Bankable Quality

 10 Jun 2014

Sydney has long had a love/hate relationship with Darling Harbour. The love is evidenced by the extraordinary numbers of people who enjoy the space every year – 28 million. On the other hand, a key gripe has been that the public precinct has never quite linked with the city in quite the way it should have. And that’s particularly true of this corner of the park.

Darling Harbour’s new Commonwealth Bank Place had to accommodate 6,000 office workers plus provide an appropriate link between the corporate building and one of Sydney’s favourite public spaces.

In other words, the key challenge was to meet the central brief of accommodating 6,000 Commonwealth Bank employees, but being nestled as it is next to the leafy heart of Sydney’s Darling Harbour, it was also going to be a place that drew a great deal of attention to itself plus offered an opportunity to revitalise and define this corner of one of the harbour city’s most important public spaces. But more than “defining the park”, the intention of the building was to also “create strong connections back into the city whilst moving backwards and forwards into Darling Harbour South”, explains architect Richard Francis-Jones.

As such the two buildings present a glass and aluminium corporate face on the city side, but on the side that faces the public domain – and the children’s playground beyond – a low-scaled timber awning brings a softer element to the design of the area.

Indeed it’s the provision of the new playground that includes a new water-play area that represents one part of the new project that the general public can enjoy. Here children can create pools, dams and divert water flows. There’s also a children’s theatre (with Monkey Bar Children’s Theatre Productions the resident licensee) and a low resolution digital façade on the western face of the building has people can manipulate using LED technology.

The building also offers a “community green” where workers in the building can relax at lunchtime. The Commonwealth Bank were keen to create a campus-style workplace where workers could collaborate during the working day in a comfortable, engaging interior. “We put a great deal of care into the details of the atriums, the stainless steel, timber and glass, using natural timber for the handrails,” says Francis-Jones. “The execution lends a very warm sense to the interior and naturally organises the building from its more interactive and more energised kitchen areas around the atrium to quiet spaces towards the exterior.”

“the Zip HydroTap is able to churn out the amount of water demanded without people having to line up”

The kitchen areas are an integral part of a campus style office, adds Davenport Campbell senior designer Oscar Iturra. Davenport Campbell was charged with the task of fitting out the interiors. The offices have a large floor plate, says Iturra, so both large and small “tea points” are scattered throughout the office. The larger tea points each feature two Zip HydroTap systems to cope with the demand.

“At the bigger tea points the Zip HydroTap is able to churn out the amount of boiling and chilled filtered water demanded without people having to line up,” he says. Indeed the efficiencies the units offer are two-fold: instant drinks for large numbers of thirsty office workers and superior energy savings, which represented another crucial element in the total job.

“We achieved a six green star rating which was an important threshold for everybody involved
to meet,” adds Francis-Jones. “We wanted to find ways to enhance people’s wellbeing, not just ticking boxes. A great deal was achieved by the way natural daylight was introduced, through fresh air systems … you can walk through spaces, open windows, hear children playing outside … the building responds to its occupants, to their needs and choices in healthy and stimulating ways.”

"Article taken from Boiling Point issue no. 19, published by the Indesign Media Asia Pacific. Words by Guy Allenby, Photography by Tyrone Branigan, Architect by Richard Francis-Jones, Interior Designer by Davenport Campbell"