It was a big day for Mirvac, the Commonwealth Bank, AMP Capital and for premier Gladys Berejiklian in her first public engagement since Covid that was not about Covid.

The occasion was the opening of the massive new campus office building for the CBA at Eveleigh Technology Park in Sydney’s premier industrial heritage/campus precinct, a stone’s throw from the city.

On the other side of the vast industrial spaces that managed and repaired rolling stock for the state’s trains, is the arts space Carriageworks and Eveleigh markets, separated by a major rail corridor.

Soon, as Mirvac’s head of office and industrial Campbell Hanan told The Fifth Estate, the two sides of the precinct would be connected with a bridge and the precinct further enlivened with a diverse retail precinct alongside on Locomotive Street.

But for now, there was Covid to deal with. According to Hanan, the building, opened on Tuesday and five years in the making, happens to be pretty Covid friendly. He thinks it could become “a case study for what is the perfect Covid style building”. It’s got multiple generous collaboration spaces, easy access, open plan seating, loads of light through minimal touch points and has “100 per cent fresh air”.

The premier noted it’s targeting a six star Green Star rating and 5 star NABERS.

Certainly, the spaces look extravagantly generous. A mass of intricate steel, almost sculptural elements, create the distinct feeling its been carved out of the original industrial spaces. It hasn’t; it’s brand new.

Architect Richard Francis-Jones of FJMT architects, who conceived the design, is pleased with this impression. It’s how it’s meant to feel, he told The Fifth Estate. The idea is to be inspired by its surrounding buildings and location.

Francis-Jones says it will be a great workplace for office workers to come back to when Covid restrictions end.

No recycled air, ample natural light, sunlight entering the building and surrounded by a public domain with no vehicles to dodge.

There’s also the inspiration of the old.  “This building was all about relating to the railway workshop. These industrial buildings were really well made: they were generous, they were well detailed and well-proportioned and that’s part of the character we tried to recreate.”

The Foundry, with 55,000 square metres over six storeys and massive 8500 square metre floor plates, making it a genuine “groundscraper”,  is almost a twin with the already completed adjoining Axle building, also by FJMT.

Except the latter is pretty much all concrete and the Foundry is pretty much all steel, in fact “9000 tonnes of steel and 3 kilometres of balustrade and 2000 square metres of skylights”, the developers said.

At this size of floor plate you really could feel you’re wandering around a village, which is the original intention of campus design. The big difference now is that the much celebrated “bump” factor will be very much social distanced.

Workplace architect Neil Johanson of Davenport Campbell said his studio has worked with CBA from the start to find the best site in Sydney for the more than 5000 workers who will – eventually – inhabit the space.

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