How does a developer and construction brand create a workplace that embodies the sense of a home away from home? For its new Melbourne headquarters, national real estate group, Mirvac, turned to architecture and design firm, Woods Bagot. Woods Bagot’s consulting team commenced an in-depth process with the Mirvac staff, conducting detailed workshops and focus group sessions to establish a national accommodation ‘vision’. The findings are showcased in its new activity-based workspace (ABW) for Mirvac Melbourne.
“The vision was to craft a workplace that represents and showcases the Mirvac brand of residential and commercial excellence,” says Amanda Stanaway, Woods Bagot’s workplace consulting leader. Simon Pole, Woods Bagot’s workplace sector leader, adds that the Melbourne office needed to reflect Mirvac’s brand and also drive better business outcomes. “Workplace design is a powerful tool in supporting organisational change. Mix this with a strong brand image and we have a winning combination,” he says.
The material palette and furniture and lighting selections in the reception area allude to Mirvac’s involvement in the residential property sector
The analysis determined three key recommendations that would inform the new workplace: to create an open and flexible environment offering
a diversity of work settings and spaces; to use technology to facilitate collaboration; and to create a green, healthy and sustainable workplace.
“Our expert consulting team through workshop environments allows people to be really honest, so that they feel they have a forum for their voice. It’s a very honest and open opportunity,” explains Sue Fenton, Woods Bagot’s senior associate.
In its new office, Mirvac has been relocated from the St Kilda Road business district to the fifth level of one of its own Southbank buildings, which backs onto the Yarra River. Occupying 1200 square metres, the layout’s cleverly conceived spaces encourage and facilitate engagement between staff that might not otherwise occur.
“The floor plan is very efficient, yet feels appropriate,” Pole says. “All spaces, including circulation, double as working or meeting areas, with seating or display surfaces to capture ideas.” The multi-functional corridors contain breakout areas that are used as alternative working spaces away from the desk. Booths and hidey-holes enable informal chats, four-person tables and chairs add space for impromptu meetings, as well as dedicated media hubs with high definition screens and headphones.
The waiting area, named the parlour, creates a relaxed, lounge-like setting
While the reception area, gallery and four meeting rooms are positioned to the right of the lift well, the rest of the floor plan lies beyond with a strong open plan design, featuring fully certified Herman Miller Arras desk systems that flow beside floor-to-ceiling windows with city views.
At present, the workplace isn’t strictly activity-based. There are no offices, but each staff member has their own desk, with the opportunity to work from various other spaces – including meeting rooms, working tables with video conferencing capability, booths, a quiet area, kitchen breakout space and two dedicated project spaces.
“It’s a combination,” Fenton says. “We begin to bring in elements of flexibility and duality to the workplace, with the technology to give a physical environment to the diversity.”
This suits the project-driven nature of the business, where the work is not often computer-based. Instead, the different modes enable staff members to easily share drawings or marketing material with each other across offices. “Being grounded at a desk is logical in this context,” Fenton adds.
The new workplace creates a sense of place by referencing the building’s riverside location and Melbourne’s laneway culture. “Suddenly you are confronted with a very straight, orthogonal elevation of the city,” Fenton explains. “So, although you are in the city, you see the skyline as a kind of up and down pattern, and that has ended up informing some of the pattern-making around the building.”
Specifically, the view inspired the INAX-tiled wall in the lobby and the design of the workstation spines, while stacked room dividers of varying heights are used throughout. These also display models of Mirvac’s work in the gallery, an alternative take on the trophy room intended to bring the product to the forefront of the team’s mind.
Bright tiles and plenty of timber create a feeling of the country-style kitchen in the tearoom
“The other factor [that influenced the design] was this idea of residential and what that might mean. We looked for iconic references and then looked at residential elements, trying to retain that non-corporate feel,” Fenton continues. Once inside, the residential aspect of the brief takes shape immediately. Facing the lift well, garden boxes from Koskela playfully reference the entry hall, while homely parquetry floors flow into the long reception area and gallery.
The traditional waiting area is renamed the parlour, where a pixelated Persian rug by RC+D, an Oluce table lamp from Euroluce, linen curtains, a clock and coat stand create an intimate, lounge-style setting. Furthermore, four meeting rooms emulate a dining setting, with timber tables and upholstered dining chairs. “It’s trying to spur on that internal briefing to make sure the residential visual cues keep coming through,” Fenton says.
Elsewhere, picket fence posts have been used to create a wall unit. The fence posts also line two seating pods or booths, which are not unlike a domestic, 1950s kitchen scene. And, in contrast to more traditional offices, the spectacular Yarra River views are found to the rear of the fitout – where a large communal zone, complete with Tait dining tables and lounges from Jardan, can be accessed by every member of staff.
Operable screens in the communal area allow the space to be opened up and used by the entire office
Another iconic cue arises in the staff tearoom. “This is our Moroccan-inspired, built-in balcony-cum-tram,” Fenton laughs. With timber louvres, a screen larder, Encaustic green concrete tiling and communal tables from Tait, the tearoom resembles a large, country-style kitchen, and opens out to the river-facing communal area, enabling the 80-strong office to gather in one place. “The finished result has a distinctively residential flavour, with a Mirvac character,” Fenton says.
As the eye delights in the eclectic design elements, the office’s engine rooms are less obvious. Mirvac’s sustainability initiative was for a ‘no office’ policy, so all secure files, the computer room and media centre are neatly centralised around the floor’s core, framed by joinery used for storage.
Booths contained along the sides of the fitout provide alternative areas for group and individual work
From a sustainability perspective, Woods Bagot has endeavoured to go green where possible. The refit’s material selections are locally sourced, FSC-rated timber battens, parquetry and engineered veneer products, while most other furniture is GECA-rated and locally manufactured. The ceilings, bathrooms and existing base building carpets were reused, while general lighting was upgraded to sensor switching for higher efficiency.
“Ultimately, we got a more efficient and better space than our other office, with a 30 to 40 per cent reduction in space per person,” says Christian Grahame, Mirvac’s national operations director, Apartments and Commercial. “It all works really well, like a house does. With the river views, you can see the sun come up in the mornings and it’s beautiful. You are quite aware of the time of the day and the seasons.”