenSpaces led by architects Pramod Jaiswal and Divya Ethirajan.
Q: The studio is a space that one designs around one’s work habits. How does your studio reflect the same? What is the culture of work at your place?
BetweenSpaces: In the process of designing the studio, we asked ourselves many questions; we debated and deliberated. We came to a conclusion that we wanted to keep our workspace, simple (not frugal) with just bare minimum furnishing, and clutter free. It would be open, where people can work together, learn from each other, and still have privacy. One could even personalise their space without any visual or physical segregation. It needed to be well-lit and well-ventilated, something that is very common in all our works. The ambience created is a reflection of our aversion/reluctance towards depending overtly on artificial things – artificial light or mechanical ventilation. As an outcome, the workspace is attuned to a soft, serene and a natural background that allows us to concentrate, contemplate and enjoy work.
Our studio imbibes all this and is much more than just a place to work. The informal nature of the workspace offers each of us an opportunity to socialise, interact, and at the same time, zone out.
Q: How does the culture inform the design of your workspace? What are the processes that are pertinent to your design thinking and evolution?
BetweenSpaces: Our workspace has been designed to encourage an open work culture, more like an open studio where anybody and everybody can participate in project discussions they may or may not be involved in. We believe in an all-inclusive process. We have seen ideas evolve through a casual conversation among team members, and from a discussion with clients. We encourage everyone in the studio irrespective of their seniority to participate and contribute to a discussion. In the process, we have learnt to become patient listeners as we find a lot of value in every discussion over the years.
Although the two of us prefer to sit on the upper level of the studio to give space to rest of the team, our space is still transparent and accessible to everyone. The lower level of the studio accommodates the main workspace in the first half (facing road), a waiting area and a space for administration in the middle portion. The rear portion of the studio space has an open, but intimate meeting room, a material library neatly tucked under the staircase connecting the upper level, a small pantry and a washroom. The upper portion of the studio is visually connected to the lower level through a large cut-out over the waiting area. The upper level of the studio has the Principal Architects’ desks and a row of seating. A small model-making space with a few book shelves abuts the Principal Architects’ workspace. The front half of the upper level has been left as a terrace to be used as a break-out space.
We believe that an open work culture inculcates a sense of responsibility and ownership among the team members. A quick discussion to bounce off ideas to get feedback from teammates, a quick sketch, a digital 3D model or a physical study model are among the few processes which inform our design process in the studio. We have tried to design our work tables to facilitate these processes. One could just push the keyboard under the small platform used to keep the monitors and start sketching or drawing right there.
The design process, until ideation stage could be a very private matter but eventually goes through a collective and collaborative process and is influenced by all parties involved in it – architects, clients, contractors, labour, vendors, consultants, etc.
Q: Tell us about the systems at work in your studio. What software and digital techniques do you use? How much drawing and model-making is still done by hand?
BetweenSpaces: We start all our projects with a basic layout in CAD (ZWCAD) to inform us about the scale and size, which then becomes a base for further refinement through freehand sketches, and followed by a quick massing model. The basic model is again used as a base to sketch on, to articulate massing. We also make a lot of paper models parallel to the sketching and computer aided drawings. For us, freehand sketching takes precedence over manual drafting as it enables us to test out or discard a passing idea quickly.
Q: What are the materials you work with? How do materials play a role in your work and to what extent do you detail a project?
BetweenSpaces: Materials form a key element in our work. We love to work with stone, brick, metal and wood. We like to express the visual and tactile characteristics of the material in its true, unadulterated state. We enjoy the traces of imperfections left by the work of hand or by the force of nature. However, the choice of materials is not just influenced by our own idea of the space/s or surfaces, but also by the client’s aspirations.
We love to work closely with masons, carpenters, and fabricators to understand the strength and limitation of materials. We make exquisite, detailed drawings mostly to bring clarity to ourselves. We allow certain changes that could be a result of site constraints or a more practical way of doing things. As much as we prefer to go to site with most of the answers, we do make allowances for changes in the interest of the project.
Q: What is the design principle that informed the making of this studio space?
BetweenSpaces: It has been our constant quest to bring calmness in clamour. As we use this building everyday, sometimes the building comes to the foreground to inspire us and sometimes it disappears in the background to let us be. As much as the building or its interiors express the aspirations of our clients, it is equally important that they do not become an object in the space, trying hard to make a statement or shouting for attention. This is what we constantly endeavour to achieve in all our projects.
Q: You have successfully completed projects of an inter-disciplinary nature at varying scales (interiors, product design, housing, etc). How do you see yourself in the next ten years?
BetweenSpaces: We see ourselves growing to a team of 10-12 architects. We enjoy all aspects of a design process, especially the hands-on approach to all our projects. However, we would be open to expanding into a bigger team provided that we continue to work with like-minded architects, and professionals who can nurture BetweenSpaces with the same passion.
Q: Growing into a practice that may require a larger workspace in the future, what aspects of your current workspace would you want to explore further and what are those that you would want to retain?
BetweenSpaces: The big challenge would be to explore how the same intimacy, calmness and inclusivity (irrespective of the years of experience) due to an open work space culture can be brought into a larger workspace and a bigger team. However, keeping the core aspects in check, we would love to explore more materials that could reinforce our beliefs and idea of an ideal workspace. ♦
Image & Drawing Credits:
Photographs: Kunal Bhatia and Alka Renu
Drawings: BetweenSpaces, Bengaluru
Founded in 2010, BetweenSpaces is led by Divya Ethirajan and Pramod Jaiswal. Based out of Bengaluru, the practice is invested in a sustained dialogue between designed spaces and the environment they inhabit. Striving for ‘calmness in clamour’, this urban studio space is an impartial testimony of their design thinking and aesthetics. The design of the workspace and their work interject inclusivity of context whilst maintaining an introspective spatial quality that a workspace sometimes demands.
STUDIO is a feature that documents <work and workspace> dynamics of an architectural firm in-turn unraveling processes intrinsic to their practice.