Grand Vision

 10 Jun 2014

To create a visionary workplace that stretches boundaries for staff and in sustainability takes a high degree of commitment from both the client and the design team. From the outset, the GPT Group saw the refurbishment of its Sydney headquarters as an opportunity to do something different, and so it enlisted global design studio Woods Bagot to redesign its premises, located in the city’s landmark MLC building.

Wood Bagot’s award-winning design for the GPT Group’s headquarters shows what can be achieved when a project team thinks beyond the ordinary.

The result is visually impressive, open and fluid. Woods Bagot describes it as “a workplace that is more business lounge than office,” encouraging staff to work and meet in a range of spaces, from open work settings to collaborative zones, as well as a variety of meeting rooms.

Key to the design are two grand staircases that promote interaction, allowing employees to feel part of their ‘community’ and linked to the wider organisation. Lead designer Amanda Stanaway, a principal with Woods Bagot, says the stair design was a key part of the refurbishment.

“The primary stair, as part of the client experience, is set against free-form, cantilevered meeting pods and these combine to create a dramatic three-dimensional meeting tree,” she says. “The other stair, the creative link, is a critical part of the collaborative work zone and allows employees to readily move through the tenancy and connect with other teams.”

The design language of the interior takes cues from the forms of the original building by Harry Seidler, one of the greats of Australian architecture. The clearest example of this is seen as soon as visitors arrive and are confronted by the first of the two grand staircases, with ceilings that are equally striking.

“The design intent was to create a dramatic and accessible front-of-house space,” says Amanda. “We went back to the original building and were inspired by the sinuous and sweeping forms to create dramatic staircases that wind around the pods.”

Seidler’s forms have also been used in the open plan area ceilings. “These shapes delicately reveal the original building structure and create relief from the reduced heights and the monotony of the base building grid,” she adds.

“Zip HydroTap units… were a key element in the drive for sustainability.”

Sustainability was a high priority and, with this in mind, all of the former material was either reused or donated. Amanda describes the reuse strategy as “rigorous and unprecedented”, implemented “in response to the client’s mandate of ‘zero’ landfill to achieve a six-star green star rating. This was an ambitious undertaking, considering the locale and the age of the building infrastructure,” she explains. “The solution sensitively juxtaposes old and new, recast and reinterpreted materials, against each other.”

Clearly the solution was successful: last November the project won the 2012 BPN Sustainability Award for Office Fitout. The Zip HydroTap boiling and chilled filtered units in the kitchens were key in this drive for sustainability. “It was all about the eco-footprint. GPT had an existing system and Zip was happy to refurbish this, which worked well with the materials strategy,” Amanda says. “The Zip HydroTap scores highly on green ratings for energy efficiency, low water wastage and sustainable technology.”
"Article taken from Boiling Point issue no. 20, published by the Indesign Media Asia Pacific. Words by Nigel Bartlett, Photography by Tyrone Branigan, Interior Designer by
Woods Bagot"