A tangible take on design philosophy

The architect’s studio is a sacred space – an incubator for concepts to translate into design, a safe haven for exploration, and the birthplace of groundbreaking ideas. But what does the design of an architect’s studio really say about the architect? While it is impossible to pass a universal, blanket judgement, we try and scratch the surface of this notion, as we examine Dhananjay Shinde Design Studio near Nasik.
Sharmila Chakravorty
  • Architects

  • Location

    Nashik, Maharashtra
  • Design team

    Ar. Dhananjay Shinde, Payal Prabhudesai
  • Client

    Dhananjay Shinde Design Studio
  • Structural engineer

  • Civil contractor

    Er. Rahul Wavikar
  • Project area

    3000 SQ. FT
  • Initiation of project

  • Completion of project

    August 2014
  • Project estimate

    65 Lakhs
Sharmila Chakravorty
June 21 / 2018

Workspaces are designed to inspire, to enhance productivity, to stimulate the mind into challenging the limits. But when an architect designs his own work-space, his revered studio, it becomes a reflection of his design ethos translated into execution prowess. For it is where he dreams, dares, defies, and combines these to lend tangibility to his ideas. Whether the studio space’s design evokes grandeur or calculated restraint; rawness of elements or a detailed finesse; the architect’s studio is indicative of the ideal, preferred conditions for the most intimate architectural purpose – the act of designing. Creating, from nothingness, designs that will meet the aspirations of his clients, testing the architect’s capability to address unique requirements with distinctive design solutions.
Dhananjay Shinde Design Studio near Nasik, for instance, responds to questions of workspace design, especially one meant for a discipline as creative as architecture. The first aspect one notices is the abundance of greenery around the site. It is a kind of nothingness – not empty, but devoid of urban clutter which most have come to associate sites for design studios with. The fact that a thriving design studio sits so far from urban business centers too adds a dash of curiosity to the idea of the project. While one could go on a wild goose chase answering the ‘why did the architect choose this site’ question, it clearly indicates the architect’s desire to break away from the norm, to leave behind the urban chaos. One could also see it as a departure from the manic race to design in the competitive architectural ‘market’, take a step back, and let ideas flow in an environment that is conducive to slow-paced, inspiration-triggered creation. Why drown your voice trying to scream in the urban noise? Instead, why not let pure creativity take the wheel, and steer ideas towards building a story based on the surrounds, almost organically?
On approach, a brick-wall announces the design studio, as if setting the context around what one should expect to find inside. Inside, the giant mushroom-like domed court rises tall amidst the manicured lawn. Below the dome lies the entrance court, reception and waiting area – informal spaces to host informal conversations as clients are exposed to the studio and, in turn, the architect’s design-thought process for the first time. Further within lies the client’s lounge, a temporary, transitional space that is surrounded by the water feature on two sides, with views of the green surroundings beyond it. The clever use of full-glass walls not only washes the client’s lounge in natural light, but also eases the mind with fresh greens of the endless view. One could perhaps sit here and envy the architect for the studio’s site, or make a mental note to ask the architect to somehow include a water feature or elements of greenery in the clients’ prospective project. It would be impossible to not have a feeling of calming pleasantness when within the client’s lounge.
Opposite the client’s lounge is the records room, admin office and the facilities. This side of the studio, the entire block, runs parallel to the lawn area and the client’s lounge, separated by a shaded courtyard. The roof, in contrast with the smooth lines of the mushroom-like dome, is geometric in its stance, with sharp lines that are perhaps an indication of more structured work that happens in the space in envelopes. For it houses the studio, where the soul of the structure – the design action – takes shape. Here too, glass walls bring abundant natural light, which is said to be one of the most significant enablers for enhancing productivity and creativity.
Overall, the design draws heavily from the traditional Indian concept of segregating areas within building for specific functions to be performed within them. Perhaps this was symbolic for complete focus for the task at hand, and by segregating functions distinctively, one eliminated any distraction which would otherwise be easily entertained. But these segregations are not rigid; there are transitional spaces between these functional pavilions that are green pockets for pause, wonder, and conversations. They also act as thermal insulators, along with the water features, cooling the micro-climate around the studio. They are also placed in the design so as to draw in cool winds, limiting the need for air-conditioning. In addition to these functional features, the in-between spaces also aesthetically complement the surrounding greenery, maintaining a visual link with the locale the sit sits within. Thus, the design studio becomes a part of the setting, rather than unnecessarily standing out.
Using the most basic design strategies such as optimal solar orientation, appropriate shading, and use of micro-climate enhances, the studio minimizes heat gain, making it extremely energy-efficient. Similarly, the embodied energy consumption too is minimal due to the use of local, cheap, reusable and sustainable materials like basalt stone, fly ash bricks, salvaged wood etc. Lastly, the operational energy is minimal as the building generates less waste and conserves natural resources, with rain water harvesting being a very important aspect. The project has received many national citations and awards given its salient design features.
Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, the Dhananjay Shinde Design Studio is essentially an exploration of spaces in varying degrees of containment. The progression of spaces starts with the outdoors, turns into semi-outdoors with roofs enveloping the courtyards, and finally into indoors with glass walls defining the spaces. Not only does this blurring of indoors and outdoors create interesting spaces for the designers and clients visiting the space, but also strongly indicates a leaning towards context-driven design. One that draws from nature and blends with it to create a structure that respects the natural elements. In that sense, we have the answer to the ‘why did the architect choose this site’ question – whynot be in the lap of nature if you intend to draw inspiration from nature?