JOURNAL/ Commercial/2019


Humanising the office

Designing for quality of life in the workplace


Rachael McCarthy | Designing for Collaboration

 “ Collaboration is the key to unlocking an organisation’s potential ”

Rachael McCarthy

Associate Director, Bates Smart

Rachael McCarthy shares her insights on how effective design outcomes can encourage collaboration in a workplace.

Collaboration is the key to unlocking an organisation’s potential and has broad appeal for prospective tenants. Creative collaboration (brainstorming), concentrated work (thinking) and face-to-face interactions (talking) are the activities that generate insight, facilitate solutions and enable the flow of ideas. Having a collaboration strategy makes an organisation twice as likely to outgrow its competitors and is the key to optimising productivity*.

According to the JLL Global Poll, ‘Are you really creating value at work?’, 74% of staff indicated that thinking, talking and brainstorming create the most value for an organisation, but that only 24% spend most of their time on these high-value activities.** This highlights that workspaces designed to drive collaboration can assist organisations to be more competitive.

161 Collins Street offers tenants a key advantage in providing a workspace that is designed to optimise collaboration. The large, 4000sqm floorplates offer a rare opportunity to collocate significant numbers of staff into a connected, workplace campus. The atrium edge has been designed as a collaborative zone defined by special ceilings, visibly activating the space and creating a collaborative heart within the building.

Tenants are offered the opportunity to set-back the atrium glazing, allowing for a more direct connection with the atrium itself and creating activated working spaces that feel very different to traditional office arrangements.

The base of the atrium presents an exclusive, tenant-only accessed workspace and a collaboration lounge. This is a comfortable, hospitality styled space which breaks free from the corporate envelope, and provides a refreshing, signature destination in the heart of the city.

Collaboration has currency across all organisation types. Once only the domain of creative studios, collaboration is now the lifeblood of all market sectors. Even the most traditional sectors, such as the legal profession, have embraced the benefits of collaboration in order to share knowledge and to help with mentoring junior staff, thereby increasing their value to the practice sooner.

Tech giants have also recognised that the key to generating innovation and producing swift results within the marketplace is to encourage team productivity through the collaboration of agile teams working side-by-side in the office. Google is one of the key tech-based flagship tenants secured for 161 Collins Street. Co-working group, SPACES is also a tenant, highlighting the collaborative nature of the building’s design.

For further information on the importance of teamwork - read Bates Smart's whitepaper, The Technology Workplace.

* Deloitte, The Collaborative Economy, 2014

** JLL Global Poll, 2014

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161 Collins Street, Melbourne

 “Our vision for the building was to deliver more than just a workplace”

Matthew Knight

Vice President and Head of Australia, Pembroke

Considered one of Melbourne’s most beautiful buildings, the T&G Building located at 161 Collins Street, Melbourne is now complete following a two year-long upgrade working with developer, Pembroke.

Originally constructed in 1928, the 43,000 square metre building has been carefully restored and sensitively adapted to meet the needs of a modern workforce, delivering ten levels of A-Grade mixed-use space with expansive floorplates.

Bates Smart Studio Director, Tim Leslie notes the design response was both respectful of the site’s century-old heritage but reimagined with contemporary interventions.

“We applied a people-centric approach to designing 161 Collins Street as we sought to unravel the myriad of physical and visual obstructions which had manifest over the many alterations and additions to the building since the 1920s.

“The site was carefully reconfigured to provide pedestrians an inviting and engaging experience reflective of the building’s former glory.”

The T&G Building welcomes high caliber tenants including Google, Nike, Treasury Wine Estates and co-working group SPACES, who will join longer term tenants Accenture and IOOF in the refreshed office building.

Bates Smart Associate Director, Grant Filipoff was instrumental in delivering the interior expression and said the design encourages meaningful work interactions and restful reflection.

“The signature space is the central atrium which creates a semi-private oasis; a true destination for people to gather, relax and engage while creating an abundance of natural light.”

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Julian Anderson | Future of Melbourne's commercial opportunities

 “Melbourne’s city will need an additional 4M sqm of commercial space to match demand”

Roger Teale

President, Victoria Chapter, Property Council of Australia

This article was originally published on

There’s little wonder Melbourne is considered one of the world’s most liveable cities with strong economic growth that is supported by its increasing population.

According to Plan Melbourne the population is likely to hit 10 million by 2051, thus the need for 1.5 million jobs to accommodate the changing workforce. This has spurred the demand for new and the revitalisation of older commercial developments with Melbourne City Council’s data showing that 25 buildings are currently under construction within the Hoddle Grid.

The planning controls introduced last year relating to the permissible size of developments in the CBD and Southbank however, are having a significant impact on Melbourne’s skyline.

The controls were brought in to arrest construction of a wave of towers that display little regard for liveability for their inhabitants or the public on the north and western edges of the city.

