Breaking out from convention

Duncan Bainbridge
Thursday 26 Feb 2009

Alternative office design encourages creativity and offers a new way to work

Designed by HASSELL, the ANZ Learning and Breakout Centre is a large, flexible and multi-purpose space, intended to encouragecreativity and freedom from the constraints of a ‘normal’ office environment.Designers Caroline Lieu and Rob Backhouse endeavoured to create a playful and fun atmosphere, one which stimulates the free flowof ideas, which can otherwise be hindered by drab and stuffy surrounds.

Corporate colours and branding are eliminated, and furniture and finishes are selected to enhance the sensory experience of thespace. Plywood, paint and patterned rubber are some of the materials used in a clever and striking fashion to achieve this aesthetic.

Adaptable spaces are a key component of the design which breaks free from the shackles of an unimaginative office environment.Depending on the type of learning activity, there are various sized meeting rooms and open plan areas to gather in. An abundance ofnatural light fills the rooms with some wall material being semi-opaque to allow daylight to filter through.

All areas are equipped with state-of-the-art audio-visual facilities which reinforce the bank's commitment to innovation andtechnology. This commitment is manifested in the multimedia zone which includes state-of-the-art recording and broadcasting equipment witha fixed multi-tiered auditorium-style seating platform.The learning and meeting rooms have an intentionally disorienting effect due to angled partitions situated between the rooms so thatinternally the rooms are asymmetrical.

This disorientating effect is further enhanced by the way in which the walls are painted, with colours applied in large trapezoidblocks. A tree-like branch pattern appears on the walls and rubber floors and all are interconnected to create unexpected pathways,just like a fairytale. This intriguing and unique world begins in the main lobby which is complete with an 'Alice in Wonderland' style entry door.

The journey continues on the ground floor area, including the Central Forum and courtyard which is open, allowing it to hold functions and meetings.This space is generously sized to accommodate the traffic in and out of the learning rooms during breaks, or groups of visitors gathering over coffee or drinks.

Large joinery units, the seating platform and kitchen bench provide division between areas, as does a large sculptural element that is visible from the entry point. This sculpture represents the ‘Tree of Knowledge’, with its branches extending into the level above through an opening that alsoaccommodates a linking stair.

The stair is designed as a utilitarian, almost scaffold-like assembly as a means of climbing the ‘Tree of Knowledge’. The journey up into the tree canopy again reinforces the escape from the workplace.

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