Computershare has revealed its response to the pandemic with the kind of office space it hopes will work for its staff. The company’s global headquarters has been given a makeover to meet the demands of the post pandemic world.

In a refurbishment of the original Yarra Falls Spinning Mills blended with an 80s building, designers Hassell has flipped the proportion of space allocated to individual workstations to allow more social connection and collaboration. 

The result is a modern adaptable workspace, with emphasis on flexibility, the designers say.

Design of the building at 452 Johnston Street, Abbotsford, Victoria, aims to re-engage Computershare’s employees in a post-Covid world.

At a cost of $14 million, the project was designed by Hassell with engineering by Arup, Buildcorp appointed as head contractor and Slattery the quantity surveyor. 

Employees used to arrive to work inside a large and dark wool mill integrated with a 1980s building. The new workplace is across three levels and 7000 square metres, filled with natural light from a large central skylight, and divided into distinct social zones for drop-in working.

The historic building was originally the site of the Johnston Street spinning mills industries. Image: Yarra Falls Ltd

“We undertook significant daylight modelling in the planning phase to ensure evenly distributed light via the central atrium reached every desk and lowering the reliance on artificial lighting systems,” designer Dan Cox of Hassell told The Fifth Estate.

Interior design features are crafted from elements such as concrete paving, ply and blockwork, to reflect the surrounding parkland and its urban, former industrial context. 

“Key materials were either low carbon, renewable or recycled and primary finishes included ply, cork, rubber and ceramic.”

“We dematerialised the fitout as much as possible, exposing as much of the existing wool mill and its feature to reduce the amount of fitout required.”

The new office was designed with as much natural light as possible, according to designer Dan Cox of Hassell. Image: Hassell / Earl Carter photography

Open and flexible, furniture-based

The office of the future is dynamic and changeable for this IT company. 

To facilitate the objective, the internal design of the building is largely open plan, meaning that the physical spaces are created through furniture dividing the space, which can be moved around the room as the company sees fit. 

“The solution is heavily furniture-based and open and flexible, meaning less materials and greater flexibility for change,” said Cox. 

Since the furniture was a key element to the design, it was locally designed and manufactured by Australian companies including Derlot Editions, Caon and Didier. 

“A central 14-metre-long steel bridge acts as a connecting device between the social heart and the work areas, mirroring the bridges in the surrounding parkland that connect social space with the surrounding urban environment. Symbolically, it also connects with history and place, with the form drawn from the weaving processes of the mill,” Cox said.

The workplace was designed with furniture as the key element for creating different functional areas within the open-plan space. Image: Hassell / Earl Carter photography

Social collaboration

According to workplace design strategy leader and principal Evodia Alaterou of Hassell: “Underpinning the design is the desire for the Melbourne team to learn, connect and collaborate”.

The client saw that social spaces and flexibility would be essential during and after the pandemic, so instead of following its previous workplace model of two-thirds of the office space allocated to individual workstations, the space allocation was flipped, with two thirds designated to social connection and collaboration.

“[For the staff] there is a strong emotional connection to the site and we honed in on the company’s aim to reconnect with this by creating an amazing place that their people want to be in, love coming to and working in.”

For the IT company, keeping the existing location was essential to maintaining the identity and culture of the company, keeping its roots while allowing more room for growth.

Mark McDougall, global chief information officer at Computershare said location of the site was very important for the company’s staff.

“Our Melbourne location plays a special role in the history of Computershare, which has grown from a small start-up to a global organisation across 21 countries. It is the place where a lot of employee innovation, tenacity and creative thinking, so crucial to our global success, happened. 

“We wanted our history, heritage and location to help redefine the office as a global centre for inspiration and creativity within the company for years to come.”

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