Following a rousing article in WAN's News Review several weeks ago penned by Editor in Chief Michael Hammond, Tony Grist, Head of Architecture at HASSELL has offered this response on the effectiveness of commercial design in Australia...
Despite the numerous factors surrounding the debate on workplace design, the issue fundamentally stems from the increasing pressure on organisations and their employees to perform in ever more complex work scenarios. Companies must survive and grow while using fewer resources, be capable of agile responses to changing market demands, resolve complex organisational structures and collaborations, deal with an unprecedented geographical and temporal distribution of work and fight off intense competition to secure and engage valuable and talented personnel.
While there are certainly examples around the world of innovative and successful workplaces, there has been a failure in many instances to support organisations in responding to such demands. Some buildings are seemingly designed for inflexible business models, resulting in a lack of adaptability rather than being able to accommodate rapidly evolving work patterns and behaviour. The focus of design is often on buildings and control rather than people and the way they work and interact. This is exacerbated by the separate treatment of interior fit-outs and a lack of consideration of the wider context of the city.
During the last decade in Australia, the development market and a strong economic cycle have given architects a wealth of opportunities to explore the nature of workplaces with clients who
place great value upon the contribution of design. New and growing cities have provided fertile ground for development opportunities with a great number of available sites.
These opportunities for innovation have been seized upon due to a limited tenant market that demands a collaborative, user-focused approach. Furthermore, a tight labour market and the high cost of talented labour require employers to provide exemplary workplaces if they are to recruit and stimulate the best personnel.
Several Australian projects featured in the Commercial category of the World Architecture News Awards 2010 and in the same year at the World Architecture Festival Awards, five out of seven of the commercial projects short listed in the Interiors and Fit-out category were in Australia. The overall winner in this category was the ANZ Centre, the headquarters for one of the largest banks in Australia, designed by HASSELL.
Located in Melbourne's Docklands, the ANZ Centre, developed by Lend Lease, applies contemporary thinking in workplace and sustainable design to embody the client's focus on engagement and productivity. HASSELL was fortunate to be able to shape the architecture and workplace together, resulting in a better place for people. We placed emphasis on integrating the building, interiors and landscape, to create a permeable and expansive ‘urban campus’ that engages with the adjacent waterfront and draws people into the heart of the main atrium. Our close working relationship with Lend Lease, including collaboration with Lend Lease design, was integral to the success of the building.
Extensive research (in collaboration with Workplace Strategy consultancy DEGW) into the needs of ANZ employees resulted in highly flexible work spaces where approximately 55% of the work area is shared collaborative space and 45% is a more conventional desk-based environment. The workplace provides a rich and diverse choice of environments for staff and has been designed to accommodate up to a 30% increase in population, through the introduction of alternative working strategies where individual desks are not 'owned'.
Our aim was to design a workplace that responded to the challenges and objectives of the client and enhance organisational performance and culture. David Cartwright, ANZ Chief Operating Officer, has said: “Wide open spaces can change
your mind set. We used to inhabit skyscrapers with small, square, 1,000m floor plates and security at every floor. But here, once you get past initial security you have 80,000 sq m of space where you can roam freely. We wanted to make sure people could see each other and interact in ways they were not doing earlier.”
Architects know that good design can be a genuine contributor to business performance and that meaningful collaboration with tenant and developer facilitates creative and innovative outcomes. At HASSELL our belief in these principles is manifested in commercial projects across the globe as well as in our own studios, where an open design culture is supported by creative working environments.
The reality is that there is no set formula for successful workplace design and market forces dictate that buildings are often designed without knowing who the tenant will be. However, the benefit of aligning developer, architect and end user underpins many of our workplace projects. For the Westpac Bank headquarters in Sydney, we were able to influence a speculative development already under construction and worked with the client and developer to establish a set of design principles to create an inspirational working environment.
To achieve truly great workplaces that work for people, businesses and cities we need to support a dialogue where developers, architects and the tenant market are truly engaged in responding to future work models and workplace requirements. The creativity of architects and designers must be employed to connect the two sides of the equation using knowledge, imagination and a collaborative approach.
Head of Architecture
Tony Grist is based in HASSELL's London studio
See images of the ANZ Centre here.
Editorial , London
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