Their studio is all about maximising a small space, where every square inch adds up
Located in a quiet bylane in Suburban Mumbai, absolutely nothing about the nondescript building tells you that one of the country’s leading design practices operates from here. But once you troop up the two floors, nestled amid other “regular” doors, is a chic black door with frosted glass that serves a gentle reminder that you are now entering a design haven.
Simple, utilitarian with clean lines define the interiors of the studio. A black wall that also works as a library is offset by a wooden bench, which runs along the periphery of the room. An old Godrej typewriter sits proudly in one corner looking down on rows of stone samples. _Opolis was founded by Rahul Gore and Sonal Sanchetti upon their return from the USA where they worked with Maki and Associates for around a year. “We chose _Opolis as the name because 'Polis' means a city in the Greek language while 'O' is a prefix attached to words in Japan that shows respect or importance, like O-mizu, O-cha, etc. We wanted it to be a practice about the city and the underscore is the open-ended nature of the practice that deals with issues related to cities and our lives. So we wanted a name that was not specific to ourselves but was collaborative in nature,” explains Rahul.
They moved into this studio in 2001, and are now a close-knit 12-member team. Though tight on space, it doesn’t for a minute feel cramped. Every area has been used to its optimum best – be it the room divider that also works as a showcase for their awards, the model making table that fits snug between the work space and the corridor, or even their own desks. Both of them are extremely territorial about their desks, with Sonal occupying the one next to the window. “The greenery out of the window is a rare sight in Mumbai, and I find it very calming, “ she says.
Watching them go about their day at the studio is like watching two friends work together. There’s camaraderie, banter, and unlimited arguments. Some that lead to fantastic design solutions, and others that almost make them tear their hair apart. You can hear Rahul take a friendly jibe at her for piling his side of the desk with papers, as she retaliates in the same bonhomie about his need to tear all papers, including her notes and sketches.