The average premium commercial precinct spends $2 per sqm on Christmas decorations, but this year the team at ISPT’s 2 Constitution Avenue in Canberra has used its budget to recast Christmas with a message of reconciliation.
A building with a floor plate of 17,000 sqm may spend $30,000 on Christmas celebrations, or up to 40 per cent of its annual events budget. That’s a lot of towering fir trees and twinkling fairy lights, eggnog and snowflakes.
But not at 2 Constitutional Avenue in Canberra, where the building community is celebrating the festive season in a decidedly Australian way.
Building owner ISPT, manager Knight Frank and place activation specialist The Place Agency aren’t channelling the Grinch. They just want to do Christmas a bit differently this year.
“We haven’t spent our budget on a giant Christmas tree or a snowman. Instead we’ve worked with new suppliers and our building community to create a ‘native’ Christmas,” says Sherice Kazzi, marketing and communications manager for Knight Frank’s asset management services in the ACT.
Dreaming of a native Christmas
The native Christmas theme starts with the spectacular native flora installation by local artistic florist Wiluna that brings the true blue Christmas to life.
Bush-inspired branding on everything from window decals to Christmas cards carries the theme, and the annual Christmas drinks will be catered by in house café Brew & Brew featuring an Indigenous inspired menu.
The “pièce de résistance,” Kazzi explains, is an exhibition of art created by Indigenous detainees. The Dream Gallery, which will be displayed in the building’s foyer for 12 months, has been staged in collaboration with tenant ACT Corrective Services, and is the first of its type to feature augmented reality.
Kazzi admits she was nervous about the idea of showcasing art from people in the prison system but came to understand “the project is rehabilitation for the artists and reconciliation for the audience”.
Alicia Maynard, ISPT’s general manager of sustainability and technical services, agrees.
“The courage of each artist, the stories, feelings and meaning they are communicating through their artwork is important for everyone to see.
“For ISPT, being part of this program is an essential part of fulfilling our obligations to current and future generations for responsible investment, where our place is a platform for these important messages to be communicated and where culture is celebrated.”
The augmented reality element enhances the experience and magnifies the message of reconciliation. And the stories behind each piece of art reflect the property industry’s “big themes”, Kazzi explains, like community, social isolation and inclusion, mental health and gender equality among them.
“We have so much to learn from our Indigenous communities. I don’t see this campaign as replacing Christmas – we are just choosing to embed the important topic of reconciliation into our celebrations this year,” Kazzi adds.
Deck the halls with authenticity
This project has “multiple touch points,” says Bec McHenry, The Place Agency’s director. There’s the intrinsic social value and commitment to reconciliation, the genuine celebration of place, and the opportunity to strengthen relationships with valued customers.
Creative thinking can “amplify” the message of Christmas, but there is a reason why more people don’t push the boundaries, McHenry adds.
“It’s not because people in property aren’t creative – they are naturally creative. It can be really hard work to shake things up. It can be easier to hang tinsel on a tree.”
Nevertheless, a “generational shift” is underway, McHenry warns. “If you look at the trends around customer relations, community activation and experience, then authenticity is winning.”
McHenry says a growing cohort of property companies are realigning their approach to Christmas parties rather than risk undoing a year of good work around wellbeing and wellness. They are looking to reduce, reuse and recycle over the festive season to maintain sustainability agendas. And embedding Indigenous values into Christmas responds to reconciliation action plans, McHenry adds.
“Christmas is a time to do more than what is expected. With a bit of creativity, you can add value to your building community long after the festive season has faded,” McHenry concludes.