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Biophilia comes to the fore in this Gray Puksand fit-out

For this Melbourne-based workplace, Gray Puksand has created an environment that exudes calm and balance. Soft, gentle Milliken flooring helps to craft the ambience and flow of the spaces.

With a name change, doubling in size and a fresh executive, the time was right for Gray Puksand to create a new headquarters for this Melbourne-based government agency. It was a move that represented an opportunity to not only embrace a forward-thinking, agile approach, but also create an emotive response unexpected within its sector of banking and finance.

With this in mind, Gray Puksand’s Heidi Smith, director and project lead, created a remarkable design response. “They were going through a huge change as an organisation and trying to think about relocating, how they would work and what they would do all at the same time,” Smith says.

Gray Puksand’s solution was to create a response far away from the agency’s typical workday, where the team face complaints, trauma and anger from people dissatisfied with the banks and the superannuation industry.

“Materiality, the way the space was laid out, the colour schemes, the reference to biophilia was all a big part of that approach,” says Smith.

Photo by Shannon McGrath.

A major part of the design and a critical conversation with the client, was the choice of flooring.

Gray Puksand chose to work with Milliken’s Arctic Survey collection. Both architect and client appreciated the unique colourways and textures the collection offered, and – Arctic namesake aside – the softness it brought to the interior environment, highlighting a sense of gentleness that Gray Puksand was looking to achieve.

The Arctic Survey collection is composed of a series of bold textures, inspired by the movement, structures, and evolving forms of ice in the Arctic.

The collection’s distinctive and textured patterns, which include Expedition, Isotherm and Shackleton, are defined by movement and scale. Bringing new dimension and depth to each pattern is its all-loop, solution dyed construction, designed to transform the floor into a highly visual landscape.

Flooring delivers on design intent

“The intent,” says Smith, “was to deliver an interior exuding a sense of calm and balance that essentially functions as a yin to the yang of the often high-intensity business of complaint and dispute resolution.”

Working together through a series of intensive workshops, the client recognised the need to think progressively in design development and construction.

The first step was relocating the business to four levels at 130 Lonsdale Street, selected for its WELL rating and support of wellbeing-focused working lifestyles.

For the Milliken team, working with Gray Puksand to deliver on its design intent, this became both a point of alignment and shared passion. As a founding member of the Well Living Lab, committed to scientifically studying the health and wellbeing of indoor environments, it was that shared value of ‘making people’s lives better’ that resonated strongly.

In the fit-out, wellbeing comes to the fore through principles of biophilia, incorporating natural materiality, lush plantings, neutral colours and patterns reminiscent of nature.

“An absolute pillar of this environment had to be wellbeing,” Smith says. “It had to come from creating a safe and supporting environment for the team.”

Soft edges and curves dominate the design, from wide non-linear circulation paths that carve out each floor’s plan to pendant lighting and amorphously shaped rugs.

Essentially, the forms and shapes come together to represent nature’s ebbs and flows, supplemented by a subtle and muted colour scheme.

Arctic Survey brings biophilic beauty to a flow of zones

The path of travel through the agile working areas is designed as a curvilinear experience, with workstations and zones organised in a “meandering” flow across the floorplate.

A curvaceous staircase and void connects the multiple floors, drawing the individual up through the building, and setting up that meandering journey through workspace zones encompassing focus pods, individual workstations, team tables, collaboration spaces, conciliation and meeting rooms.

“That is where the carpet choice came in with the Milliken carpet tiles,” Smith says. “It was a big part of the design and a major design conversation with the client to get it right.”

“The carpet responds to creating feature nooks and textures with a beautiful biophilic, kind-of natural patterning, which adds to the overall design outcome,” Smith says.

Over many meetings, the team came up with plenty of options and different ideas, but the Arctic Survey range hit the right mark; the tonal and textural nature of its Avalanche ‘Isotherm’ and ‘Shackleton’ patterns, selected in the Black Ice colourway, perfectly supported the wider design.

“As soon as the client saw it, they were on board. It picked up on that softness and that gentle kind of feel that we wanted, giving us an opportunity to really craft that flow through the space so the carpet responds to the travel through the environment.”

It was only by uncovering the emotive nature of the work that Smith and her team could start to bring a highly sensual experience to the project through materiality.

“The design’s driving concept is underpinned by themes of fluidity, growth and solid foundations; taking this desire for an agile, flexible environment, which in and of itself empowers people and gives a sense of comfort and happiness to staff,” Smith says.


Gray Puksand

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