Guide to the coolest offices

JUST LIKE HOME: Staff at CBRE's Sydney office can choose to work in lounge-room spaces, kitchen spaces, library nooks or traditional office spaces.
JUST LIKE HOME: Staff at CBRE's Sydney office can choose to work in lounge-room spaces, kitchen spaces, library nooks or traditional office spaces.

Once, securing the corner office meant you'd arrived. Now the workplace is all about supporting flexibility, creativity and innovation. Closed doors are out. Collaboration is in.

As the way we work becomes more fluid, our workspaces are changing too. We asked architects and interior designers what makes the contemporary office cool. Is it the swivelling bookshelves concealing secret rooms as in Google's New York office? Or the top-floor bar and deck complete with DJ turntables at Red Bull's Sydney headquarters?

Here's what makes an office space a great place to work.

Home ground advantage

As the lines between home and office blur, workplaces are beginning to feel a lot like someone's lounge room.

Woods Bagot's Sydney architecture studio is designed to give staff the sense of respite that's normally associated with being at home at the end of the working day. Principal Domenic Alvaro says it's welcoming, there's accessibility to daylight, good lighting, a sense of indoor-outdoor connection and tactility in the hand-built oak joinery and meeting tables.

CBRE's new Sydney CBD office fitout, managed by FDC Construction and Fitout, is another designed to feel like home. Staff can choose to work in lounge-room spaces, kitchen spaces, library nooks or traditional office spaces.

Kitchen connection

Often considered the heart of the home, the kitchen is playing a more prominent role in offices. Andrew Holder, chief executive of Amicus Interiors, says kitchens and breakout areas have always been used to encourage staff to lunch together instead of disappearing into food courts.

Now, he adds: "Companies are looking to almost bring the kitchen to the front-of-house area and use that as one of the public areas to meet people."

Social networking

Collaboration is about bringing people together, sometimes in surprising ways. The modern office supports that through bars, cafes, even an indoor mini-basketball court at Red Bull.

Steve Coster, head of knowledge and sustainability at design firm Hassell, says what most people want is opportunities to build relationships with interesting people who can teach them things and bring them opportunities.

"Really the most important thing that an office should do is facilitate those relationships and many traditional corporate offices are really bad at that."

Open-hearted offices

Transparency and accessibility are the order of the day. When Hassell designed ANZ's headquarters in Melbourne it included an atrium that extends upward through the building. Cafes on the ground floor are accessible to the public, allowing them to see bank staff at work.

"You can walk right into the heart of the building and almost see right into the middle of the bank which is very unusual for a bank," says Coster.

Hassell created a similar experience in ANZ's new Sydney office, this time via a void in an office tower.

"You can stand in the middle of that building and see up and down through the building and see all the people that you work with - even across multiple levels - and move around the organisation much more easily than you would in a traditional office tower."

A natural high

People get a sense of wellbeing from the natural environment and on-to-it organisations are taking that well beyond the token pot-plant. "The greening doesn't have to be physically within the space. It might actually be the outlook," Alvaro says.

The Woods Bagot studio offers extensive views of foliage in nearby Wynyard Park.

Holder says nature inspired the break area at Coca-Cola's Sydney office. "They were almost trying to replicate sand, sea and parkland within their colour scheme so that people can feel as though they are sitting outside even when they are sitting inside."


Partitions and static meeting spaces no longer rule. At Woods Bagot's studio moveable screens are constantly being shifted, as staff set up a presentation in the corridor or the team area.

"The whole studio has become a sort of multi-modal space to enable any type of meeting," says Alvaro.

The cafe-like office space Hassell designed for ad agency Clemenger BBDO is meant to promote creative conversations, but there are also small, practical spaces where teams can brainstorm. The walls of those rooms are rotating whiteboards. "So multiple teams can leave their stuff on the walls without leaving the room unusable by another team."

The Hub co-working spaces in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide accommodate an energetic community of freelancers and small business members who pay to work there. The design process was driven by members, with their feedback to Hassell resulting in vibrant spaces with spots for everything, from a 50-person seminar to quiet spaces for an individual writing a proposal.

Sydney Morning Herald