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An expansive atrium shines in CBA’s impressive Sydney offices

Davenport Campbell delivers the second phase of CBA’s South Eveleigh campus with a future-fit workplace that aligns people with tech and innovation.

An expansive atrium shines in CBA’s impressive Sydney offices

Initially conceived six years ago and reaching completion in September 2020, The Foundry’s design had at its core a desire for a flexible and purpose-led work environment, allowing it to effectively pre-empt the chaos of 2020 as a working model for our times.

Designed as phase two of Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s (CBA) South Eveleigh campus, which accommodates 10,000 people, the working number has capacity to be higher. Indeed, the emergent hybrid working mode, with all technologies and functionality for remote and flexible, have been operational from the outset.

Fulcrumed by an expansive atrium, The Foundry is fundamentally a series of five levels overlooking the central void. Here, scale is managed to perfection with sightlines and skylights imbuing the entire space with a flowing connection to nature.

This is amplified at each level with views that shift exponentially from interactive to far reaching. The floors are similarly disparately engaged: the upper levels are currently the quietest, while the ground level, with its cafés and community presence, is the most interactive.

“People will forever want to be together to share ideas, socialise and feel part of something great. However, that does not always need to happen in the same place all of the time. The Foundry equips teams with the analogue and digital tools they need to do great things in person, from home and all the places in between,” says Neill Johanson, principal at Davenport Campbell.

CBA’s people can move about the whole building, finding the space that best suits the work they need to do – whether it’s areas for quiet work or contemplation, relaxation, connection or collaboration.

People walk past the panelled information desk in The Foundry, which sits under exposed ceilings.

The team can use the wayfinding boards to see activity at each level and occupancy of each space. This, in coordination with an app, allows colleagues to be easily located and space quickly requested.

“CBA has a history of providing leading workplaces for our people, and The Foundry is no exception. Designed to support creativity and idea generation, The Foundry makes it easy for our people to co-create with each other, our customers and other technology businesses. It also complements our first South Eveleigh workplace, Axle,” says Jennifer Saiz, executive general manager, group corporate services at CBA.

A person in a white shirt sits in a coworking space next to a small round table.

The floors themselves expand laterally, with booth seating at the atrium edge leading to creative working areas and meeting rooms. All spaces are interactive via the workplace app and digital displays, but also through simple solutions such as large white boards cladding the outer walls of the meeting rooms, thereby activating this often-neglected space as an asset.

The bulk of the floor to either end of the atrium evolves gradually from large kitchens, to quieter areas for small groups, to cocooned options using Adam Goodrum’s Bower options (from Cult Design) for solo workers and semi-open booths for phone calls. The mood becomes quieter still at the far end of The Foundry’s ground floor, which houses a series of screened day beds for rest and meditation.

Two women sit in a booth seat in The Foundry, illuminated under a light and surrounded by plants.

Taking its aesthetic cues from a foundry, steel cladding with a soft deep grey finish by Axolotl is extensive. Perforated steel in burnt orange is also present, yet it is the white steel panels used on the ceiling to draw light into the atrium that coalesce the whole.

“Our design team worked closely with fjmtstudio to ensure there was no point where the tenancy works and the building architecture were at odds. The end result is a completely integrated workplace that takes full advantage of all the attributes offered by the base building and deeply embedded in South Eveleigh’s rich history,” says Johanson.

People sit in grey seating around a white board able in The Foundry offices.

Furniture, too, provides a consistent though subtle thread via a shared blonde palette across a wide range of forms. Tiling in mid- grey green is echoed in laminates, but again this colour incursion is subtle and quite beautiful. Colour is delivered most boldly through the well-curated art collection that appears natural to the space and scale of the building.

Designed to be connected and flexible, the buildings within the precinct offer varying degrees of community interaction. This includes childcare, a rooftop farm and an entry garden that brings Indigenous Australian food and culture to the precinct.

People sit back to back in nook seating in The Foundry

There’s also the extraordinary works of Brook Andrew celebrated in the main atrium. Additionally, South Eveleigh is a tech and innovation precinct and the first node in a tech corridor that stretches to Sydney’s Central railway station.

Sustainability is deeply embedded with 100 per cent green power; 100 per cent fresh air through chilled beams; eWater (water identified as environmentally sustainably managed) in kitchens; rainwater in bathrooms; compostable food packaging; and solar panels that generate enough electricity to support all lighting.

People sit around a desk watching one person write on a whiteboard in an office in The Foundry.

Social sustainability is also at the forefront, with community engagement and outreach supporting not-for-profit projects within the area.

Davenport Campbell’s skill lies in its ability to make a project of this scale work at a human level, and in this it has truly excelled. Vast though this project is, there is never a feeling of being overwhelmed or lost; rather, each portion melds seamlessly to the next for a natural, integrated passage.

Looking down over the foyer and wooden step-seating in The Foundry's main spacious area.

Moreover, the underlying technology and innovation integrates so well that it supports without dominating. It is a fine thread, and exceedingly well-resolved.

Davenport Campbell And Partners


Steve Brown

This project was INDE.Awards 2021 Shortlisted for The Work Space, partnered by Herman Miller


This story originally appeared in Indesign Magazine #84Subscribe now.

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