The Victorian Government’s intention is to “provide improved public amenity and deliver consistency and certainty that will ensure our city grows in a way that enhances all that make it the world’s most liveable city”.

The aspirations are laudable. Of late, completed developments in the CBD have been up to four times larger than these new controls would allow.

The new provisions state that for every square metre of site area, a maximum of 18 square metres of floor area can be developed. So a 2,000sqm site can deliver a maximum of 36,000sq m of floor area.

More floor area will be granted if additional public or strategic benefit is provided such as public open space or affordable housing.

Our research and recent experience has established that developers and tenants are looking for floorplates sized no less than 1,500sqm NLA in CBD zones. There are several factors driving this area requirement.

Reasonably, developers require a level of pre-commitment from tenants prior to embarking on projects. These tenants seek floorplates that minimise distribution of staff across multiple floors. These floorplates can cater to over 100 people and offer open-plan floor space with good access to natural light and views to assure physical and mental wellbeing of the occupants.

The challenge with the planning controls is that rather than stimulating commercial development in the CBD, it stifles it. A floorplate of 1,500sqm under these controls requires a site area of around 3,000sqm. However, by the time you factor in the setbacks and other height controls, there are very few developable sites remaining.

In recent months, our team has conducted research establishing that there are fewer than six potential sites in the CBD that will support development over 80m in height, with floorplates not less than 1,500sqm in area.

We concur with various industry sources on predictions that the commercial pipeline could be exhausted in the next decade.

Roger Teale, Property Council of Australia, Victorian President agrees with the challenges posed for the future of Melbourne’s commercial sites for developers.

“It’s predicted that demand for commercial office space in the CBD will almost double over the next 30-35 years – this means Melbourne’s city will need an additional 4 million sqm of commercial space to match demand, largely driven by a booming population and forecast jobs growth.

“This is a major challenge for Melbourne and we continue to work with the Victorian Government and the City of Melbourne to ensure that our planning processes not only reflect the needs of the market but can support the needs of our growing city into the future,” says Teale.

In terms of outcomes, landowners will realise many sites simply can’t be developed. This will trigger the amalgamation of adjoining sites to maximise development potential. This however leads to protracted negotiation periods, slower development times and fewer opportunities.

Similarly, we may see more developments relying on the purchase of “air rights” — the underutilised space above a building. An adjacent owner can purchase those “air rights” to enable construction of part of their building into that space.

Another potential corollary is the delivery of more slender residential towers because the controls also dictate that the taller a building, the further it must be set back from its boundaries.

In New York, amalgamated sites or those subject to development resulting from the purchase of air rights brought about a raft of super-slim towers. These are very costly because of additional structural requirements and the effects of wind on their slender forms.

As well, the proportion of structure to floor area cuts the net saleable area. This drives developers to build higher in an attempt to claw back profit forgone from lost floor space.

Matching the high construction costs are the sky-high prices of $US4 million for a two-bedroom apartment on the 10th floor of a midtown apartment block or $US20 million for a two-bedroom apartment on the 50th floor of a midtown tower, for example.

Melbourne has its own example of this new tower form. On the Collins House site at 466 Collins Street, approved under the previous planning scheme, a 57-storey apartment building is under construction that when complete, will be the world’s fourth slimmest tower.

To further support construction of this type of benchmark tower, where design excellence is demonstrated, the new provisions could be relaxed to allow increased floor area in the form of additional levels.

This approach has already been successful in other cities, including Sydney, where a 10% increase in either height or floor area is offered for design excellence.

These planning controls will bring about a reduced flow of capital in Melbourne’s heart. Less opportunity there should lead to the support and promotion of an increase in density on the city edge.

The wedge extending north of Etihad Stadium as far as Arden Street represents the greatest opportunity for urban regeneration in Melbourne since Docklands. It includes the land referred to as E-Gate and the site of the new Arden Station, one of five being built for Melbourne Metro.

Altogether, this 30-hectare site is equal to a quarter of the area within Melbourne’s CBD.

Melbourne’s future and title as a liveable city lies in our ability to plan for the careful expansion of the city. We must find opportunities to relax our planning controls to allow for major urban regeneration projects to flourish and accommodate our future needs.

Learn more about Bates Smart Director, Julian Anderson:

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360 Collins Street, Melbourne

 “This was a fantastic opportunity to revitalise an important CBD office space”

Julian Anderson

Director, Bates Smart

The lunch break is fast becoming a coveted luxury for many city workers who are constantly on-the-go, between meetings and often with little time to spare to linger over lunch with colleagues.

Bates Smart’s design for the 360 Collins redevelopment offers a unique solution for workers along a bustling section of Little Collins Street with the inclusion of an urban plaza to its latest commercial development designed for Dexus.

