WORKHOUSE @ 398 SUSSEX STREET, SYDNEY
A HOME-LIKE, BOUTIQUE OFFICE BUILDING THAT RELIVES THE 50S!
LONG STORY SHORT
On this point of the city – the northern edge of Haymarket that connects the CBD metropolis and the surrounding cultural creative suburbs like Surry Hills – lies WORKHOUSE.
The eight-storey, mid-century marvel was originally purpose-designed by the late Harry Seidler – a highly respected, Austrian-born Australian Architect – in the early 50s for Horwitz, a publishing company best known for bodice rippers and racy private-eye fictions. It was Seidler’s first commercial project, first so-called large project and first beam-free building with rows of external operable louvres – the iconic elements of the building.
After nearly six decades, the building is finally in need of a new lease of life. Our Client sees the opportunity to fill the gap in the boutique office building market with a product that is hospitable – an office building that focuses on facilities, lifestyle and sustainability; a place where one can ‘live’, work and play, and call home. Our Client also sees the importance of paying homage to the mid-century roots of the building. This forward-looking vision informs our two main design themes.
DESIGN THEME 1 : Is it a workplace? Is it an apartment? No, it’s both!
As designers, we naturally see work as a labour of love and an office building as a second home, and hence we instantly think of the building as one, big house with many rooms. By fusing a workplace and a home as one, we hope that the end users would equally embrace our noble attitude towards work.
The WORK-HOUSE hybrid that challenges the status quo – also a wordmark by itself – is conceived.
On the basement level, we reconnect the inside which is dark and unventilated, and the outside which is an abandoned courtyard space at the bottom of the light-bringing void, by introducing a full-height opening. It allows the all-new interior (Room 1) to enjoy light, fresh air and view towards the all-new, beautifully landscaped courtyard (Backyard) that is also calmly lit during the evening.
A brand new lift (The Core) connects the basement level to an all-new main entrance on the ground level (Hello! Lobby 1), followed by five levels of all-new workspaces (Room 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6) and an all-new rooftop level. Over here, one can find a cosy and homely rooftop pavilion (Shed) – complete with a living area, a dining area, a play area (for the small kids and the big kids alike), a kitchenette, bathrooms and lockers – that opens into a beautifully landscaped, sun-bathed rooftop garden with sweeping views of the city (Secret Garden). In the evening, the Secret Garden is outlined by festoon lighting that sets the mood for team bonding activities and special occasions alike.
DESIGN THEME 2 : Mid-Century
The mid-century experience begins with the terrazzo-clad walls in white along the street front. This is followed by the terrazzo-clad walls in emerald green that frame the Hello! Lobby 1 and the terrazzo-clad walls in maroon red that, together with the perimeter LED lighting, highlight The Core. The soft background combination of jazz, swing, soul or rock and roll music further sets the 50s mood.
Taking design cues from the nearby Chinatown Friendship Archway, the use of maroon red and emerald green cannot be more contextually appropriate. To the Chinese community, the former symbolises luck, joy and happiness whilst the latter symbolises cleanliness and purity.
On the upper-floor levels, Room 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 are each furnished with a top-lit, veneer-clad Vintage Pod that contains a kitchenette and two sanitary compartments with mid-century-inspired fixtures and colour themes. The front and rear sash ribbon windows – a significant architectural style of the 50s – are restored to encourage the use of natural light and cross ventilation. Externally, we replace the existing operable louvres with new fixed louvres whilst ensuring optimum sunlight, sun shading and view. Their randomness by design forms an interesting piece of street artwork that is also accentuated by LED lighting during the evening and framed by the skylights above a new street front awning.
On the rooftop-floor level, the mid-century design theme can be seen in the selection of fittings, fixtures and plants that go into the Shed and Secret Garden, just like how the Backyard below is finished as well. We stay so true to the mid-century design theme that nothing is left unconsidered.
Quite simply, this is a one-of-a-kind, boutique office product.
The home-like design encourages collaboration, interaction and the sense of community, and facilitates a healthy lifestyle and work-life balance – the shifting trends of a modern-day office building.
The contrasting backdrop of the old against the sophistication of the new engages memory. It is where one can experience a glorious bygone era; it is where one is reminded of the good old days – a uniqueness in experience and sense of place that is expected of a modern-day office building.
The cheerful WORKHOUSE will surely be something that even other office buildings talk about. ⬛️
AT A GLANCE
Connie Alessi with Terence Yong