Rachael Bernstone reports that the firm had outgrown its previous office not far away, also in William Street, here architecture and interior design staff had been housed over two floors.
In seeking new accommodation, the practice considered other parts of Sydney, but opted to stay within the 'edgy' William Street precinct, which Director, Stephen Pearse says is gradually changing. "Our employees said they liked this area because it has great access to the city and transport, and it's close to several parks. We can walk through Hyde Park to meetings in the city, and our clients appreciate not having to go into the city all the timeÃ¢â‚¬Â, he says. "lso, the rent here was right, and when we looked at all those factors, there wasn't anywhere that competed.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Tackling the design of the new space was never going to be easy, with more than 80 staff eager to contribute to the process. "As you can imagine in a design office, there was a range of opinions and views that were all forcefully expressedÃ¢â‚¬Â, Pearse laughs. Ã¢â‚¬ÂOne of the great outcomes is the way we managed to work as a team - with seven people that were intimately involved in the process - to capture the essence of the site:'
The long, narrow floor plate on the seventh floor offers views of the Sydney skyline, St Mary's Cathedral and Sydney Harbour to the north, and across neighbouring suburbs to the south.
"We wanted to make the most of those views and the light, and reflect that we are an open office;' Pearse explains.Ã¢â‚¬ÂAlso, we want our clients and visitors to feel that they are entering a design office, not a corporate lobby:'
The open reception area, with its classic Eames and Aalto chairs, provides visual connections to the workstations beyond it, while the adjacent meeting rooms can be opened up to form a larger space for entertaining. Clients can attend meetings in the purpose-built spaces or more informally at the workstations themselves.
With only one enclosed office, directors, architects and designers are accommodated at bench-style Knoll workstations, with customised mobile pedestals. Both elements were selected to maximise flexibility, according to interior designer, Marena Parker. "We have workspaces for up to 106 people, and we have 85 in the office at the moment;' she explains.Ã¢â‚¬ÂBut the workstation bays can easily accommodate eight rather than the current six, with extra power and data capacity built in:'
The fit-out specifically addresses the challenges of current working practices, Pearse says. "We operate in an environment where a project can commence almost overnight, and you might need to pull together a team of between one and 20 people within two weeks, either in our office or at other officesÃ¢â‚¬Â, he explains. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The objectives of flexibility and openness aim to deal with the pragmatics of how architecture and design are delivered these days. We have the option to have one or eight people in the same team space, and we aim to create a comfortable environment for our people:'
A series of round and long tables positioned between the workstation rows provides space for lay-out, and low storage under the windows offers ample space for filing close to the workstations, while maintaining access to the perimeter for everyone.
Another key aspect of the design was to provide more pin-up space, Pearse adds. "We wanted to get discussion going about what people were doing, so that everyone can see what's happening in the office and it's much more inclusive:'
A less tangible benefit of the new design is an enhanced feeling of equality among staff. "We like to think of ourselves as relatively egalitarianÃ¢â‚¬Â, Pearse says.Ã¢â‚¬Â While we have strong leadership and direction, and an emphasis on quality outcomes, we like to talk about things with our staff. Openness is encouraged throughout the practice and is embodied in the planning of this space:'
Pearse says the response from GROUP GSA's employees to the new space has been extremely positive, with access to light and views, and flexibility the most lauded elements.