The north-facing plaza incorporates a grass lawn and shaded seating, giving much-needed green space to the lunchtime crowds.

360 Collins accommodates over 2,500 office workers and is surrounded by other corporate buildings, creating the need for local and convenient lunch and dinner options, an experience which is more than just a food court for the 870,000 people that access the Melbourne CBD during the weekday.

These demanding culinary needs of city office workers are now being met with seven eateries including Earl Canteen, Poked, Sushi & Nori, PapaRich, Code Black, Billy’s Lane and 8bit.

Bates Smart Director, Julian Anderson said the commercial development also involved the upgrade of the lobby and lounge areas to welcome guests.

“360 Collins sits at the heart of Melbourne’s historic banking district and represented a fantastic opportunity to revitalise and enliven an important CBD office space. As one of the last sites in Melbourne with a north facing plaza, 360 Collins Street relinks Collins and Little Collins Street through a welcoming and vibrant lobby and retail plaza filled with natural light.

“The Collins Street entrance maintains a formal and corporate appearance. The existing travertine floors have been retained, and the space has become more welcoming through the addition of textured timber.”

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Design competition work | Majura Park, Canberra

 “Our design aims to capture the Garden City ideal”

Philip Vivian

Director, Bates Smart

A recent design competition for Canberra Airport Group’s Majura Park campus office in Canberra gave the Sydney team, led by Philip Vivian, the opportunity to explore how to transform the perception of office and retail parks, and particularly the relationship between the two.

Philip Vivian explained the design concept: "Our vision is inspired by the landscape of Canberra and aims to encapsulate the Garden City ideal.

"Our design completes the ring of office buildings at Majura Park, while creating a gateway between the office park and the retail complex. The form creates a strong arrival statement to the office park as well as on approach from the retail centre. Located on an open plain, rather than creating an urban building, the building will have an organic form that is in harmony with the natural surrounds.

"The atrium creates a dramatic entry as well as visually connecting all floors. Stairs and lifts provide centralized vertical connectivity. Externally a simple glazed screen encourages transparency for visual connectivity between the retail and office.

"The façade is inspired by the seasonal leaves in Canberra, with a summer and autumn palette. Each side of the building has a different expression, and will dissolve into the landscape. The façade incorporates solar shading in the form of bent and tapered aluminium fins wtih varying depths in response to the solar heat load."

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Cate Cowlishaw | Rising demand for fringe suburbs with character & amenity

 “It's no longer about location, location, location, rather, it is finding the talent, talent, talent”

Cate Cowlishaw

Head of Business Development & Studio Director, Bates Smart

For many businesses, the decision about where their new workplace should be located is no longer location, location, location, rather, it is finding the talent, talent, talent.

As Enrico Moretti, Professor of Economics at the University of Berkeley highlights in The New Geography of Jobs, access to a talent pool is a significant driver of where businesses are now located. Talent, particularly the “black collar” talent which underpins the innovative and creative sectors, tends to shy away from the traditional corporate environment.

The new emerging “brain hubs” are increasingly fringe suburbs such as Richmond/Cremorne and Prahran in Melbourne, and Pyrmont and the perennial Surry Hills in Sydney.

Suburbs such as Cremorne are in demand for their gritty street life and access to public transport and cycling routes. Coupled with a mixed use and industrial heritage, the ingredients are there to develop a new creative hub that attracts a depth of talent, particularly in the technology sector.

As a result, building approvals have risen 220% in the City of Yarra, with Bates Smart alone currently undertaking five projects in the area. Projects such as Albert St combine contextual sensitivity with a high level of staff amenity including social hubs, collaboration zones and access to external space, maximizing the benefits of the location and ability to attract staff.

Similarly, in nearby Prahan, Bates Smart’s redevelopment of the Jam Factory is focused on the creative and technology sectors, including co-working providers. A vibrant, mixed use development, Jam Factory will create an ecosystem of destinational spaces. The “bump” interactions so important to innovation are facilitated, not just within businesses, but between both individuals and businesses across the broader precinct.

In Sydney, the shift of the city west triggered by Barangaroo has reinvigorated a suburb that combines the character spaces attractive to the black collar worker with the amenity of the CBD - Pyrmont. Bates Smart’s Workshop will create a vertical community that will allow cross pollination of ideas between the buildings’ inhabitants as well as tapping into the vibrant amenity the area delivers.

More than a decade ago, Richard Florida’s Rise of the Creative Class highlighted the importance of environments that encourage creativity in driving future economic growth. If our current projects are anything to go by, the future looks bright for the city fringe in our two major cities.

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In the press: Victoria Cross, Over Station Development on ArchitectureAU

 “Our aim is to create a highly permeable podium that will contribute to the public life of North Sydney ”

Philip Vivian

Director, Bates Smart

Tower with 'sky gardens' proposed above planned Sydney Metro Station.

