The Pavers Office by Space & Design

Kolkata-based architectural firm Spaces & Design innovatively used paver blocks as the main element when designing an office space for a company that manufactured them.

Text: Amrita Shah; Photographs: Suryananddang 

The advantage of having a long-standing relationship with clients is that the architects are given full creative freedom when tackling a new project found Pooja Bihani, principal architect and founder of Kolkata based design firm, Spaces & Design. Omkar Infracon, a company that manufactures paver blocks only stipulated the number of staff that had to be accommodated in a colonial era building located on Waterloo Street in Old Kolkata.

The design team inherited the site in a rather dilapidated state; the original arched windows had been walled up and a low false ceiling masked the existing wooden beams and impressive height, giving a cramped feel to the existing office. Pooja was clear from the onset that the historical significance of the structure should be highlighted to showcase the city’s heritage.

“In the neighbourhood are main headquarters of the police and fire departments as well as government offices. We wanted to pay homage to the historical roots of the building the office was housed in so that it would fit into its historical surrounds. We decided to preserve the high ceiling and the original wooden beams to maintain a sense of continuity with the building’s past. The arched windows were restored, and we then echoed the arches in various other elements in the interior to make the design cohesive,” elaborates Pooja about her approach to the project.

 The structure was stripped down to its bones and structural and waterproofing experts were called in to deal with the damage that had occurred over the years. The restoration may have delayed the project by four months but was crucial.

“Another decision we took was to opt for a light colour scheme so the design did not detract from the colonial charm of the building,” says Pooja.

The resultant office is a fry cry from the original. Spacious rooms, a subtle Scandinavian material palette of whites, light oak and grey, towering ceilings highlighted by distressed beams and plenty of natural light filtering in from the arched openings along the periphery.

Creative inspiration came in the form of using the client’s product – the humble cement paver block as the main design element. Used as partitions, as sculptural design elements and even in the furniture, the grey tones provide the perfect contrast to the light wooden floor, and state in the subtlest of manners what the company specializes in. Stepping into the office, one is greeted by a wall made up of grass pavers behind the reception desk.

Typically used in parking areas, Pooja wanted to make a statement about their important role in cooling the microclimate and chose to create a wall with them.

She explains, “Grass pavers help to combat the heat island effect by promoting evaporative cooling, reducing the need for excessively concreted surfaces. We wanted to highlight this environmentally friendly product and decided to create this wall as a statement.”

Providing a crisp design aesthetic in a restored historically significant building while highlighting the company’s products, Spaces & Design effectively nailed the brief for their clients.

Fact File:

Location: Kolkata

Area: 2000 sq. ft.

Month & year of completion: May 2023

Principal Architect: Pooja Bihani, Spaces & Design

Design Team: Pooja Bihani, Samrat Roy, Anjana Chatterjee