Sensitively restored by SNK, the 94-year-old building housing the hQ of Tata Sons is set for a glorious future.

By Maria Louis

No sooner did Tata Sons reopen the doors of its global headquarters in Mumbai to mark 150 years of the group and the 114th birth anniversary of JRD Tata on July 29, 2018, than there was a flood of photographs on Whatsapp and Facebook illustrating the extensive renovation done by Somaya and Kalappa Consultants (SNK). The new avatar of Bombay House – the 94-year-old heritage building designed by George Wittet, who was also architect of the Gateway of India, the Prince of Wales Museum (now called Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya) and other iconic buildings of Mumbai – is modern with collaborative spaces designed for tomorrow’s work requirements, but the façade of the British-era edifice retains its Edwardian neo-classical look. What captured the imagination of social media buffs, however, was the kennel for stray dogs that are made to feel as welcome as business visitors.
SNK was appointed on July 19, 2017, and the date given to inaugurate the restored and refurbished building was barely a year later. This time constraint made the task almost impossible, but the design firm embraced it as it was an opportunity for them to be part of a legacy project. “We were entrusted by N Chandrasekaran, chairman of Tata Sons, with the opportunity to work on the restoration and refurbishment of Bombay House,” recalls Nandini Sampat, director and project architect of SNK. “Architecturally, the building is exceptional; but the legacy that is connected with the structure and the Tata Group is also extraordinary. This gave us an opportunity to work beyond the architecture, into the research, history and journey of the Tata Group.”
With the contractor’s mobilisation beginning on site on December 15, 2017, SNK had just seven months to complete the project. But with a team of dozens of consultants and a combined labour force of over 800 people, they did it in record time. “The chairman was incredibly generous with his time and remained closely involved with the process. His vision of ‘One Tata’ had to be encapsulated in the planning and functioning of the building by encouraging interaction and ideation with common facilities and lounges, open plan design and visual connectivity of spaces,” explains Sampat. “It was vital to ensure integration of agile working spaces and dynamic cutting-edge technology. Within all this, the story of the Tata Group had to be subtly intertwined through art walls, archival photography and interior detailing.”
The design was conceptualised floor-wise to depict the chronological narrative of the Tata Group – its Evolution, Reflection and Metamorphosis. The basement and ground floors depicted the evolution and inception of the Group, giving the visitor a sense of introduction to the history, philosophy and company’s contribution to nation building.
The ground floor has been converted into a shared space housing an in-house coffee lounge, informal breakout places, and the Tata Experience Centre (TXC). TXC is a digital museum aimed at giving visitors an immersive experience into the world of Tata using digital technologies for storytelling.
The first, second and third floors hold the offices of leading Tata companies, who reflect the leadership, integrity and ethics of Tata Sons – thus the concept of Reflection. The fourth floor is conceptually developed to reflect Metamorphosis, as this is where the future of the company is built as it transforms into a greater entity in the future.
The historic boardroom on the fourth floor has been restored to its original beauty with only technology being a new addition. The new technology set-up in the building is designed to create digital workplaces with seamless integration. Each floor has digital meeting rooms with immersive technology to enable seamless collaboration.
Apart from widening the main entrance on the ground floor, creating a relatively grand sense of entry which did not exist earlier, the design team were able to create on the west side the idea of a cafe and lounges, while on the eastern side is the Tata Experience Centre. The dogs were an integral part of the building, so they had to ensure that they were given a dedicated space – hence the incorporation of the kennel room.
The scope of restoration wasn’t strictly limited to Bombay House. To create a setting that was more sympathetic to the stone façade, concrete pavers were introduced in the pavements around the building as well as its immediate neighbours – which also allowed for rainwater lines to run below.
Extensive project research through archives and other sources was first carried out. This content was carefully curated to ensure that individual narratives are created sharing unique and inspiring stories that emerged on the journey of building the Tata Group. These visual narratives have been displayed in the corridors, lounges and common spaces.
The design of the art walls involved specific techniques of abstraction, application and use of local arts and crafts to create a singular dynamic piece. The concept design was an outcome of the discussion held and collaboration with individual companies.
Satisfied with the results of SNK’s efforts, Sampat observes, “It was perhaps the first and only building named after the city, where the organisation had been born and grew. Today, even though the city is called Mumbai, Bombay House is still Bombay House – a landmark building rejuvenated to proudly continue as the headquarters of the Tata Group.”

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