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Monday, April 05, 2010

One Shelley Street

One Shelley Street in Sydney, Australia by Clive Wilkinson Architects

Photographs are by Shannon McGrath.

For its 3,000 employees in Sydney, Australia, Macquarie Group relocated last year to One Shelley Street, a new building by fitzpatrick + partners. The "global provider of banking, financial, advisory, investment and funds management services" occupies all of the 33,000-sm (344,000-sf) building, with the fit-out carried out by Clive Wilkinson Architects (CWA) with local architect Woods Bagot. The design "reframes the requirements and performance of the 21st century office" in a dramatic environment shaped by the ten-story atrium.

Clearly the most significant elements in CWA's design are the 26 "meeting pods" projecting into the atrium. These pieces and the bridges linking the two halves of the building activate what could have been a fairly generic space, open and light-filled but devoid of character. Additionally the infusion of color and the numbering of the various pods allows them to act as wayfinding elements within the large space, linking the different employees across space and time. ("Meeting in pod 44 at 10am!")

With a variety of color and surface treatments throughout the "part space station, part cathedral, part vertical Greek village" CWA's design runs counter to the two-color diagrid building it inhabits. The monolithic expression of the envelope is eschewed in favor of numerous unique micro-environments. The Dining Room, Garden, Tree House, Playroom, Coffee House, etc. have collaboration as their goal, "where cross-pollination among business groups is encouraged through spontaneous collaboration." This thinking permeates the business world all the way to academia. At the University of Chicago, break-out spaces were programmed as carefully as classrooms in their 2004 building.

The importance of collaboration is no accident. Businesses have the option of allowing employees to work at home these days, but productivity and, more importantly, the development of new ideas that enable businesses to remain competitive are tantamount. So gearing the office environment towards these two factors has created a shift in workplace design, from office-like to home-like. Comfort is created, yet without the distractions of our real homes (TV, kids), and with the proximity of collaborators in environments that decades ago would not have resembled offices.

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