Office fitouts are light years ahead of those 50 years ago, and the Property Council’s refreshed office space in Melbourne shows just how far we’ve come.
Back in the 1970s, the Property Council’s first headquarters in Sydney consisted of a vast floor in vacant banking chambers. Picture a space as expansive as an empty aircraft hangar except for two desks and a trestle table pushed into one corner. Early employees scrambled to find spare chairs each time more than four people visited.
The Property Council’s commitment to maximise each dollar of members’ money remains the same, but the intervening five decades has seen a dramatic shift in the way our industry designs and delivers office space.
Today, offices are hubs of collaboration and creativity with people at their core. Take the Property Council’s recent upgrade to its Melbourne office.
When the Property Council put the call out to members for help, and a team of talented people and visionary companies stepped in to help, including NPM, Light Project and long-time building owner PGA.
Maddison Stevenson, an interior designer with Creo Design Group, a division of NPM, says members were at the heart of the design.
“We worked with an exceptionally tight budget and a turnaround time of two weeks, when normally a project of this scale would take up to six weeks. Our team went above and beyond to deliver,” Stevenson says.
A rapid consensus workshop with Property Council staff drove the design brief.
“From that workshop, we understood that the Property Council wanted a design that was all about members. The previous office fitout didn’t offer a lot of scope for members to network after meetings, and the old-style boardroom was inflexible. The new design will help members get more out of meetings and networking opportunities,” Stevenson explains.
Central to the 450 sqm fitout are collaborative spaces that encourage Property Council members to meet and mingle. There are breakout spaces, quiet rooms and a new flexible boardroom which can accommodate a variety of uses.
Stevenson says the office design reinforces the Property Council’s mission, with a giant panoramic mural of Melbourne reminding visitors and employees of their role creating great places.
Matt Hicks, CEO of Light Project, says the fitout’s lighting is on trend as illumination evolves to meet the needs of workers in agile and activity-based working environments. As we part the “sea of cubicles” of the past, lighting can help people connect with the architecture of a space and create visual impact, Hicks explains.
“As floorplates shrink, lighting is becoming as decorative as it is functional. The lighting in this fitout accentuates the architecture and interior design to create a complete environment.”
Building owner PGA was a collaborative partner throughout the process. Frank Martinez, PGA’s general manager, pulled strings to find the Property Council’s team overflow office space “at a very good rate” while the fitout was underway.
Martinez, who is a member of the Property Council’s commercial office committee in Victoria, says the project emphasises the endless potential for offices to adapt, provided they have good bones. “The Property Council has been a tenant of ours for 15 years, and we’re thrilled with the transformation that continues that strong relationship,” he says.
NPM is a long-time member of the Property Council and general manager Phillip Devlin an active industry participant. Devlin worked on the project throughout the three-month design process, coordinating all the professional services and working with Property Council members keen to support the upgrade.
“My message is simple. You can get an office fitout focused on people, staff and wellness regardless of the budget. Anything is achievable – but you need the right company with creativity and resourcefulness behind it.”
Glyn Jowsey, the Property Council’s project manager, says the team is delighted with the outcome.
“We now have greater functionality for our members and better spaces for staff – it’s a really good balance. And it ensures members remain at the heart of everything we do.”