The Gray Puksand designed end-of-trip and wellness facilities in Melbourne’s landmark office tower, 101 Collins Street, exemplifies how the wellbeing of the modern workforce is being prioritised in Australian design.
Workplace design has undergone a transformation in the last decade. As more is learnt about the impact of the work environment on health and wellbeing, associated productivity and reduced absenteeism, the more employers have been seeking to create spaces to promote a happier workforce.
Many of the studies to date examine the impact of biophilic design. The incorporation of nature and natural elements into the built environment are thought to lower blood pressure and heart rates, to improve positive interactions and induce feelings of warmth, comfort and relaxation.
As employers’ understanding of this value grows, so too have the demands of the Australian employee. Technological advances have freed the constraints of a traditional workplace and a generation that is unwilling to accept the stark contrast between work and home that dogged their parents has emerged. One result has been a revolution in workplace design and the refinement of many existing workspaces.
101 Collins, has been a longstanding statement on the Melbourne skyline and synonymous with hardwork, success and luxury. As the needs of its inhabitants have shifted, so too has the function of this building. The most marked has been the creation of RISE and ONE, a sophisticated end-of-trip facility and a holistic wellness centre. Architects Gray Puksand were engaged for each project. Project lead Dale O’Brien says “We recognise end users are more informed than ever about design. There is an increasing need to move away from what might be considered a bog-standard office space and think about the role the work environment plays in attracting and retaining the right talent. Understanding employee wellness is a huge part of that”.
Gray Puksand embarked on ‘refining’, not redefining the 101experience by converting what was the upper basement level carpark in 101 Collins. ONE is an end-of-trip facility that provides generous sized and fitted showers, lockers and bicycle parking spaces. It has a high-end finish that is entirely synergistic with the wider building’s premium aesthetic of stone and brass. The space was to reinforce the 101 hotel feel to introduce a masculine palate which heavily features American walnut. Timber was the “first choice because it introduced a new but relevant language to the building, a classic warm, tactile and soft feeling but still a luxury world feel” says O’Brien.
The creation of, and positive response to ONE led to the addition of RISE. A 320sqm wellness facility offering a range of health and fitness opportunities provided by Olympian Steph Prem’s Studio PP. Here the Gray Puksand team have created a shift from the dark luxury enclave of ONE to the light, airy and uplifting environment of RISE. The step change occurs at a ‘yin-yang’ threshold where the richness of the American walnut contrasts with the more feminine palate of American white oak highlighted with natural light flooding from two funnel-like skylights from the courtyard above. The space has flowing curves throughout and which feel almost rhythmic and exude a sense of calm energy. “We wanted to avoid any heavily featured Australian timbers” O’Brien continues, “It’s a finely crafted space and we needed to have a high quality look and consistent grain and colour which was what led us to the white oak. Predictability of the material was very important”.
Gray Puksand have a sophisticated yet practical approach to sustainability. As a company they aim to practice cradle-to-cradle design. Whilst not always mandated by Clients, they look to use natural, sustainably-sourced materials whenever possible, which is just one reason why timbers such as American walnut and white oak feature in their work. The benefit of such an approach is not just to the environment, but also to the end users. Leigh Melbourne, from property consultancy JLL who occupy the 40th floor in 101 Collins says of the space “given I run to work it’s critically important to have great EOT facilities including enough showers so there is no waiting, a towel service and permanent lockers so I don’t need to carry a backpack. The access, design, fixtures and fittings are all excellent as are the lighting and, importantly the smell which are all very positive for mood”.
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