Whether this problem be spatial or legal, both disciplines reference an industry 'rulebook' (be it the Constitution of Australia or the Building Code of Australia), and so long as these are adhered to, both disciplines are encouraged to think creatively in how they approach the problem.
Maddocks is a highly regarded legal firm based in Melbourne and Sydney which has a reputation founded on integrity and innovation. Their use of leading-edge technology and progressive work practices creates a point of difference for clients and staff alike.
The firm maintains a strong alliance with the arts, and is known as an award-winning equal opportunity employer. This array of corporate drivers formed the basis of their brief to HASSELL, to reinvent traditional notions of legal environments within their Melbourne offices – giving new meaning to the way staff and clients experience a corporate legal space.
Designers accurately document an existing set of conditions just as lawyers meticulously record existing evidence. Both take statements from clients, write and re-write briefs and, whether documented in text or by drawing, both propose a solution. Just as lawyers defend this proposition in a courtroom, designers defend theirs on site.
In the case of the new fit-out by HASSELL for law firm, Maddocks, at 140 William Street, Melbourne, there was no plaintiff or defendant. Maddocks and HASSELL worked together seeking the same verdict: an innovatively-designed and good-looking workspace that focused on client relationships, increased interaction, varied work styles and a balance of the individual and the collective. An outcome that increased efficiency and effectiveness and improved expressiveness was on both parties' agendas.
Maddocks testified that they loved and respected the modernist aesthetic of the building they were in and believed that it exemplified the Maddocks brand in its understated contemporary elegance. They also actively engage with art and design, both internationally and locally. For example, they are a sponsor of the Venice Biennale, and when they re-branded several years ago, they commissioned the local talent of Fabio Ongarato Design - who have also done the graphics for the new fit-out. Maddocks were innovative in how they worked and, having trialled open plan workspaces for the past four years, HASSELL did not need to produce evidence that this was a new way forward.
But HASSELL brought with them an experienced team of creative minds and a rigorous way of thinking about, planning for, designing and detailing interior workspaces. HASSELL argued that open plan working environments were not just about eliminating walls, but about a spatial re-thinking of how people moved through each floor. They led Maddocks through an extensive design process which resulted in an ingenious approach to the existing floorplate - and it is not until you experience each floor of Maddocks, in all its buzzing activity, that you fully appreciate the intricate spatial workings of HASSELL.:s proposition.
HASSELL devised a masterplan for Maddocks that set a series of spatial rules, the most crucial being that no building of walls was allowed in any corner. In a discipline that works its way to a corner office, this was a leap of faith for Maddocks. Yet this not only opens up the view, but renders all corners as 'connected' and interactive. Partitions are built only along the middle runs, sliding doors open out from the corners and meeting and team rooms are rotated glazed boxes off the inner lift core corners. This resulted in a change in the way Maddocks worked and, although many senior lawyers are allocated corner spaces, they are discouraged from building themselves in and so remain fully accessible to their team. Corners provide private workspace, team meeting space and informal reading space which, according to one of the Maddocks lawyers, was "the best spot to sit and read a case': This could also be due to the fact that the office feels like it hovers in the tree canopy above the city.
Conceptually, the masterplan is about a spectacular outlook - a view across a desk, into a meeting room, through the work floor, out to the city or up the streets of Melbourne. Without exception, and as a hybrid of open plan and enclosed office, all partitions are full-height glass, even through the formal client area (another leap of faith on Maddocks' behalf), and although the piles of books, paper and folders precariously stack up on any spare surface the staff can find, you can literally see through the whole floor. Needless to say, natural light floods into the space and contributes to an already open and breathable working environment.
This view does not just exist on a horizontal plane, but extends vertically through an open-tread stair and mirror-clad slab which leads your eye up and beyond. Being a heritage-listed building, HASSELL worked within the existing skin and deliberately did not make elements appear to be connected to its perimeter. As a result, floor plates also appear to float within the building whilst extending the view out.
Functionally, the masterplan blurs the transition from formal to informal as you move up through the floors. A variety of meeting spaces is offered from a large formal boardroom to 'lounge-like' meeting spaces, from the semi-formal meeting tables within the office floors and staff hubs, to the totally informal armchair and low tables amongst the workstations. The only thing the Maddocks staffs need to decide when booking a meeting is how relaxed they are with their client. Aesthetically, the masterplan calls for a simple and consistent use of domestic materials and crisp details.
One integrated workstation concept, black powdercoated frames to match the building, strong lines through joinery, bold spatial volumes, understated yet confident materials and classic modernist furniture. Offsetting this is the fractured, organic and graphic web by Fabio Ongarato Design. As it weaves its way through the floors, be it clad or painted onto the lift core walls, or applied as a film to glass, it reflects the diversity of the practice and people of Maddocks. Visually, it ties the floors together as it weaves its way up through the spine of the fit-out. Whether lawyer or designer, both disciplines strive to set a precedent.
Montlaur was engaged to deliver a fully integrated fitout for Maddocks over 5 floors at 140 William Street. The works included the extension of an existing internal stair to link all floors and a full commercial kitchen to cater for clients and stakeholders.
The fitout was undertaken while Maddocks remained in occupation requiring Montlaur to provide extensive assistance in managing churn for the duration of the new works. The project was completed 2 months ahead of schedule and delivered for more than 5 percent under budget.
The project was awarded the 2007 ‘High Commendation Corporate Interiors’ from the Design Institute of Australia, Interior Design Awards (IDA).