An Indian Design Studio
In the industrial zone of Manesar, a suburb of Gurgaon (which some may insist is a suburb of Delhi) amidst the many large buildings housing factories, that manufacture automotive and related industry components, several of them supplying to the likes of Maruti, Honda and other automotive giants, there is a discrete building in white and blue, with a very pleasing aesthetically-designed front and a neat chrome sign reading Studio34.
Entry is a bit complicated, with an elaborate security system. But once you are able to penetrate that security system it, of course, helps to be invited like I was and you get a glimpse of some of the displayed images and illustrations, you begin to understand the need for such secrecy. Because it's within these walls that some of the most exciting new automobiles cars, scooters, motorcycles and commercial vehicles for the Indian roads of tomorrow are being conceived and prototyped. Studio34, in fact, is India's most comprehensively equipped, independent design studio, with the entire wherewithal necessary to conceive, design and prototype international-level automotive vehicles of all kinds.
Studio34 came to life when a few like-minded friends with diverse passions came together, not only to feed their creative instincts but also to create a fertile environment for innovation that provides designers with the freedom to explore and the means to materialise their concepts. Four design students Abhijit Bhoge, Aashish Choudhary, Anand Sharma and Sandeep Verma who shared an apartment on Via San Quintino in Torino, Italy, whilst studying design at Torino's famous Istituto Europeo di Design (IED), were enjoying themselves one summer evening in a beer cafe. After a few pints of Italian beer, the creative juices started to flow and the decision was taken to establish a design studio. As naive as it may have sounded then, the opportunity did come by and to their credit, they grabbed it with all their four pairs of arms.
The first design project that the four did jointly, got delivered from that same apartment in Torino. At a loss for ideas to name their fledgeling design "studio", they decided to call it by the number of their apartment - 34. So, it came to be that the new design studio that these four young enthusiasts started, was called Studio34. Over the years, the four design students became design professionals, with each of them spending time in some of the more prestigious European studios, such as those of BMW, Fiat's Centro Stile, Honda, McLaren and Maserati. Their dream to live design on an everyday basis started slowly and they continued working together towards the common vision that they all shared. From the early days of designing logotypes and visiting cards to designing elaborate automotive turnkey design projects today, each assignment was "delivered with a sense of accomplishment as it brought them a step closer to the ambitious goal of setting up a one-of-its-kind design facility, never seen before," states one of the four partners, Anand Sharma.
Thus, Studio34 has now built up a very fine reputation amongst the Indian industry and they have their hands full with several projects. Anand says, "the young Indians of today can not only dream about creativity but are also capable of making these dreams come true by means of entrepreneurship whilst developing sensible businesses. We at Studio34 believe that this century has just begun to unveil that intellectual and creative facet that India always had and which had been hidden for a long time."
To me, the most interesting exercise that Studio34 has been involved in is a studied approach to Indian aesthetics, which they say is an experiential approach. Anand believes that "India can provide to the world a fresh take on tomorrow's design, which would encompass the infinite cultural riches and ancient wisdom of the country. And Studio34's team is in constant pursuit to lead this revolution, which they call 'Design in India'."
There are many automotive design studios around the globe catering to the requirements of various OEMs. At the same time, there are a few design studios, who take the time to develop their own design language and philosophy, which reflects in all their products. "India is a very diverse country," explains Anand, "So much so that even the taste of the food, the language, the dialect, even the sense of clothing changes every 200km. A place this diverse cannot have one uniform functional structure. It needs to have an experiential approach to things. India has always inspired people across the globe through the centuries. The immense cultural and spiritual diversity of our country has been at the helm of multiple debates and discussions over the years. Understanding India as an outsider can be quite complex. One has to be deeply involved in the unique disorderly order or ordered chaos that our country has. As Indians, we are born into this orderly chaos and growing up within the cultural boundaries of the vast expanse of India enables us to understand a few things better than the others, especially when it comes to understanding our own people. Indian aesthetics is a vast subject which cannot be summed up in a mere derivation of craft."
