A working space, by definition, is created for a group of people to work together in order to achieve their goals. As human civilisation has evolved, the type of working spaces we need has also changed to meet the needs of workers and the type of work they do. Efficiency and productivity are two keywords that have driven these changes in working spaces. At Tusk Advisory, a working space is not only a place where their employees go to work every day, but it is also their second home.
PHOTOS BY Bagus Tri Laksono
As a fairly young company, Tusk Advisory has been in Indonesia for just over a decade. They are one of the leading strategic advisory firms focused on developing and delivering infrastructure projects for businesses and governments, developing economic growth related to policy reforms for governments and delivering those reforms in Indonesia and the surrounding regions.
Raj Kannan, the founder of the firm, fell in love with Indonesia and its enterprising youth, believing that, with the help of his firm, they can add considerable value in the economic development of Indonesia. He believes that, through improving the country’s infrastructure, Indonesia can rapidly build on its place as the 16th largest economy in the world. It is the nature of the business that the company’s consultants are used to working in client offices - often in small, general purpose, meeting rooms. Raj Kannan, therefore, decided to create an office that functioned more like a family home rather than just a working space. Nestled beautifully on the highest floor of the Sona Topas Tower in Jakarta, they found this location by sheer luck.
“We came to inspect another office on the fifth floor of this building, which was just another office space and by then I had seen quite a few so I didn’t show much interest. The building manager then mentioned he also had space up in the building’s penthouse on the 21st floor, but that it was a complicated space since it was originally a restaurant. I said okay, let’s take a look at the penthouse and we went up and yes, it was complicated, but I fell in love with the two-storey high cantilevered windows and views to the north and south of Jalan Sudirman.”
After managing to find this fantastic space and location, Raj Kannan procured the services of his wife Michelle—who is an amazing interior designer - together with D.J. Mear, the owner of PT Native Wood, to do the architectural and building work.
In the finished result, we can see the unique features of this ‘penthouse office’ such as the exposed iron girders and beams in the ceiling by the foyer. D.J. Mear also used wood flooring extensively to cover the original cold marble tiles and created the ‘warmth’ that they wanted in this office.
In order to create a ‘home in the sky’ atmosphere, Michelle made extensive use of Persian rugs all around the office. She also created a library that doubles up as a waiting room and a peaceful space for the staff to chill after a hard day’s work. The staff area also has a lounge adjacent to the kitchenette/pantry and is used for Friday lunches and birthday celebrations as well as regular wine and cheese evenings. “Every Friday is what we call ‘In Office Friday’, where we provide free lunch for all the staff. When our consultants came back to the office, we wanted them to have a feeling of coming “home” so the office was designed with a homey atmosphere," says Raj.
Since the office concept is ‘a home in the sky’, they opted to have different zones with different themes and colour schemes in the same way you would do in a real home. The main challenge was to ensure that these different zones fitted together and functioned seamlessly as a cohesive space. The furnishings are a combination of custom-made fitted office furniture and unique one-off pieces. The upholstered seating, made by Home Décor, sits amongst antiques and designer pieces acquired from around the world as well as a selection of paintings and sculptures. All of the rooms, though different in theme and colour, have original artworks as a unifying element.
Michelle also adds that the office has to be functional and practical as it will have to cater for 40 staff and visiting clients while trying to achieve the ‘home away from home’ feel. “It took five months to complete and we are both very happy with the result. Persian rugs on polished wooden floors, antique furniture and original artwork attract the eye at every turn and transformed this 330 sqm space into a comfortable retreat, a place you may even want to linger a little while longer once the work is done.”
Aside from the interior and unique structural features, the office is also adorned with many artworks from Raj and Michelle’s collection of paintings and sculptures of various origins and genres, which they have acquired over the last 20 years. For example, a painting hanging next to the reception desk is an Aboriginal dot painting titled Bush Flower by artist Jillian Nungarryi Turner. It adds a beautiful harmony to the reception area with its black, red and gold colour scheme. The reception desk itself features a laser-cut design on blackened metal sheeting, the paintings are framed in black and the waiting area chairs are also finished in blackened wood.
The carpet is a Kashan from Iran and sits on a black marble floor. Red and gold are used on the wall behind the reception desk and complement the red and gold used for the Tusk logo. Live palms and fresh orchids soften the effect and create a warm and inviting atmosphere at the entrance.
One of the highlights of the office is the conference room situated at the end of the hallway, which is adorned with a custom-made Kashmiri runner. The grandeur of the conference room comes from the double story cantilevered glass wall, filling the room with natural light that permeates throughout the front section of the office. On clear days a glorious Jakarta sunset streams in. This very dramatic and unique feature of the office was what attracted Raj to this office. A gigantic long wooden table sits in the middle of this room as a piece de resistance. Due to its size, this table had to be assembled on site by D.J. Mear and his team.
In his private corner, Raj’s office has a beautifully restored solid wood desk as the centre-piece that used to belong to an Indonesian general. A landscape oil painting of Mount Merapi by Ernest Dezentje adorns the background that has been painted in Raj’s special green colour called “English Meadows” from Dulux. Some beautiful furniture here includes a French oak and green leather swivel chair by the French design house Grange. The pair of Italian guest chairs by Nella Vetrina sit on a 50-year-old Bokhara rug bought in London.
Going to Tusk Advisory’s office is not like going to an ordinary office. The well-balanced combination of the interior and architectural work creates a really homey feeling that makes it original. During our visit, we couldn’t help ourselves from asking this amazing couple the classic question about their opinion on good design. This is what they had to say…
“A good design for me is something that is beyond a fad - it should last the test of time. We have now been in this office for 5 years and I wouldn’t change a thing because it has all the elements that I want and seek in a design—aesthetically pleasing, functionally fitting and most of all its meaning for the user. Every item we have placed in the office, every painting we have hung and every rug we have laid has a provenance, we know when and where we bought them and even every book in our library we know the origin.
The library has some rare books, the oldest being a set of English literary works printed in 1795, bought at a rare books auction not far from my alma mater, Oxford. To create a sense of belonging, among the staff we encourage them to borrow any of the books in the library and to add their own favourites. Every quarter we have a book review event where one of the staff will select the book for that quarter and everyone participates in reading and reviewing at the next gathering. In fact, once we reviewed two books at the same time, both printed 100 years apart but on the same subject of self-mastery - it was interesting the varied views from the young Tuskans (Tusk consultants) on the 100-year old book versus the recently published book, most felt the 100-year old book’s insights and advice were still relevant today.
You may ask how is this relevant to the good design question, but to me it demonstrates that the inclusion of a dynamic library in the office design has nurtured a diverse reading culture in the office, in turn helping to broaden young minds.