Thinking through Spaces

This article has been crowdsourced with the help of my colleagues at Quicksand from across our three studios in Goa, Delhi and Bangalore. While the three studios work together, there is something unique in each of them and in the way the inhabitants of each have made it their own. The nature of this post is fairly reflective, and it is an attempt to articulate the organic growth of the studio — physically and beyond.

Studio culture

My desk in the Delhi studio is located such that I can clearly see anybody who enters the studio. One of the most interesting ways of entertaining myself is to look at the expressions of people who enter the studio for the first time. Potential clients, collaborators, parents, friends — anybody who is a 'studio virgin' has an incredulous expression on their face — a mix of surprise and excitement.
The Delhi studio (Photo credit : Quicksand Design Studio)

The Delhi Studio in Lado Sarai is an open floor-plan, broken by the 3 conference rooms on opposite sides of the room, a separate smoking and eating area overlooking the spectacular Qutub Minar. Handmade furniture forms mini work islands strewn with a mix of project work and objects people have collected over time. Evenings are filled with laughter fuelled by samosas and chai from across the street.

The terrace in the Bangalore studio (Photo credit : Quicksand Design Studio)

The Bangalore studio on the other hand, a white three storey house in Koramangala, is fairly different. People spread across 3 floors are surrounded with pictures from previous offsites and past work that adorns the walls — almost creating a showreel of the 13+ years of Quicksand. The newly built bar and garden on the rooftop, along with the pool table on the second floor; add a couple of beers and the quintessential Bangalore weather makes it the perfect setting for a relaxed Friday evening.

The Goa studio (Photo credit : Quicksand Design Studio)

The Goa studio, co-inhabited with The Busride Studio and Tandem Research is an old Portuguese House in Bardez. While the 3 companies have dedicated spaces, there is a floating population of collaborators, experts coming in for workshops/ labs, people visiting from the other studios for project work, and friends that always keep things interesting. The Greenhouse forms its very own bubble. With the backyard swimming pool, the lush green surroundings, and baked goodies from Dynasty, the nearest bakery, you really don't need anything else.

Delhi feels like a design studio. Bangalore is more start up. Goa is like going to an old university.

Somebody had once rightly pointed out that each studio represents the city it inhabits. But while there are differences, there is a common thread that runs across all studios. Lunches are an event in every studio — the food differs with the location, but the conversations and banter remains the same. The studio libraries — ranging from an old cupboard to a tiny corner with its own lounge chair to a coffee table collectively house a repository of interests.

(L to R) Luna, Szabo in Bangalore, Pluto in Goa and Meego in Delhi

And of course, the studios won't feel like themselves without our furry friends — Meego in Delhi, Szabo and Luna in Bangalore, and Pluto in Goa (all part of the same family!). Every time there is food around, a wagging tail and a pair(s) of puppy-dog eyes appear.

A dynamic space, allowing for constant change while providing comfort in familiarity.

A repository of stories

The studio consists of people coming from a range of backgrounds— business, literature, design, social sciences. In such a diverse space, stories become the common thread that binds people together.

The studios are filled with curios, objects, books, frames, boxes, stationery. At a glance, it might seem cluttered, but everything in the room has a unique story. The 20 copies of that Stephen Fry book on the bookshelf, the huge teardrop made of tangled tags, even the curtain of pink and orange plastic flowers.

Most of our work involves digging deeper into the everyday lives of people, and telling their stories in order to inspire change. A large part of that comes from being able to tell our own stories. Despite the constant change, we try to express ourselves and who we are and share that with people around us. This not only reflects in the deliverables we end up making for our clients, but also ends up creeping into the spaces we inhabit in interesting ways.

Space is like a plant, it is a living entity that you nourish and get nourishment from in return. It’s a part of your identity, like the clothes you wear, the books you read, the music you listen to; it’s a small window into how you want the world (and at times yourself) to perceive YOU.

Influencing Behaviour

A couple of months ago we had a two-day workshop with a client in the studio. The director of the company came to the studio for the same and was keenly observing the studio. After 10 minutes of silent observation he exclaimed —

Your studio looks very lived in!

Modular, evolving, flexible, dynamic, adaptable — were some of the many words that came up while describing the studio. The spaces are truly transformative — becoming large open spaces during workshops, late at nights before a client presentation it becomes a dorm room before jury, Friday evening it transforms into a friends house where talking is partnered with a lot of beer and food.

My favourite memory in the studio is probably that of ‘creating’ the room while working on that project. The evolution from the room, going from being a collection of images, articles and notes, amidst which we’d spend hours trying to weave stories that made sense, to finally hosting the comics that came of it made it feel like a physical representation of our muddled and confusing journey.

Interestingly, while all three studios have the same ethos, values and people shuffling between them, the behaviours exhibited at each are unique. The Delhi studio with its openness facilitates ad hoc conversations and almost invites you to shout across to someone (even if they are sitting on the other end of the studio!). The physical proximity helps in making communications transparent in the studio.

In the Bangalore studio people sit in separate rooms and even on separate floors, making it a more concerted effort to engage with each other. It seems quieter in Bangalore, and talking loudly almost seems to ruin that sanctity. The Goa studio is more spontaneous, with a diverse set of people streaming in and out everyday, plans and conversations are interesting but often unplanned. Without the distractions of the city, the amazing weather and the view, the Goa studio tends to make you fairly reflective in nature.

L — Diwali cards session in Delhi, R — Furniture made by the Bangalore studio (Photo credits : Quicksand Design Studio)
L — Handmade bookshelf in use in the Bangalore studio (Photo credits : Quicksand Design Studio), R — Mango plucking earlier this year at the Goa studio

Intangible Spaces

Space can be many things, but the studio space is where I bring my creative, intellectual self to everyday and share this journey with others. For me, it is not just a physical space but also the space I share virtually with others in Quicksand. Or the places we go to for projects (client and independent) and do research in. For me, all of these comprise the Quicksand space. The space is also the people and things that inhabit it, including the dogs and the things we make — whether it be a publication, or a bar counter, or a cocktail for a party.

Every year, the Quicksand team takes a vacation together. After a bustling year with projects and travel and client meetings, these days allow us to unwind and relax. The vacation is a great way to know the people we work with better, and strengthen the bonds we have, but they also give time for collective reflection.

Photo credit : Quicksand Design Studio

We are a multidisciplinary team, people come from design, social sciences, art, writing, management, film-making. The sheer diversity in the room is a humbling experience and keeps all of us on our toes — the Bangalore studio and their ever inspiring craftsmanship, and the lush terrace garden; the amazing artwork and mixed media experiments coming out of the Goa studio; the Delhi studio’s ability to celebrate just about anything and the beautiful collaterals they create.

Photos from the Diwali potluck at the Delhi studio
The studio feels like coming home and there is a certain comfort it has.

We don’t need to punch in and out of the studio, there is always a dog at work, sofas in the studio are often used for afternoon naps, there is table tennis in Delhi, a pool table in Bangalore and a carrom board and a swimming pool in Goa. And while all of these might seem like distractions, they only help us what we do better.

Space is more than just a three dimensional volume within which things exist and move, and it is this intangible space that is so much harder to explain. And this space to make mistakes, to express ourselves, and to just ‘be’ draws the line between a studio and an office, and this is what makes everything else worth it.

Porch in the Goa studio (Photo credit : Grant Alan Davis)