With staff fully assimilated to the rhythms of agile working, how do we begin to offer further flexibility? In its Brisbane headquarters, NAB looks to seamlessly align staff with space, giving them the room – quite literally – to physically and mentally ‘flex’. Designers Wood Bagot strove to bring physical space and human behaviour into perfect sync.
May 29th, 2018
The National Australia Bank’s (NAB) Brisbane Headquarters, NAB Place, designed by global architecture firm, Woods Bagot, sets a new benchmark in collaborative workplace environments. The five-floor interior fit-out provides a workstation to staff ratio of 1:1.2, fundamentally challenging traditional corporate workplaces which would typically accommodate at a rate of 1:1.
NAB Place embraces the progressive idea to foster an agile workforce, where staff are empowered to choose where, when and how they work in more effective and collaborative ways. Spatial fluidity and diversity of workplace settings are key to encouraging staff to physically and mentally ‘flex’ as a means to better harness the powers of people-centric office space.
The views from NAB Place on Levels 15-19 at 259 Queen Street take in glimpses of the serpentine course of the Brisbane River between rows of city towers aligned to the water’s edge. On Elizabeth Street below, the historic stone walls of St Stephen’s Cathedral echo the quarried hillsides of Kangaroo Point, also visible in the distance.
Such characteristic surrounds did not go unnoticed by the team at Woods Bagot, including lead designers Jess Dootjes and Brett Simmonds from Melbourne and project designer, Helen Ma from Brisbane. “The project was inspired by the local buildings, particularly those that use Brisbane Tuff (a colourful local stone) and by the Brisbane River,” Dootjes says. “Which is why we see a soft colour palette and a lot of curves.”
Curvature is a consistent thread that weaves its way through the long, narrow floor plates of the NAB Place tenancy. Fluid lines are expressed in floors, ceilings, walls, furniture and joinery, working subconsciously to encourage staff to move, as if persuaded by a gentle current. Spatial fluidity is echoed through vertical movement centred around the glass-encased staircase connecting all levels.
The ease with which movement patterns transpire helps to support a dynamic workplace culture where staff are encouraged to be ‘agile’ and move regularly throughout the day. “Each staircase is surrounded by banquette seating, promoting the idea that you could stop for coffee or chat,” Dootjes says. “We wanted to promote the inbetween spaces and encourage those fleeting, serendipitous moments for collaborations to occur.”
Whilst fluid lines are employed to suggest movement, colour is used liberally to reinforce moments of collaboration. In meeting rooms, chat booths and focus areas dispersed across the plan, upholstery and carpets explore the tonal range assigned to each level. These vary from soft blues to greens, earthy greys, deep blue and pinks as floors ascend vertically. On the client engagement floor at Level 17, vibrant waiting areas exercise colour most intensely.
“We worked with a rug designer to create custom designed rugs in these waiting spaces,” Dootjes says. “We explored the idea of the Brisbane River flowing into small tributaries. That relates back to the idea that you can pick and choose where you’d like to sit and how you move along a meandering path.”
Natural materials such as timber as well as custom indoor gardens play their part in reinforcing a domestic sensibility throughout the nurturing spaces of the interior. Selected plant species, including Chinese Evergreen, Peace Lily, Snake Plant and Rubber Fig work to purify the air and promote a sense of calm and wellbeing.
The orchestration of form and fabric is playful enough to promote positive collaboration whilst being assertive enough to establish an invigorating workplace atmosphere.
“The most important outcome is that the staff feel empowered to choose how and when they work,” Ma says. “The project enables a cultural shift to occur within the company. It’s a combination of the behaviour of the staff and the physical environment working together.”
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