SEEK headquarters by Hassell. Photo: Peter Bennetts Photographer

Seek has succeeded in making their warehouse-inspired HQ a landmark on Melbourne’s skyline, perhaps in too true a sense of the word.

International design practice Hassell unveiled a new sustainable headquarters in the Melbourne suburb of Cremorne, near Richmond, which they hope will fulfil the need of their client to place people first, with a highly flexible and adaptable workplace that stands out on the horizon while drawing inspiration from the ex-warehouse district around it.

For people-centred human resource consulting company Seek, having a non-traditional workspace is an expression of its identity as a company, according to the architects. Non-conformity was what it was looking for.

With over 19,000 square metres of floor space and a public garden space outside. The interior features a light-filled atrium from ground floor to roof, providing a central focus for the building, connecting open plan floors with a timber staircase. Sustainability is also a key feature, with the building reaching several sustainability ratings benchmarks.

To pay homage to the historical roots of the suburb, Hassell sought to emulate the look of the surrounding warehouses with gabled roofs and corium brick cladding, reflecting local colours and materials. There are large distinctive windows along the sides and “hidden” solar integrated into the sloped roof in the same proportions as the windows. (That’s on the outmoded but still widespread belief that solar panels are ugly. Here’s something much uglier than solar: climate change.) It is certainly a statement.

Hats off to the sustainability credentials of the building, which include a PCA A-grade building, 5-star Green Star rating, a NABERS Energy 5-star rating and a NABERS Indoor Environment 4.5 star rating (thanks to consultation with Arup). The building’s large windows allow for minimised energy consumption, and a visual connection with the outdoors. The architects said that special attention was paid to the indoor environment quality with fresh air flow.

Seek won a planning battle against neighbours in 2018 for the seven storey HQ that will house around 1000 workers.

The new building, according to media reports, has an end value of $163 million. JLL, which was responsible for advising Seek during the pre-commitment stage, puts the price much higher.

“It would be in the high $200 millions,” said Joshua Tebb, JLL’s senior director of metro office leasing in Victoria

Hassell declined to confirm this.

“A comparable commercial office building in the suburb is 510 Church Street,” Mr Tebb said.

“The 20,000 square metre building developed by the Alfasi Property Group recently sold a 50 per cent stake in the building for around $125 million. Total building value is $250 million and it is a smaller building than Seek’s.”

The ex-industrial suburb of Cremorne has risen through the ranks from amusement park to asylum to industrial precinct, to recently being dubbed the “Silicon Valley of Australia”, home to tech disruptors including Carsales, REA Group (owner of realestate.com.au), accounting business services software MYOB.

Mr Tebb confirmed that Cremorne was becoming the “Silicon Valley” of Australia. He said that JLL research shows there’s a “tech flavour” to a lot of the major tenants looking to move their headquarters to Cremorne.

“These businesses are all here because they’re wanting to attract the right talent. The talent is attracted to the amenities there: public transport, food and bev offerings, world class sporting precincts.

The architects said the interior design of the workplace puts the interests, character, and identity of SEEK’s current and future workforce at its core. They sought to achieve this through open plan flexible workspaces, social breakout spaces and a rooftop terrace with views over the city.

“A non-traditional corporate office building, the workplace is designed to be a place that people love coming to work and also socialise in,” Ingrid Bakker, Hassell principal and commercial and workplace sector leader said.

The client called it a “fun” and “truly exciting” design.

Kendra Banks, managing director of Seek, said: “Seek’s new home represents the fun and passion that all of our employees bring to work every day.

“In thinking about our new home, enhancing our culture was our number one priority. As a result, we have created a modern workplace that is truly exciting. The space will allow for even greater innovation and collaboration across teams, supporting our agile culture and our ambitious growth strategy as a global technology company.”

Peter Walsh, head of JLL tenant representation in Victoria, was responsible for advising Seek during the pre-commitment stage.

“It was a landmark deal for the precinct,” Mr Tebb said. 

The problem for the tech hotspot, he said, is that Cremorne is starting to run out of high quality premium office space due to development “lags” caused by the pandemic.

Most new buildings won’t be delivered until the end of next year – but there are already several groups looking to move their head offices there. Tebbs declined to comment on which companies were sniffing around.

“It’s one of the most talked-about precincts in all of Australia. In the last 12 months it was the number one fringe office market in the country.”

Tech companies and gentrification: it’s a love story as old as radios. The Melbourne suburb of Cremorne was once frequented by the likes of notorious criminal Dennis Allen. It now houses multi million dollar digital mega-corporations.

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