- Design Team:Ben Mitchell, Simon Addinall, Justin Smith, Geordie McKenzie, Goran Momircevski
Text description provided by the architects. What you see is not what you get.
The biggest challenge for us was to figure out how to accommodate the technological brief in a way that retains the integrity of the space. It sounds simple, but architecturally we had to work incredibly hard to make sure the space met the clients technological requirements, yet concurrently presents a clean and legible contemporary architectural installation within the existing heritage fabric which we were adamant should also be expressed.
Cloud-like fitout – the need to be geographically flexible.
Like most companies, our client does not own this building and intends to inhabit the space as a medium term solution. Furthermore, the companies technology platforms are hosted in ‘the cloud’. They can operate anywhere in the world and require no fixed geographical location. Conceptually, this fitout is the architectural equivalent of ‘the cloud’ in that everything here is designed to float, to temporarily occupy, to be picked up and moved if need be. With a minimum of fuss our installation could be relocated anywhere, literally.
Ephemeral & undifferentiated product.
Design should not only work from an architectural point of view, but also embody your client’s brand, its core values and beliefs, as well as shape the way people interact with each other. Architecturally this space reflects Ansarada’s brand values and personality – integrity, sophistication, simplicity, and authenticity.
Long hours, young staff, high stakes & lots of stress.
Working in this kind of industry is demanding! It means spending lots of time at work, in meetings, video conferencing, with a 24 hour work cycle, and major ongoing stress. Ansarada makes a point of taking very good care of its staff, even hiring a personal trainer who is on site daily, and designs individual well being programs with each employee. So we needed to design in a way that provided for recreation, fitness and loads of personal interaction as well as long hours of operation.
The key features of our Architectural response
Legibility, transparency & lightness throughout.
This workplace must serve a multiplicity of purposes. Practically speaking, our client required a large workspace, informal meeting rooms, a boardroom, a video conferencing facility, meeting & entertaining facilities, desks for 50+ staff, a gym, informal eating spaces and relaxation/reception areas. Like the Ansarada brand, everything is designed to be authentic, transparent, open, flexible and non-invasive. We have arranged the elements so as to clearly define the junction between our architectural interventions and the existing fabric to create an open, honest and transparent space, both literally and metaphorically.
Large spaces can be overwhelming.
This is an exceptionally long, large space, one that is difficult to respond to at the human scale. Rather than simply dissect the large space into little boxes, like a traditional office, we have zoned the floor plate to make it more relevant to the human body and its scale. In not compartmentalising the space, in essence we have ensured that the various zones retain a dialogue with each other and sleeve into the existing heritage fabric in a legible way. So for example, everywhere we have exposed the existing floor, we have exposed the existing herringbone ceiling above. This defines the Architectural model, if you like, and makes it clear exactly where we have made an intervention.
The ‘democratic edge’ – populating the premium water views.
This site has spectacular views over the Harbour Bridge and across Circular Quay to the Opera House. Any company, globally, would relish the opportunity to occupy this sort of location. Again, rather than do the traditional thing of handing over the premium space to those high up in the organisation, in effect allowing the views to be monopolised by the privileged few, we conceived the ‘democratic edge’ concept whereby everyone within the organistaion has uninhibited access to this edge and the views it affords. The edge is occupied by custom designed multi purpose modular furniture, a swing set and a gymnasium.
Everything has to work twice as hard & be twice as clever.
Whilst we worked incredibly hard to ensure a simple and sophisticated aesthetic prevailed, every element needed to perform a second or a third purpose. We call this the “Jack in the box” approach – everything is not quite as it appears. For example what at first appears to be a beautiful maple faced wall is in fact a fully functioning kitchen that caters for 50+ staff, concealed by a massive overhead tilting door operated by hydraulic struts. The highly textured black timber panel wall that flanks the boardroom doubles as the entry door. The entire wall pivoting about its axis when those in the know push on it in the right location. An acoustic plywood panelled wall adjacent to the main workstation space conceals file storage and its perforations allow for coloured dowels to transform the wall into a playful pegboard. Flat panel screens are concealed in the ceiling panels of the glass process rooms allowing them to be used equally successfully for highly technical meetings or for more analogue discussions between colleagues where the use of screen technology is superfluous.
We inherited the shell of the old building with all its hard surfaces of brick, timber and glass, effectively an acoustic nightmare. As Ansarada is a highly interactive business, with lots of talking, discussion and verbal development of ideas the acoustics were therefore always going to be a major issue for us to deal with. We were thinking about how we could address this in an elegant way from day one and we worked very closely with our acoustic consultant to ensure a successful outcome for the client in this regard. Concurrently we developed the pegboard system that achieves that dual use we were constantly striving for, utilising the perforations in the acoustic plywood as a means for the staff to pin up ideas using coloured dowels. The clients LOVE this – they use the system all the time to workshop and develop new products.
The desk democracy.
Like a lot of Gen Y businesses, Ansarada is hierarchy neutral. The central workspace consists of four 9m long dividerless workstations that seat everyone from the CEO to the admin assistant alongside one another. As the company is rapidly expanding the workstatsions needed to enable flexibility, catering for a varying number of occupants as staffing numbers required. We designed the workstations and prototyped them in the workshop over several days in order to get the clean aesthetic we required, incorporating integrated cable management devices that allow extreme versatility and enable the desks to work as efficiently for 40 staff as they would for 60.
Materials provide authenticity.
Tactile, layered surfaces and materials are used to soften the ‘commercial’ feeling of the fitout – soft woven fabrics, rich full grain leathers and bespoke carpets are paired against hard surfaces to reflect the tonal range of the Australian context within which the fitout resides. We call the result a kind of ‘luxe minimalism’ that reflects the mantra of Ansarada and positions the business as a global player with truly Australian roots.