It could be described as the office that moves with you. BVN Sydney Studio recently received the country’s highest design accolade after winning first place in the Workplace Design category at this year’s Australian Interior Design Awards – and the reason boils down to an ingenious concept allowing staff to seamlessly shift their workstations and all they need during the creative process.
Sounds simple. But turning this into reality at the cutting-edge architectural firm took months of rethinking how to shape, structure and then build an office that inspired collaboration, efficiency and agility without compromising digital connections.
So innovative were the results that the end-product even features a first-of-its-kind ceiling product, a now patent-pending device called a ‘data boom’.
According to lead designer Sally Campbell, the data boom solves not only a problem for BVN Studio but also what has become a universal issue in today’s workplaces – that is, how to deliver high-speed data via a flexible system.
The data boom does so by delivering power and data from the ceiling soffit via a retractable cable that feeds through a circular pivoting arm which connects to clusters of up to eight workstations.
The inspired invention came about after BVN collaborated with The University of Sydney in an applied research project exploring the potential of robotic construction and advanced manufacturing technologies to create solutions for optimally flexible design. This first for Australian architecture involved onsite testing and production of robotically wound carbon fibre to four data booms using one of the university’s industrial robotic arms.
“To deliver the way in which we wanted the workplace to operate, we were faced with the question of how to deliver high-speed data via a flexible system,” Ms Campbell explains.
“Wi-fi is not enough and traditional copper-based systems do not allow large-scale flexibility which is a common barrier in workplace design worldwide.” Hence the “data boom” was made.
But back to the start.
Driving the business
As BVN Studio expanded from several dozen staff to almost 200 the previous Sydney studio fit out became increasingly unsuitable. Since 2010 this had comprised a stripped back renovation of a B-grade office within a 1970s CBD tower. Traditional fixed workstations, storage and team desks arranged in clusters typified the office, and larger events and informal meetings were held on a long slim veranda which ran along one side.
The first step was to make the process of redesigning the workplace a democratic one, so all 180-plus staff were consulted through a series of workshops. “Unleashing the power of teams to drive the business was a key objective,” Ms Campbell says.
“Different stages within the creative process require different setups for varying team sizes and interaction. The goal was to move from a traditionally structured workplace to one that was fully flexible and would give teams and individuals agency to self-organise based on how they wanted to work.”
The result is a workplace where teams now tailor their spaces with a “movable kit of parts” including workstations, team desks, storage and whiteboards, all on wheels.
“Teams are in control,” Ms Campbell says. “Users have agency to unplug from one cluster, roll their desk across the studio and join a new team quickly, easily and without the need for IT support. The outcome is a dynamic floorplan in a continual state of change.”
The second challenge was to design spaces that fostered exposure to new technologies, development of new skills, information sharing and collaboration.
The answer was the creation of an enclosed digital fabrication workshop built to accommodate four 3D printers, a desktop 3D carving machine and physical model making space that encouraged hands-on experimentation.
“Technological integration in the space was enhanced with new features such as short throw projectors on working walls, installation of screens on columns throughout the studio, an immersive space for multi-user virtual reality and interactive design reviews, and greater video conferencing abilities for connecting outside of the studio,” explains Ms Campbell.