Category Archives: Sydney

Lessons on future office design from Asia Pacific

By Ken Shuttleworth

I have been travelling through Asia Pacific again this summer, visiting our Hong Kong and Sydney studios and attending a whirlwind of meetings and tours across Hong Kong, China, Singapore and Australia.

It was, as always, fascinating and exciting. Some parts of this region have enormous vision and passion when it comes to their built environment, and you can see why their creative industries are flourishing and why the area attracts such a hotbed of talent.

That thought stayed with me as I spoke at a recent Cushman & Wakefield Insight breakfast in Sydney. It was great to be there – a genuine highlight of the trip. I discussed what we had learned at the British Council for Offices annual conference earlier this year and compared this with the market in Australia. It seems to me there is an interesting synergy between what I gleaned from the BCO and what I saw on my travels – that young talent and creativity are driving the development of the market and attracting more of the same. A cycle of creative demand, resolution and growth.

It’s clear that the ideals and trends of the millennial demographic – blurring the lines between work and home, finding community in new places, protecting our future – are infiltrating the way we design our office spaces, even for the most corporate of firms. The focus is now on flexibility and adaptability, on sustainability, on using technology to enable new methods of working, on community and amenities in the workplace.

London leads the world in many areas of workplace design, but when it comes to ‘agile working’ – a phrase that came up multiple times over the BCO conference and has become a buzzword in UK development circles – Australia is streets ahead of the UK. They put it down to being more ‘direct communicators’ (you can say that again!), but they also employ far greater levels of intelligence monitoring across their buildings.

Back in the day, agile working was known as ‘hot desking’, but technology has evolved (and so too the moniker) to enable this to be far more effective, with building systems in place that can track who is working, understand what they need and allocate space accordingly. This reduces desk numbers, makes the space more efficient and provides flexibility for future growth. Our 5 Broadgate development for UBS is the largest such scheme in London – agile working was a key factor in allowing the company to consolidate its London offices into one. But Australia is stealing a march on this. It’s a trend we should watch. There is a wealth of young, creative talent in that region of the world, and we should be looking and learning.

This idea of observation brings me to my last point: that of Brexit. Yes, all eyes of the world are on us, virtually everyone I met with queried or mentioned Brexit. It seems people are sceptical as to whether withdrawing from the EU is such a good idea. In this ‘local global’ world we live in, everyone has a stake or an investment in the UK, and the uncertainty around Brexit negotiations is having a concerning ripple effect.

In years to come we’ll be looking to our young, creative talents to help us navigate our place in the world. Let’s hope we leave them with the infrastructure to do it – both physically and metaphorically.

Originally posted on EG 14.09.2017

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Designing in Sydney

Ian Lomas

 

 

Make’s Ian Lomas, who recently relocated to Sydney, explains why designing in the city is so different from in London.

 

Light and shadow

Any first-time visitor to or returning resident of Sydney is struck by the sharp precision of its light, which crisply incises shadows and details into the city’s walls, describing an architecture of light and shadow. A heady mixture of Mediterranean heat and Alpine clarity, Sydney’s high-definition light unrelentingly highlights each shift in texture and exposes every imperfection, with shade a place of retreat.

Arriving from London, characterised by its soft light and history of understatement, the Make team has had to question our established relationships with building materials. We relish this opportunity to explore the changed personalities of our long-time friends and collaborators – concrete, stone, brick, glass and metal – and choose materials that absorb and diffuse this light.

No material celebrates these characteristics more than the original sandstone quarried in the city. The stone seems to both drink the light and emanate it. The Lands and Education Buildings of our Sandstone Precinct project are hewn from the ground they sit above, with deeply recessed loggias, reveals and cornices richly brought to life by dark shadows and the fierce sun.

Render of the new Lands and Education Building

This material is now in short supply, and much of the stone quarried today looks drained by comparison. Wisely, our new extensions to these buildings don’t seek to mimic the originals but employ materials and forms that accentuate the grand sandstone base. A series of delicate diagrids appear to float in the sky above the Lands Building, while a rigorous rhythm of slumped glass bays, topped by a dramatic cornice of garden terraces, defines the reinstated shady garden court of the Education Building.

Render of the new Lands and Education Building

Topography and grid

The internet encourages us to experience the world remotely, through satellite images that serve to trick with their easy overview and tell us nothing of what it means to walk streets and experience places. From above the shifting grid iron of central Sydney, contained within a narrow peninsular jutting out into the harbour, the city seems as straightforward and recognisable as Manhattan. However, the steep hills, landscape and history have other plans.

In New York the buildings conspire to provide drama, with street canyon vistas focusing on the void of water. In Sydney the experience is more spatially complex, with the rolling topography, grid alignments and buildings playing sometime harmonious, sometime discordant melodies. This dramatic urban setting conspires to frame unexpected vistas, allowing seemingly diminutive buildings a dramatic presence, with grand set pieces often enjoyed through tightly focused slivers that tease the pedestrian.

When we were invited to participate in the Wynyard Place competition, we had to throw away our first sketch designs, which had neatly rendered Sydney in a two-dimensional plan. Our final, winning design was driven by the context, which we came to understand only after we walked the streets at length and experienced how people move, views change and the city guides you – something architects must do in all cities they work in. We deliberately took the massing apart and reassembled it to alternately anchor views down Hunter Street, open up vistas to the Shell clock tower and act as a backdrop to Wynyard Park.

Street view of the new Wynard Place building

Extracted from Make Annual 13.

 

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