Pages to Spaces: SJK’s Hybrid Design for Penguin

In the ever-evolving realm of literature and publishing, Penguin Random House stands as a venerable institution with a legacy dating back nearly a century. Beyond the pages of its books, Penguin Random House has embarked on a transformative journey, mirroring the contemporary shifts in work dynamics. The unveiling of their new office headquarters in Gurugram, meticulously crafted by SJK Architects, reflects the company’s transition from a traditional office-centric model to a dynamic hybrid approach.

The interiors not only responds to the challenges posed by the global pandemic but also signifies a deliberate move towards creating a post-pandemic workspace that champions meaningful exchange and collaborative engagement. The publishing house annually produces a staggering array of literary works, releasing up to 70,000 digital and 15,000 print titles. 

SJK Architects is an award-winning architecture, interior design, and master planning practice founded in 1990 and is led by partners Shimul Javeri Kadri, Vaishali Mangalvedhekar, Sarika Shetty, and Roshni Kshirsagar. Their work takes cues from the local geography, history, culture, and crafts to weave unique narratives into every space. 

Designing for Collaboration: A Vision for Diverse Workspaces

Open spaces that combine to create nooks for discussions, corners for contemplation with a book in hand and varied working spaces define this work space.

“Three common clusters (courtyards), connected by passageways (streets), form the social heart of the office. These clusters offer diverse seating options, facilitate varied ways of working, be it individually, in small groups, and in large groups. The central cluster, which marks the entrance to the office, and the eastern cluster resemble living rooms for storytellers, featuring a mix of lounge and round-table seating. The western cluster, on the other hand, houses a coffee bar and has an amphitheatre for large team catch-ups,” says Roshni Kshirsagar, the main designer involved in this project.

 “Meeting rooms, cabins, and workstations for individual use are strategically arranged around these clusters to create a welcoming atmosphere. Terrace seating along the corridor acts as a public seating accommodating two people in each pod and transforms the large corridor into a meandering street with humble proportions. All these areas receive ample natural light from the north, east, and west. While primarily serving as individual and/or formal workspaces for creative and non-creative teams, the workspaces break away from traditional formality as the smaller cabins can be adapted into meeting rooms when needed,” she adds.These versatile spaces enable the users to choose their preferred settings for various activities, whether it’s a casual catch-up over coffee, a relaxed conversation with authors, or a focused work session. The result is an environment that encourages users to personalise their workspace, fostering a conducive atmosphere for creative productivity.

Weaving the Brand’s Identity into Spaces

A restrained material and colour palette is used, featuring white and grey hues as finishes on the floors and walls. The architects worked with the Penguin Random House team to strategically locate thematic artwork, such as framed book jackets, throughout the office to add glimpses of the brand’s heritage and build a sense of belonging. The artwork and dispersed green pockets add a sense of vibrancy to the otherwise muted colour palette.

Rather than integrating the company’s name and logo plainly, the architects designed a handcrafted cement screen, resembling books to subtly incorporate the brand identity into the spaces. Featuring penguin-shaped motifs engraved into its central row, the screen forms the backdrop to the reception, serving as the ideal entrance to the creative and collaborative office space of a company that is in the business of books.

 The heart of the design lies in the seamless layout that metamorphoses into offering multiple workspace options within the same space, creating an office space that is truly collaborative in spirit and design.