Raja Arjun on orchestrating a fast-growing design-build company

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Office of Cognitive Design (OCD) is a realty service company comprising strategy, design and building. Spearheaded by Raja Arjun, the practice primarily focuses on empathy-driven design with emphasis on human psychology, creativity and business. Design-thinking remains at the core of every project that they undertake as they look for holistic solutions centred around the needs of the end-user, their nuances and eccentricities. They achieve this by a unique company structure run by various directors each an expert in a particular typology of design. Raja discusses the novel and unspoken aspects of architecture and shares his outlook on Indian architecture and its discrepancies.

Office of Cognitive Design, Bangalore is a collective practice offering an integrated business solution, with  Design Strategy, Architecture, Interior Design and construction services, individually or as a turnkey project. With projects like prefab co-living homes, workspace solutions for startups and MNCs alike, exciting retail formats, co-working spaces, and institutional projects all over India, their practice combines business solutions, design, construction and brand strategy. Raja Arjun, founder of OCD holds a bachelor’s in architecture from RV College and a master’s in brand strategy and business innovation from IE Barcelona. Belonging to a family that works in real-estate and having worked in Tokyo, Melbourne, Ahmedabad and Mumbai, Raja combines his education and experience to elevate the standards of design in the country.

Raja approaches his work with a multi-faceted approach. His team at OCD understands the brand, its intent and goals and attempts to assimilate the same into design. Undertaking projects ranging from 450sqft. to 50 acre, OCD is amongst the few firms in India that provides a troupe of architectural services ranging from celebrity homes to game changing institutional spaces. Raja compares running an architectural practice to running a marathon, Raja mentions realizing a firm’s potential takes careful planning, plenty of energy and time.Most important of all is a genuine curiosity in life and the joy in bonding with people. OCD is a six year old practice with a systematic office, consisting of 60 people divided into sub teams of 7-10 professionals. They embark on each project through research work comprising a benchmark study of the surrounding context, client profile and site requirements, rendering each project with a distinct architectural language.

Raja has designed stores for MS Dhoni’s label “SEVEN” from conceptualization and execution to branding and real estate strategizing for 135 stores around India. For the retail brand Fizzy Goblet, OCD redefined the shopping format and experience by challenging the idea of “display’ and product interaction. They created instagram friendly spaces doubling the space to become another marketing channel. The space is made unique by placing the merchandise on central carousels designed with a central lighting feature, giving an immersive experience for customers. Raja and his team share that the most challenging aspect of such fitouts for various different locations is the logistics. Coordinating work in multiple cities and managing a centralized retail manufacturing facility is carried out with a systematic project plan.

OCD’s project “The museum’, was an iconic hotel and restaurant destination of Bengaluru that was originally built by the legendary hospitality brand, the BJN Group more than 30 years ago. Raja says “We were hired for just a design, but we helped reposition the project as a luxury retail and work space destination”. Their biggest challenge in this project was to convert a hotel with the MEP and structure designed around the main function to accomodate a new function.Alongside, the structure was handed over in a dilapidated state, the firm had to rework from the foundation level, gutting the entire exiting MEP and strengthening the structural integrity of the building with pressure injections and carbon fibre additions. Raja adds “In terms of an architect’s profession it’s comparable to performing an open heart surgery.”

For Zuari’s new corporate office in Kolkata, OCD was hired to envision a building that would be ‘historically sensitive and yet a modern marvel’. Raja voices “Kolkata is known to be the cultural capital of India, so we researched what historical relevance meant, instead of taking the easy route of designing a building with colonial columns. We were inspired by the foundations of Kolkata which was laid as the original capital of the British Indian empire and paved the path for future trends.” They designed the tallest platinum LEED-certified PEB structure in India, integrated with post-tension slabs, and co-designed with a young talented structural team based out of the city. For historical relevance, the trees of the victoria park, planted for the arrival of the Queen and unique to the park was planted all around the unique stepped balconies of the proposed tower. The challenge in this project is the structure itself, Raja integrated the unique structure and architecture to create clean open spaces.

An International realty company wanted to enter the Indian market, to our luck they found an opportunity in Bengaluru. After conducting a competitive analysis and benchmark survey, OCD found a clear differentiator in the space of micro-homes for millenials. OCD proposed a flexible modular housing made of prefab 500 sq ft modules, used individually or combined. This will be India’s first purpose-built and future-ready co-living development. OCD also designed the framework of the website and sales funnel for the company. The challenge here was to work with architects, MEP engineers and structural designers to create a module that can be flexible and yet function like a traditionally static building. Raja adds “The permutations and combinations are complex, like a Rubix cube. To achieve this freedom of choice for the end user was worth the effort.”

While Raja pushes the envelope with every project, there is only as much that one can do since architecture is a young profession in India. Projects are ample, but lack the value of design. Raja expresses “In India there is a push in the direction of undercutting and underpricing in general and it is also prevalent in the architectural profession. India is known for its engineering and efficiency to provide a service cheaper than their competition. But this alone isn’t enough,the future of our world is going to depend on how innovative we are and it’s time we pivote towards innovation and creative problem-solving. Elevating the quality of design can transform our country into a first-world nation. Raja adds “Government is the major stakeholder that can bring a change, for example, CBD Bangalore is redeveloped to look and function like or better than any developed country”. A city needs to work for everyone, a reflection of the necessities of urban India. The transformation will start from the government, the country will follow and start respecting living standards whether it’s a builder or a simple shop owner. 

For Zuari’s new corporate office in Kolkata, OCD was hired to envision a building which would be ‘historically sensitive and yet a modern marvel’.

Raja Arjun

Architecture is not just being creative, architects can be creative business people. Undertaking hospitals, luxury residences, retail, schools, a prefab project for the Chinese developer and co-working spaces Raja brings forward newer, important and unspoken aspects of architecture and quietly disrupts the profession by blurring the boundaries between design and build.

Office of Cognitive Design (OCD)

Website: https://www.ocd.bz

E-mail: admin@ocd.bz / crm@ocd.bz 

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