Groups of people clustered over a tall oak bar; an animated huddle on white tables under pools of light; fluttering post-its defining nascent project conversations and curious prototypes carelessly lying around. Incongruously amidst all of this focused work, someone merrily humming a tune on a swing; welcome to an ordinary day in the extraordinary life of the GPL Design Studio.
Distinctive due to its black exposed ceiling and overlooking the day lit atrium in the Godrej Group's new headquarters building; the Studio has vintage style classroom desks, unfinished concrete columns, a blackboard, easy chairs, break out spaces and a coffee corner. Its 25 inhabitants who form a part of a larger 60 strong pan India Studio (with a proud 50:50 gender ratio) are as eclectic as the space they occupy. Together they encapsulate the Studio way of working - collaborating, iterating, making and learning from each other in small engagement teams that come together and disband after delivering a successful project to form yet again on creative new engagements.
This could be a fairly typical story; creative teams are small and very focused with underlying characteristics of diversity, openness and curiosity. What makes this unique however is the context, a creative Studio housed in a developer setting. The emphasis on design in real estate development is not new, but this isn't just about the inevitable aesthetic layer or unique selling points that are tacked on at the end.
The Studio's strengths are a narrative based story-telling approach across space and media, with work spanning design services across scales – from environmental planning, urban design, master planning, landscape architecture & horticulture, interior design, graphic design, branding, wayfinding signage & broadcast design; for asset classes from residential, commercial, to retail. “Tasked with product development and creation of customer experiences for Godrej Properties' 115 million sq. ft. pan-India portfolio, design is not a business vertical, it is a business horizontal”, says Anubhav Gupta, Chief Design Officer for the company.
Gupta says, "Innovation is not about playing it safe, one needs to have an appetite for risk and an ability to tolerate failure before getting to superlative success." He adds, "In attempting to bridge the gap between Fuzzy design logic to Boolean business logic, we set up the GPL Design Studio a little over 3 years ago. It is an anomaly within the traditional real estate development company, but at Godrej it is a testament to the Group's cohesive design led innovation approach.”
The Studio's collaborative co-creation format has helped create tremendous intellectual property and shared value. Recent successes on design led projects include Godrej Properties' flagship mixed-use development The Trees, Grade A commercial assets Godrej One & Godrej BKC and the adaptive reuse experience centre - the Imagine Studio. The GPL Design Studio can be described as thinking and powers the organisation to – ‘make good business sense, by design.’