We recently teamed up with Dexus to design their newest shared workspaces and corporate offices in Melbourne. Project Principal Tamara White shares her joy of working on this inspiring project and how partnering with a courageous client delivers exceptional outcomes.
As a designer, there’s a special satisfaction reserved for when you’ve not only delivered an excellent project – you’ve also brought out the true potential of a space, to really optimise the experience for its users.
That’s exactly the feeling we experienced with the retrofit of three levels of 80 Collins Street to create Melbourne’s newest Dexus Place: the gold-standard in premium events, meeting spaces, flexible office suites and virtual office services for Dexus customers.
As we journeyed through this project we were also awarded the contract to re-create Dexus’ Melbourne office – situated in the South Tower of the same precinct - and reconciling these two large re-use projects was all part of the fun.
We observed a stark contrast between the two towers, which were built decades apart. For us, the newer South Tower was as slick as Superman’s Clark Kent, while the 1980s North Tower – where Dexus Place would materialise – was more like his caped alter ego, bringing an edgier, mysterious vibe.
At Warren and Mahoney, our central belief in workplace design is to approach a project with equal parts emotional intelligence and logical data-driven intelligence. Key design themes of universal, intuitive, visionary, memorable and hospitable would provide the perfect blend of performance and experience.
For Dexus Place, we embraced the fact it would be located at the lower levels of the tower within an urban context. We saw this constraint as a rich opportunity to develop something ‘just a little bit special’ in a highly sought-after address.
We introduced a bold, metallic stair between the three stories, to amplify any light coming in across all the levels. Clad in rippled steel, with a large prismatic ceiling above and a dramatic three-storey drop of sheer curtains, the stair diffuses, reflects and refracts light throughout the space. It also serves to connect the users of the building and create the perfect ‘incidental meeting’ opportunities – dialling up the networking aspect of shared working spaces.
And we used colour a lot. I love how the mood is set with altering hues that adapt alongside users’ needs. When populated with events, the shared spaces will carry the buzz through the community. But as you move through defined thresholds, it becomes quieter, calmer, and more independent work feels natural.
We also reclaimed an external area to create a terrace looking out into the inner-city treetops. An ideal spot to reconnect to nature, tuck yourself away for focused work or use for social gatherings, it’s a place I’d like to spend time.
We’re just as proud of Dexus Place’s highly flexible functionality. To scale suite and meeting rooms, we’ve installed easy-to-move sacrificial walls, but a big part of nailing this was ensuring technology, furniture and acoustic performance would seamlessly adapt to any reconfiguration.
For Dexus’ Melbourne office, we worked with their strategic workplace and change management consulting team, Six Ideas by Dexus, to establish what would motivate and inspire staff in a post-pandemic era.
We appreciated Dexus’ existing space as a lovely ‘warm shell’ within the newer tower and sought to reduce waste by retaining this vibe and really focus on enhancing usability.
It was wonderful to realise the staff’s expressed desires of a space that would facilitate reconnecting, celebrate being back in the city, provide a warm environment, and offer greater user flexibility with seamless technology.
The experience begins on arrival, with reception and the central break out area acting like a ‘central laneway’ from which all other meeting rooms and other spaces stem from.
These high-performance facilities include warm, inviting shared spaces for workers to ‘touchdown’ in their community, a library for quiet and focus, a clubhouse and café for socialising, and dedicated team spaces for overt and hybrid collaboration.
The sustainability framework adopted for this project, resulted in a carbon savings of approximately 80 kg Co2 per sqm – or 88,000kg for the fit out. About 25% of that saving comes from keeping the existing ceiling, while another 10% is keeping the original carpet.
The rest has come from a combination of using timber studs, choosing local products, specifying finishes with eco-labels, and choosing energy efficient appliances. To put that into perspective, to offset that amount of carbon externally, we would have had to plant around 5,000 trees. It’s a strong case for re-use.
Each workspace is drawing much interest and engagement from Dexus’ staff and customers, and it’s personally been so satisfying to be part of such a refreshing retake in the very heart of Melbourne.
Tamara White is a Principal and Interior Design Lead at Warren and Mahoney