Sculptural floating concrete stairs provide a skite feature in engineering firm’s new offices

New offices for engineering giant Arup lead the way in terms of showcasing

a firm’s skills in its own domain – its green credentials are leading edge, too

I made this! A dramatic floating precast concrete architecture, building, design, Arup, Office, Sydney, Engineering firm
I made this! A dramatic floating precast concrete stair in Arup’s new Sydney offices is both a connector and a calling card for the engineering firm.

Along with employees, the workplace itself has to work pretty hard these days – roles include being a calling card for the business, facilitating efficient processes, and looking after staff wellness. Plus, the ideal premises will also deliver on green credentials and environmental awareness generally.

Luckily – or, rather, by informed hard work – the interior architecture and design for engineering firm Arup’s new Sydney head office has all this covered. And, being a respected name in engineering, Arup pursued technical excellence, and committed to pushing boundaries to create a great workspace for its staff and a skite project all at the same time.

In a long-standing collaboration between design and engineering, Arup partnered with architects Hassell to create a workplace where the exchange of knowledge and skills through learning and experimentation – central tenets of Arup’s work culture – are not only facilitated, but lived by all.

Hassell was engaged early in the construction planning of Barrack Place, on the western corridor of Sydney’s CBD, where Arup was both building engineer and future tenant. This allowed the two firms to influence the building’s architecture and engineering to align with their shared vision of the workplace interior.

Hassell principal Emily Moss says Arup wanted a space that would showcase Arup’s culture and expertise – a place where both staff and visitors are free to engage and interact without boundaries.

“To achieve this, we designed a workplace that is open and transparent, with a focus on physical and visual connection.”

The new Arup Sydney offices, designed co-jointly by architecture, building, design, furniture, interior design, Arup Sydney office, Arup, Hassell, low VOC
The new Arup Sydney offices, designed co-jointly by Arup and architects Hassell, attracted several green credentials and, as part of this, new furniture was chosen for its low VOC ratings as well as ergonomics. The tree adds to the indoor air quality and provides staff with a connection to nature.

The heart of the new workplace is a four-storey void connecting all five floors of the tenancy. With striking horizontal and vertical views across and between floors, the centrepiece presents a clear view into Arup’s day-to-day operations, at the same time achieving a sense of broad staff connection.

Arup’s desire to be open and visually honest led to a planning model where idea-exchange spaces are interspersed throughout the tenancy. These meeting spaces sit adjacent to the void on all floors, each with a different focus. In this way, lab spaces, workshops, meeting and collaboration zones become visual destinations, encouraging connection and collaboration between staff and clients.

The staircase connecting these exchange areas vertically is a design and engineering feat in its own right – a cast concrete structure floating between floors. Providing a fast connector between floors and teams, it’s a visual manifestation of Arup’s heritage in engineering ingenuity and honesty in design.

Positioning the circulation staircase as a visual feature architecture, building, circulation staircase, Arup offices, open plan office floors
Positioning the circulation staircase as a visual feature at the heart of the new Arup offices helps animate the open-plan office floors.

Spanning the void on two levels are bridges linking work zones via intermediary collaboration spaces. The bridges not only connect Arup’s multi-disciplinary team, but also reflect on founder Ove Arup’s ‘total design’ approach to engineering.

Principal and NSW region leader Andrew Pettifer says the new workplace is a great example of the power of integrating technical engineering and creative design, and sets the benchmark for Arup in the future.

“The new Sydney office is the embodiment of a collaborative exchange of ideas, knowledge and skills between Arup and Hassell – a workplace that shows what’s achievable by pushing the boundaries of building capabilities and emerging technologies.”

And the Hassell-Arup fit-out leads the way in other key disciplines, too. The Green Building Council of Australia has awarded the fit-out the highest star rating for innovative and sustainable design. The tenancy demonstrated world leadership in sustainable design and received a 6 Star Green Star Interiors v1.1 Design Review Certified rating.

The fit-out scored highly across all sustainability categories, including management, indoor environmental quality, energy, transport, water, land use and ecology, emissions and innovation, with a perfect score awarded in the materials category.

“The 6 Star Green Star rating is a clear indication of our commitment to sustainability,” Pettifer says.

For the Arup fit-out, even the cross bridges architecture, building, design, Arup office, fitout, meeting spaces
For the Arup fit-out, even the cross bridges bring opportunity to create elevated, floating-on-high meeting spaces.

The building has also achieved Australia’s first ever WELL Core & Shell Precertification at the Gold level by the International WELL Building Institute and will also achieve a 5 Star NABERS Energy and 4 star NABERS Water rating.

The early collaboration between the engineer/tenant and the architect played a significant part in the fit-out’s green credentials. Arup committed to the office space early in the tower’s design process, allowing the fit-out to be integrated into the base build construction, reducing waste and use of materials. The office will use 100% green power.

“Championing Biophilic Design principles, our offices are full of specially chosen plants that create a healthy environment for our 800-plus Sydney employees,” says Pettifer. “At the base of the tenancy void, our knowledge centre, Arup University, we planted a tree to increase the quality of indoor air and give staff and visitors alike an immediate connection to nature.

Air quality was also a consideration in regard to furniture selection, with only low VOC pieces chosen.

Lastly, fresh outdoor air is supplied through an Arup-designed underfloor displacement ventilation system, providing extremely high indoor air quality. Staff can even control the airflow in their immediate environments through in-floor swirl diffusers.

Hassell also designed Arup’s Melbourne office – along similar lines to the Sydney office fit-out.

Credit list

Arup offices, Sydney
Building architect
Project manager
Structural engineer
Outdoor furniture
Eileen table, from Space Furniture
Zumtobel Tecton C, Zumtobel Light Fields, Zumtobel Vivo – all by Zumtobel Group; Philips Selecon Display Profile LED; Erco Parscan, Erco Oseris; Erco Pantrac ceiling washlight – all from Jade Cross; Lampe De Marseille, from Cult
Interior architecture and interior design
Hassell in partnership with Arup
Building owner, manager and developer
Services engineer – fire, mechanical, hydraulic, electrical, acoustic, lighting
Hay Revolver Stool, Fritz Hansen Series 7 office chair, Magis Oficina chair, Hay Palissade chair – all from Cult; Alcove sofa and Exchange tables, both from Vitra Australia; Quadrant sofa, from Koskela; Aline meeting chair and Confair folding table, both from Wilkhahn; customised Kase storage, from Schiavello; custom workstations, from Zenith; custom timber tables, by Elan
ASP access floor; Gibbon Group; Forbo
Kvadrat Maharam, Instyle

Story by: Charles Moxham

Photography by: Earl Carter

15 Aug, 2019

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