Repurposing Buildings to create an Experiential Narrative of Legacy and Vision
An adaptive re-use project in Mumbai, the Imagine Studio weaves nature, heritage and urbanism through a compelling narrative of evolving contexts.
The scheme, which initiated as a design for a marketing office, shaped into an exercise for place-making in ‘The Trees’, a flagship development for Godrej Properties Ltd., which is part of Godrej, one of India’s biggest industrial houses.
The Imagine Studio project replaces a large industrial campus in Vikhroli, a site integral to the Group’s history. It is here that seeds of a modern, integrated industrial township were planted, realized and are now being taken forward into the 21st century with the contemporary mixed-use master plan of ‘The Trees’. Designed as the Experience Centre for ‘The Trees’, the Imagine Studio addresses the challenging need to relate the forthcoming chapters of Godrej’s vision through the realm of its origin.
The intent was to illustrate an invigorated public realm as a microcosm of the master plan while preserving the essence of the site’s industrial heritage. Existing buildings and its elements were recycled not only to underline their relevance in the bygone eras but also add meaning as important design punctuations in the narrative. The buzzing public spaces will eventually extend the edge of the gated development to include the community and city in its activities.
Buildings of the Imagine Studio will ultimately get absorbed into the commercial hub of the development; continuing to stay on as key markers celebrating the rich traditions of the historic company while taking it strategically forward into its future.
Set in a 1-acre site, the Imagine Studio complex spans 1000 sqm in area. Conceptualized by Studio Lotus and the GPL Design Studio, the collaborative project transforms a small cluster of industrial buildings and its surrounding landscape into commemorative identities seeped indelibly in the developer’s legacy yet an invigorating part of its new purpose.
The design teams presented the Imagine Studio complex through an attempt to re-envision the customer journey for ‘The Trees’. The storyline for this experiential journey was grounded in authenticity and a larger vision for the city germinated with timeless values.
The timeless architectural forms derived from the current industrial sheds and the materiality of Concrete, Corten steel, Brass and Timber work on the principle of ‘Wabi-Sabi’, which would allow the buildings to age beautifully with the passage of time. The materials were deliberately chosen to add layers to the sequence of events planned for the project. While Concrete indicates the existing shell work, Corten Steel reinterprets the idea of the original form, which over a period of time bleeds over Concrete.
Programmatically the buildings of the Imagine Studio currently adapt into a marketing office, with sample showcase flats, meeting spaces, a small cafe, as well as several outdoor spaces to market upcoming residential and commercial development properties.
Two former power co-generation plants and a boiler were repurposed to accommodate new functions as a Studio, Workshop and Cafe respectively. A tall chimney redolent of bygone industrial aesthetic has been treated as a graphic memorial.
The old louvers of the primary plant, now the Studio, were recovered and repurposed in Corten Steel and perforated with patterns. The design simulates the filtering of light from the leafy canopy of rain trees at the site - changing as the day progresses and connecting the spaces to key memories and identities.
The newly-designed interiors derive inspiration from the “memory” of the metal silos - cylindrical units that occupy the site. The silhouette of these forms offers contrast to the rigid geometry of the building and hence shows up as a sculptural insert. The silo and chimney suspended within the space root it as a recall of the industrial process and are used internally as a cycloramic projection for the marketing team.
Creating the gateway to the entire development with the Studio, the second co-generator plant has been transformed into the Workshop. A multi-functional space, it houses sample apartments, a meeting area and a multi-purpose gallery for cultural events such as art shows, talks and performances. The interiors connect seamlessly with the outdoors thus expanding the areas of the activities and driving the dynamism of the landscape and the public domain.
The existing Boiler Plant was converted into an all- day café by retaining the structural framework and a boiler tank as a memory of its original intent. The Boiler Café, Workshop and Studio together create the edges of a vibrant public space that demonstrates the core philosophies of ‘The Trees’.
The landscape design strategically re-purposes the heritage environ in a more urban, community-centric setting. Amalgamating industrial scrap and integrating them with the plants, it uses them as a story telling device.
The buildings of Imagine Studio are newly defined as the memories of an industrial past; its contemporary form ready to shape new thoughts within its body. These sit sculpturally into a landscape, which with its places for public engagement and participation, will go on to evolve new ideas for the future.
Imagine Studio was a Finalist for the Adaptive Re-use Building of the Year and Metal in Architecture Project of the Year at World Architecture News (WAN) Awards 2016. It has also won Special Mention at the Architizer A+ Awards 2017, Honorable Mention at the Fast Company Innovation by Design Awards 2016 and the Blue Elephant at Kyoorius Design Awards India (2015 & 2016)