Paris-based automotive design expert and writer Gautam Sen, an advisor and design mentor to the Studio34 team says, "Studio34 would like to be able to show India through design. The approach has revolved around the understanding of the various aspects of Indian culture, such as India's dance forms, the way we Indians dress, our martial arts, our music, our architecture, the theories of colour, our many languages and our ancient scriptures."
Having spent almost a whole day with the eager and friendly team, it is obvious to me that the enthusiastic bunch at Studio34 is indeed a storehouse of young talent. They have come a long way since that evening at the Italian cafe and surely look all set to go far into the future. An important Manesar-based component manufacturer is a significant investor in Studio34 and the investments are ongoing. Strictly world-class equipment has been installed at the facility and when the complete studio is ready, it will have an Italian CNC machine with an envelope size of approximately 5.5mX3m (the very best) to be installed and a Japanese LMM with 6mX3m Surface Plate (also the very best and already installed).
Some projects done by Studio34
The Shinkansen, as is known, is a network of high-speed trains in Japan that has been famous the world over for decades now for its sheer high speed and punctuality.
With the impending introduction of the Shinkansen in India, Studio34 decided to propose concepts with a very different approach. Whilst the exteriors and the technology were something that they could not mess around with, it was possible to relook the interiors and overall user experience. Thus Studio34 developed a theme that was derived from Indian culture and experience and created a whole new aesthetic experience for the train.
Indian design has never really been associated with automotive design. The most visible forms of Indian aesthetics are in the fields of architecture, visual arts, plastic arts and textiles.
Looking at them, Studio34 decided that Indian aesthetics has evolved with an emphasis on inducing deeper spiritual or philosophical states in the audience. Studying them all in detail, Studio34 narrowed down to essentially two keywords, which hold true both in relevance and in terms of aesthetics: Adbhutham and Anubhava.
The Personal Rapid Transport as an idea works well as a feeder service to other modes of public transport and has considerable potential as an alternative to Smart Mobility in future Smart Cities.
Studio34 worked on the idea of a Personal Rapid Transport System for a Tier-1 city in India. The exterior design of the POD had to be distinctive from the generic automotive forms seen on the busy roads of Indian cities. The form that was designed was derived from the Brahma Kamal, the national flower of India.
A clean place is a safe place," is what they say. A safe place is not just a necessity, but a mandate that should be followed by all. Nobody likes to be around in a dirty place.
Especially, when it comes to children, cleanliness becomes even more important. So Studio34 decided to design an interactive dustbin that would not just be a part of the furniture, but can be a bit more in terms of educating the children about the different kinds of wastes, as well as serve the purpose of being clean. The design approach of Studio34 was simple: they took cues from something which the kids are attracted to, colours and building blocks. Lego was the first thing that came to their minds and thus was born an innovative children's dustbin.
The Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza Project
Studio34 tried to figure out what the customers of vehicles like the Brezza wanted from their cars. One thing was sure that they bought the vehicle for looks and space.
But does one look fit all in a diverse country like India? So, Studio34 figured out that there were two main directions for people to consider in terms of looks. While one was, of course, mean, butch and rugged, the other was more luxurious and premium.
Looking to cater to this dual persona of the customers, Studio34 developed an aesthetic form for the vehicle where one could replace existing parts with new ones to reflect one's own personality through the car.
The Ashok Leyland Project
Since India's independence, Ashok Leyland, has been at the forefront of the commercial transport industry. Studio34 studied the brand and figured out that they could work out a brand language that would define the future product range. "As we tried to understand the brand ethos, we realised how closely the brand holds its customers together." Studio34 studied the human connections of Ashok Leyland, and they figured out that this could be the essence of the brand's design language.
Closely resembling the human gestures of elation and victory, the designers at Studio34 finalised upon a sculptural form, which carried the same values as the brand's tagline: Aapki Jeet Hamari Jeet (your victory is our victory).
The Studio34 team has also done some fun projects like designing their concept of a Mumbai 'kaali peeli-black and yellow) taxi; a hotted up rickshaw with four wheels, a fully-blown performance Tata Magic Iris minivan, etc.
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