Can flooring bring the outside in?

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Senior Architect, Allison Hooper and Interior Designer Amanda Meiklejohn from William Ross Architects, explore how the Interface Human Nature Collection was central to bringing their “outside, in” concept to life with their recent project, The Stonnington Civic Precinct.

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What was the overall the design objective and brief for the Stonnington project? 

The City of Stonnington identified an existing 3 storey, 1980s office block opposite the Malvern Town Hall as a site for redevelopment, to consolidate and relocate the accommodation of Council’s 320 staff team from 3 disparate office locations.

The purpose of the relocation was to provide for future community use of the current accommodation facilities, but more importantly, to bring together the 25 staff teams in a collaborative, open work space environment to increase connection between teams, and improve communication and productivity.

The redevelopment formed Stage 1 of the Stonnington Civic Precinct Project, which also includes accommodation at Malvern Town Hall, as Stage 2 of the project.

Through extensive consultation with Council’s various teams, WRA assisted Council to develop a detailed brief for a new, light and interactive workplace over 3 levels, including a customer service Foyer, casual and comfortable staff break out spaces, and various formal and informal meeting zones for a collaborative working environment.

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Once you had received the brief from the client, how did you approach this design? What was your process of thinking?

The existing building with its deep and dark footprint was the first challenge to address. WRA’s approach to improve the environment within the building focused a four-sided glass atrium void extended above the existing roof level to maximise daylight filtering into the adjacent working spaces.  An open staff break out space was located at the base of the central void to occupy the most vibrant and light space in the building.  On the higher 2 levels, 2 further break out spaces for staff would engage over the edge of the void for vertical connection between staff members at their time of most social interaction.

To improve the internal air quality and provide visual relief for staff either on their break, or when at their work areas which are planned around the atrium void, a 3 storey high living, breathing ‘Green Wall’ in the centre of the atrium void.  This green wall brings the outside environment in, to a building which otherwise would very much look internally on itself, but as well as this, the wall divides the void through the middle, providing a visually permeable, but secure barrier between the public Foyer and meeting spaces, and the private staff working zones and break out spaces.

With this strategy, the central open stair accessing all levels climbs alongside the green wall between the public and private zones. Small framed moments at the landings of the stair poke through the green wall and look to the break out spaces for visual and social connection, as well as providing staff with nooks for moments to pause, reflection, a quiet chat, or a private phone call.

Another significant challenge was the relatively low floor-to-floor level of the existing building.  With minimal space to run building services in ceiling voids, the approach was to maximise the height by removing the ceiling, exposing the services, and dropping clusters of hexagonal acoustic ceiling tiles over each staff department. These clusters help to define the separate departments, whilst still allowing the floor plate to be an open plan work space.

The exposed services and the underside of the slab were painted a cool white to reflect the daylight coming in from the atrium and the external windows. Following this approach, the interior palette was typically cool and fresh.

The 3 floor levels of the building each have a distinct colour and styling theme to reflect the immediate environment and its occupants. A cool blue and crisp white palette on the ground floor maximises connection with the blue glass atrium and lightens the darkest floor level.  A fresh, vibrant yellow, together with splashes of black and cool greys on the mid-level reflects the young, local urban vibe of the various departments occupying that level. The Councillors on the top level see the green wall in its entirety and benefit with the most natural light, so this level takes on warmer olive green tones and light timbers for a mature and comfortable feel.

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How did the Interface carpet tiles contribute to this, e.g. What was your inspiration behind selecting the collection you did? 

With the 3 storey ‘Green Wall’ providing a central and visually continuity to the interior design, WRA wanted to incorporate this natural feel, and continue the theme of ‘bringing the outside in’ with the materials and finishes used internally.

 

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The Human Nature range from Interface features natural looking pebbles and stones, which make the occupants feel as though they are walking outside in a garden. Interspersed with planks of colour, particularly the green shag carpet which has the appearance and feel of walking over fresh grass, the floor pattern takes on the feel of being outside in the fresh air. In one area of the building which is a totally internal corridor with no direct access to the outside, the planks and the grass are layed playfully to give a stepping stone effect which also helps to make the corridor feel like a journey.

Yellow and blue planks were also used in a stripe formation to define where circulations in an otherwise open floor plan.

Patterned planks as layed straight in corridors and under workstations were mixed to a herringbone pattern, to visually define spaces within the open workstation floor area as informal meeting spaces, or staff break areas.  The staff break areas have mixed planks of differing patterns and colour to further emphasise the change in space to be more relaxed and playful.

The carpet runs throughout the 3 levels of the building, with meeting rooms typically in the bold colours to visually contrast the sea of white desks and chairs, and have these spaces stand out to visitors.

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How did you find designing with the Skinny Plank format?

The skinny plank format of the Interface carpet tiles provided opportunity to create varying floor patterns with the same carpet tile. Laid either in ashlar or herringbone; the planks provide opportunities to make for quite a number of different flooring patterns.  For the Human Nature series, the four different pattern tiles of the same series work together in a random but cohesive way, replicating the randomness of natural stone materials.

Working with a skinny plank format instead of a square format, we were able to create coloured striped walkways for visual interest, but also this pattern encourages the users to use the space as it is intended, and not to fill the striped walkways with storage, furniture and clutter.

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Source :  Gallant Lee Photography

 

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