ArchitectureAU reports on our scheme for Victoria Station overstation development.

"Transport for NSW is seeking to secure approval for the concept design of a 42-storey office tower, by Bates Smart, which is proposed as an integrated station development above the planned Victoria Cross metro station in North Sydney.

The site is located at the southeast corner of the intersection of Miller and Berry Streets. It neighbours the heritage-listed MLC Building, which itself was designed by Bates, Smart and McCutcheon and built in 1957.

The concept stage of the application asks for a maximum building height of 168 metres, or approximately 42 storeys, with a maximum gross floor area of 60,000 square metres.

The indicative building design comprises a glazed office tower, formed from a number of stacked, stepped volumes. The form would allow for the provision of a number of “sky gardens” overlooking the North Sydney Skyline and Sydney Harbour.

In a built form and urban design report, the architects said that the way the tower would interact with the ground plane was a primary consideration, given the presence of the proposed metro station. The indicative design also includes a podium that uses “Y” columns to create a lobby, a station entrance and a concourse that would be “virtually column-free” and allow for nearly unimpeded foot traffic.

“Our aim is to create a highly permeable podium that will contribute to the public life of North Sydney,” said Philip Vivian, director of Bates Smart.

“As work becomes less private and more integrated into the city, our podium is truly a connective space between the public realm and the private realm of the workplace.”

Transport for NSW proposes to construct the tower as part of an integrated development package, which would result in the combined delivery of the station, the tower and public domain improvements.

The application, which seeks approval for a building envelope, is now on public exhibition. In March 2018, Transport for NSW announced three shortlisted groups for the tender to build the Victoria Cross integrated station development: Lendlease Development, John Holland Charter Hall Joint Venture and Dexus Funds Management. A future detailed design application for the building would have to be lodged by the group that eventually secures the development rights above the station.

The station will be constructed as part of stage two of the Sydney Metro project, which includes the construction and operation of a new metro rail line from Chatswood, under Sydney Harbour through Sydney’s CBD to Sydenham and on to Bankstown through the conversion of the existing railway line. Tunnel constructions for the Metro will take place from 2018 to 2020 and construction of the stations is due to begin in 2021. The second stage of the metro is due to open in 2024.

International practice Foster and Partners and Australian partner practice Architectus were appointed to design six new Sydney Metro stations, including Victoria Cross, in April 2017."

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Northbourne Avenue, Canberra

 “A network of public spaces embed this site in the fabric of the city”

Guy Lake

Director, Bates Smart

In 2017 Bates Smart won a design competition to for an activated mixed-use precinct and a new campus-style workplace for the ACT Government at Dickson Interchange. The masterplan creates public spaces with layers of mixed-use activity and permeability as part of an 18-hour activation strategy of mixed-use active frontages, including retail tenancies, offices, and serviced apartments.

Bates Smart Director, Guy Lake, explains the team’s design approach: “We believe the external spaces are as important as the buildings themselves, we’ve created a series of linked spaces that enhance the civic quality of the precinct, while also giving areas for respite and recreation.”

The ACT Government offices are expressed as two volumes linked by an atrium; one ordered and orthogonal providing a civic presence to Northbourne Avenue, with the other being a softer, organic form that connects a new public piazza to Dickson Interchange. The result is an architectural form and facade expression reflective of its context, sympathetic of its urban and environmental setting and respectful of its historical framework.

The configuration of the internal spaces draws a link to the contextual orientation, facade pattern and relation to the public domain. Five levels of office space, a large childcare centre and business centre are visually connected by the central atrium which successfully creates a social heart combining coffee, people and work.

Guy says: “We have devised a workplace concept that places the idea of a connected community at the very heart. This new workplace forms a major cultural change program for the ACT Government. This aspiration requires a more connected workplace that offers spaces and places for the staff to come together to work jointly on a project, share ideas and socialise while maintaining zones for quiet, focused work.”

A thoughtful workplace strategy such as the one adopted by the ACT Government is a powerful tool for supporting employee performance and increasing engagement across the organization. In turn, the collateral benefit realised—that which typically supports productivity also enhances employee health and wellness, ensuring a resilient and energetic workforce. The project is due for completion in 2020.

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105 Philip Street, Parramatta


 “ It is testament to Dexus's ability to assemble a likeminded team with a common goal driven by a clear vision ”

Simon Swaney

Director, Bates Smart

Located in the Parramatta central business district, 105 Phillip Street is a 13 level commercial office tower with integrated fitout for long time clients, Dexus and Charter Hall.

Arranged as a series of vertical villages with north facing atriums, the development has been designed as the new headquarters for a NSW Government department. It offers significant public space, a rooftop terrace and sports court, public art by artist, Jamie North, and is targeting a 6 star Green Star Design rating.

Watch how the development was delivered within 24 months from initial concept design in this timelapse video.


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