Of Paramount Importance
13 Feb 2017
Words by Camden Chan
It's official: the world's best-designed workspace is tucked away in the quiet, historic back-alleys of Sydney’s Surry Hills.
As each new generation enters the commercial sector, the working world has become increasingly adapted (and radically adaptive) to innovative co-working technologies. On this score, leading-edge design thinking has altered the dynamic landscape of workplaces: truly transformative environments that cater to the ever-changing needs of the modern professional.
This is where the Australian A+D community is demonstrating pointed ingenuity. Recently, that very same community was rightly praised as ‘World Best-Designed Workplace’ at the prestigious World Festival of Interiors (INSIDE) in Berlin for its intelligent reimagining of both the expanding parameters of the co-working environment and the iconic anodyne vitalism of the Art Deco movement.
Paramount: The Office Space embodies – in the INSIDE jury’s no-uncertain terms – "a paradigm shift for co-working [that] achieves a high-quality outcome rarely seen before." In particular, the project was lauded for representing a "refreshing contrast in office design, where highly crafted spatial, detailing and materiality strategies have been composed with an old world dignity".
The winning design emerges from a strong partnership between the space’s diverse clientele, The Office Space and the team at Woods Bagot. Of the latter, Domenic Alvaro ¬– Lead Architect for the project and Director of Woods Bagot – describes the Paramount co-working workspace as a perfect mix of heritage and contemporary. "Anyone can tell the story of the fit out when they're there”, says Alvaro. “It relates to the old fabric but with a whole new quality of office environment."
By working with the shape of the façade’s iconic Art Deco exteriors, Alvaro’s team handcrafted twenty-two suites wrapped luxuriously in sweeping vistas of cherry wood and walnut for business activity inside. It’s precisely this project’s characteristic design-thinking – what Alvaro defines as the design team’s “self-awareness” – that unites heritage architecture with contemporary design elements. "When you look at the materiality of the building”, continues Alvaro, “you'll see a gorgeous tile that is the exterior. As you come inside, there's a veneer timber cladding that wraps and houses all the original fabric. We didn't want to touch that. Instead, we extended the timber, to give the notion that it was all carved from one material. The timber was key."
To bring the modern design aspect to prominence, the Woods Bagot team turned to brass, which is particularly noticeable in the centralised kitchenette area. Featuring a sculptural brass bar, designed by the sculptor Morgan Shimeld, this communal space encircles a truly unique centrepiece that blends the modern interior geometric form to the space’s exterior Art Deco roots.
The demonstrable use of a restrained tonal and textural palette – cherry, walnut, fine-grained leathers and limestone – passively demarcates those all-important zones for breakout. These common utility spaces particularly impressed the INSIDE jury’s decision, and it’s not terribly difficult to see why. With the functional kitchen space boasting a staggering inlaid deep bronze mirror and splashbacks alongside equally striking hand-filled and honed travertine benches, the inclusion of Zip HydroTaps for instant refreshment is an inspired touch.
The praise is well deserved for both The Office Space and Woods Bagot, bringing Australian historic and contemporary aesthetics, craftsmanship and design savoir faire to the forefront of the design world.
While Paramount: The Office Space has and continues to challenge the status quo for casual and open plan working stations, its founders Boris and Naomi Tosic are taking the Award as indicative of this region’s vanguard design-thinking. "We wanted to create the most exclusive-inclusive workplace in the world with an unwavering commitment to quality and function. This accolade firmly acknowledges our achievement. We couldn't be prouder."