For Sydney Catholic Schools (SCS) we designed a revitalised and transformational CBD workplace, with colourful collaborative spaces and moments for contemplation, that embodies the Catholic identity and supports a diversity of workstyles.
To accommodate over 400 staff across eight directorates, the design needed to incorporate many diverse groups and working requirements. Only a small proportion of the staff would sit at their desks each day, while others spent time out in the field, travelling between schools in outreach and support capacities. The new workplace therefore needed to be a central home, ‘front door’, and hub for the staff’s ever-changing activities.
The stakeholder process is a signature part of our reputation for delivering spaces that are a customised to those who use them. Stakeholders not only participated in but embraced and prioritised the invitation and opportunity to contribute – over 70% of the SCS population helped form the collective vision that underpinned the design outcome.
Critical to this project was SCS’s ethical responsibility to balance the need for a new and innovative workplace with demonstrated good custodianship of the finances and assets of the Catholic Church. We were purposefully resourceful in our design response, working with the existing conditions to explore appropriate levels of intervention and areas of focus that would add value and suit the client’s needs.
SCS wanted to create an environment that would act as an acknowledgement of and commitment to a period of change and renewal. With the Bible and tenants of Catholic faith as the basis for the development of the design concept, we created a storytelling overlay that both users and visitors could relate to and perceive as wayfinding and orientation markers.
Devotion points are strategically located to be evident throughout the space, offering quiet moments for contemplation, focus and reflection. We also provided environments for SCS to showcase their collection of artworks and icons. Materiality, colour and texture were selected to support the zoning and wayfinding of the layout.
The hero of the workplace is a hidden circular room directly off the reception carved out of a square box. Unexpectedly bold in colour, with a complex series of vaults and recessed arches for religious icons, the womblike space supports a range of functions beyond that of an ordinary workplace environment. It was designed and fitted out to suit many functions – from larger, corporate meetings, presentations and services to individual reflection and prayer.
The ‘front door’ was designed to be a space that SCS could be proud to welcome staff, students and the wider church community through with pride. The focus of the arrival area is a large sculptural crown of thorns supported by a suspended 5.5m digital display that curves and frames the rear boundary of the welcome zone. Perfectly centred to the lifts, this display helps support SCS’s day-to-day welcome experience and communication, while also functioning as a presentation and seminar backdrop for special events.