November 27, 2015

Spaces: Studio 877

by Maanasi Hattangadi

Back after a short break! In this article in Spaces, we take a look at the design studio of Pune-based architect Khushru Irani, who restored the double-height first storey of an old structure that was falling apart, to carve out his calm, airy and open workplace.

Occupying an idyllic corner of a busy thoroughfare within the Pune Cantonment area is a 100 year old building. An unassuming verandah peeps down on to the street midway from its three-storeyed façade – the entrance to the studio of Pune-based architectural practice Khushru Irani Design Studio (KIDS). With its sloping roofs, a verandah with wooden railings, seasoned doors and windows, a stone staircase and plastered brick walls, the building bears a distinct characteristic. It may feel akin to chancing upon on a long-forgotten secret.

1-Khushru

The balcony.

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From 2010-14, the building originally a residence over 12,000sqft, underwent a makeover spearheaded by KIDS. “The project began with the structural retrofit of the entire building using steel columns and beams.,” they say, “This process took several months to complete and culminated with the rebuilding of the sloping roof. The original roof which had beautiful wooden trusses, was in disrepair and was collapsing since the trusses were giving way. A new steel roof was built in its place and the studio managed the entire design and construction process.”

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00-Khushru-Studio-877-DWG-Section

A preserved stone staircase ascends to the first floor from the southern end and ambles along to the entrance in the verandah. One enters into an airy 800sqft space comprising of the main workstations, a conference area, a lounge, library, storage and electrical rooms. Notably, the architects have sought non-intrusive materials & furniture that symbolically acknowledge and intensify the layers of history.

3--Khushru

4-Khushru

Inside, the furniture arrangements visually demarcate the functionality. Immediately to the right of the entrance is an informal setting as a Lounge and on the left, stationed almost below a double height volume, is the Conference area. Adjacent to and beyond that, custom-designed workstations – the main one designed to seat six and another flanking the wall length, facing sizable tag-boards – are finished with agro-wood board table-tops resting on painted frames of tubular steel sections with silver accents.

A central wooden box atop this table whose design is influenced by Malaysia-based Kevin Low’s designs, mobilises the data and power lines. To complement the quasi-old aesthetic, chairs delineated with cane seats for comfort and ventilation have been sourced from dealers of old furniture.

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The Roof: Before & After

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Stained-Glass: Before & After

In controlled moments of chance and detail, seemingly impulsive gestures such as selection of the dull green for the original door & window frames, a reclining chair, exposed conduits and art and artifacts such as ‘pato-chitra’ paintings, stone and clay sculptures positioned within, enliven the place.

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8-Khushru

The ceiling of Kota stone sits low at this level and the robust structure makes its presence felt in a dark brown grid. The flow pauses at a spiral stairway – ‘a key element in the design and construction of the space’ – that waits beyond the lounge to connect one to the upper level. Inscribed with perforated metal sheet treads, the spiral stairway is light and integral to the expressed evident character.

A modestly-sized niche is mediated behind this stairway and the main staircase block as a model-making studio. A beautifully restored stained glass window provides a backdrop to this double-heighted alcove which steps out to the other edge of the verandah.

9-Khushru

10-Khushru

The attic or the Loft beneath the polished wood roof accommodates the pantry, toilets, the lunch area and a 500sqft multipurpose space that can host around 100 people while catering to community events curated by The Loft, a non-profit organisation founded by Khushru Irani. A corner extends out into a semi-open sit-out here.

Neither history nor the programme overtly dominates. Equally rustic and refined with skilful use of contemporaneous gestures, the retrofit is reflective of its earlier guise but does not emerge as a pastiche.

12-Khushru 

To see Khushru Irani Design Studio’s work, visit their website.

Maanasi Hattangadi is an architect based in Goa and leads a content initiative on architecture entitled Matter. She is also involved with developing Kokum, an interdisciplinary resource programme with a focus on ‘Design in the Public Domain’. 

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