Words by Lauren Evans
Congratulations on being awarded the Liveable Office Award in the Small to Medium Business category. How does it feel?
We are really proud that HWT has been recognised. What makes this award particularly special is its focus on how a physical environment makes people feel. We are always striving to create spaces that are meaningful for the people that occupy them, and align the experience of the space with the organisation’s business, brand and culture. Although important, we do not prioritise the importance of the aesthetic in projects; instead, we value the positive contribution the design makes to the business drivers. In this case, HWT wanted to create a space that helped their staff feel connected.
Tell us about your brief for the Australia Herald and Weekly Times.
HWT desired a workplace that would truly embody their brand and represent their progressive, dynamic future vision. With the advent of a range of new platforms on which to deliver news, the company has seen significant evolution from their beginnings in printed press in 1840 to new digital and social formats. HWT wanted a workplace that would support a culture and brand that would attract and retain great talent, and help their people become more efficient and productive.
HWT nominated 15 key ‘up and comers’ to become part of a “Next Gen” group that would set the brief and direction for the project. This group identified the desire for a defined space for HWT’s people to connect, collaborate and create.
How does the space you’ve created for meet the modern demands of the changing work environment?
The flexible workspace allows staff to connect with each other like never before – physically and virtually. The project signifies new ways of working at HWT, allowing greater mobility and supporting activity based working philosophies with integrated mobile and digital technology to allow for flexible working. Each space includes varied, yet complementary, furniture, finishes, planting and lighting to create a series of environments suited to different teams and work requirements including one-on-one meetings, team social time, working groups, and presentations for up to 200 people. The diversity of spaces provides greater flexibility in where and how people can work, and supports the health & wellbeing of HWT’s people.
What features of the space enable greater work flexibility?
The planning philosophy identified 3 key zones to provide staff and visitors with pockets of space, each with its own unique ambiance. The new space includes a shared work/meeting space, café/bar area, and business lounge, covering a broad range of purposes including entertaining, working, relaxing, reading, and meetings over coffee.
The space offers a variety of places people can go. Each one is unique and offers the opportunity to have a distinct experience as an individual and as a group. We have done this by creating different seating options to support groups of various sizes, from one person to a working group of 10 to announcements to 200 staff members.
The entire space is technology enabled with Wi-Fi, accessible iPads, interactive whiteboards, projection screens that drop from the ceiling, plasma screens, power points, and hidden printers within joinery.
How have environmental considerations shaped the project?
Sustainable principles were imbedded throughout the design including new materials and furniture aligned with Green Star principles, reuse of some loose furniture and task chairs, large communal tables created using reclaimed timber, all applied finishes/ paints low in VOC, and changes to the built environment were minimised through retention of the existing ceiling, with the aesthetic changed by removing parts and highlighting the existing internal ceiling.
In a nod to the publisher’s past, historically significant HWT artefacts were incorporated in the design to remind staff of the company’s rich history of fostering creativity. This includes the use of individual brass letters, restored from old printing press machines, framing the walls.
Overall, what about the design are you most proud of?
We are most proud of the way that the 15 future leaders of HWT, engaged in the design envisioning process, embraced the opportunity to work with us. They challenged each other, and us, to think differently, causing us all to redefine the problem in a way that led to richer solutions. The greater buy in, conceptual input and ownership of the space was apparent at handover when they were able to clearly articulate the space’s purpose and intention to their co-workers.
Any plans for your award ($5000 worth of Herman Miller products)?
We are planning to run a workshop to agree on the products best suited for our studio environment. With such a great prize, we thought it was important to have full studio input on how to use it!
Just for fun, what is your favourite piece of Herman Miller furniture?
The Eames LCW is a favourite. Not only does the Eames’ philosophy resound with our own design studio and practice, the fact that the moulded ply, a pioneered material and technology synonymous with mid-century classic design and the Eames sensibility, was developed not with aesthetics in mind, but in the spirit of innovation and invention; the junction between wartime ingenuity, scarcity and incredible creativity.
The Aeron chair would come a close second. A team of dedicated Geyerites sporting branded sweat bands fought bravely to the finals in the local Aeron hockey championship.