Taking the initiative

Forget the traditional image of a stuffy, institutionalised bank Westpac's new flagship building in the Britomart precinct reflects the bank's progressive, contemporary outlook and ESD focus

Exterior view of of informal staff area that apartment, architecture, building, city, condominium, metropolitan area, mixed use, real estate, residential area, urban area, teal
Exterior view of of informal staff area that opens to an outdoor area with outdoor furnishings and planters.

For centuries, bank buildings were characterised by their solid, imposing architecture, which was designed to impart a strong sense of respectability and trustworthiness. However, such buildings did little to convey an ability to keep up with changing times.

Westpac's new flagship head office building in Auckland's Britomart precinct reflects the far more progressive, proactive and socially responsible nature of banking today. The seven-storey building, the first of a two-stage project incorporating the historic exterior of Charter House, brings together Westpac teams and departments from five separate corporate offices.

The interior, designed by Jasmax Architects, is a far cry from the traditional image of a stuffy, institutionalised bank and the progressive design is evident right from the entrance. A cheeky installation in the foyer features suspended black bowler hats reminiscent of those worn by traditional British bankers along with one red hat.

Westpac head of property Murray Dobson says the contemporary interior design and the focus on environmentally sustainable initiatives were critical.

"Don't make assumptions is the message," he says. "This bank is both steeped in tradition and bold enough to embrace the future. That theme continues throughout the new building."

Dobson says the project reinforces the concept of One Westpac.

"We wanted to give staff a feeling of what it is to be uniquely Westpac and uniquely New Zealand. We also wanted the design to reflect the bank's connection with the environment, the land and the bank's history. The bank was established in New Zealand in 1861, just a month before the start of the gold rushes the opening of Stage 2 will coincide with Westpac New Zealand's 150-year anniversary."

Interior view of office space inside the Westpac interior design, white
Interior view of office space inside the Westpac head office in Britomart.

Dobson says the new bank was also designed to provide an environment that would foster teamwork and collaboration.

"It needed to be an open, contemporary space that would reflect the sort of organisation we are progressive, forward looking and people centred."

When the second stage a new 12-storey building is completed in 2011, it will be linked horizontally to the existing building by a series of airbridges. Vertical links will be provided by bold red staircases, including the one that already zigzags up the end of the existing building a feature borrowed from Westpac Australia's flagship building in Sydney, which has won many design awards. Breakout meeting spaces are already provided on every landing to encourage more communication and movement between staff and departments.

The cafe on Level 3 forms the hub of the building. This double-height space features the exposed original tin roof of historic Charter House. Old brick walls are also exposed and the original sash windows retained. As well as counters, tables and lounge chairs, this space includes an internet cafe with a bank of computers, and wall-mounted televisions.

The building has also been designed to interact with the vibrant Britomart precinct.

"Rather than provide a traditional office that is far removed from what is happening outside, we wanted our world to be part of the living, moving world outside," says Dobson. "This extends to the provision of several outdoor decks for staff."

Each of Westpac's seven floors of Stage 1 is themed according to different geological strata beginning with the strong earthy hues of the tectonic plates. The vibrant palette then reflects a journey from the blue of the deep sea and foreshore, to the dunes and on through the forest and high country to the mountains.

View of informal staff areas with office furnishings apartment, interior design, real estate, gray, black
View of informal staff areas with office furnishings and doors and windows.

"Even though we are working towards One Westpac', we also wanted each team and each floor to have a real sense of working together as a team. So each floor has its own unique identity, which is reflected in the surroundings," says Dobson.

Awareness of the environment doesn't just emerge in the theming the base building was designed to achieve a 4-Star Green Star rating and to the New Zealand Green Building Council New Zealand Best Practice for a historic building refit. Stage 2 is being completed to achieve a 5-Star Excellence rating.

The building features a number of energy-efficient systems, including daylight dimming. The lights closest to the windows operate only when needed. Small heating and cooling zones ensure over-heating or over-cooling is minimised. In addition, all power and water loads are metered.

"Westpac has a management and commissioning regime in place to help ensure all energy-using systems are running to their theoretical optimum," says Dobson. "Each system is continuously monitored and adjusted every three months to optimise its performance. In addition, fresh air, temperatures and light levels are programmed to create a good working environment."

Other environmentally sustainable design initiatives include low-water flush toilets, and hot water being generated close to the point of use. Paints, glues and other building products have low emission levels, and all refrigerants were chosen to reduce the ozone-depleting potential in the event of a leak.

For more details, contact Westpac New Zealand, PO Box 934, Auckland, phone (09) 336 9824, fax (09) 336 9608. Website: www.westpac.co.nz.

Story by: Trendsideas

08 Jul, 2009

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