A master upholsterer, disappearing maps and a continuous thin red line are just a few of the tactics employed by BrandCulture to bring Westfield’s incredible history to life.
The story of Westfield’s global retail empire began in the humblest of settings: a small delicatessen across from the Blacktown railway station in Sydney, Australia. There, immigrants John Saunders and Frank Lowy opened a small store in 1955, and followed up with their first shopping center in 1959. Nearly 60 years later, Westfield Corporation operates 75 shopping malls worldwide, and Scentre Group (which owns and operates Westfield centers in Australia and New Zealand) has $43.3 billion in assets under management alone.
When BrandCulture (Sydney) was invited to deliver an environmental graphics package for Westfield Corporation’s Sydney executive headquarters, they leaped at the chance to tell the inspiring story of growth and creativity. They teamed up with architect Woods Bagot, Westfield’s General Manager of Design Roland Wong and Julia Clarke, Manager of Corporate Affairs, to complete the project.
BrandCulture's mission was to celebrate Westfield’s corporate identity in an elegant, sophisticated way on the top two floors of 85 Castlereagh Street, a peaceful amenity-filled sanctuary nestled high above the bustle of the central business district. The space is used exclusively by Westfield executives to host high-level events and management meetings.
The environmental graphic solution needed to proudly tell the remarkable Westfield story and pay tribute to its humble origins, without losing sight of the vision for the company's future. BrandCulture wanted to weave the Westfield story into the interior in a timeless and flexible way, appropriate to the executive atmosphere.
The BrandCulture team spent a lot of time sifting through a vast library of images, piecing together the Westfield story from the beginning, starting with its very first shopping center. “From thousands of photographs and documents, we handpicked images that we could adapt to the environment to represent Westfield’s 50-year history. Wading through five decades worth of images was a daunting but satisfying challenge,” says Stephen Minning, BrandCulture's Founder and Managing Director.
When they were satisfied with the chosen imagery, BrandCulture conceptually segmented the space into three distinct zones, each with an accompanying theme: Heritage, Global Reach and Current & Future Plans. The areas would be imbued with the Westfield brand and values—their brand DNA—to unite the areas with a common thread. “Westfield is a complex web of retail tenants, shopping centers, employees, infrastructure and new developments, so conceptually we wanted something that ties all its parts together,” says Minning.
The studio began thinking of Westfield’s DNA as a thin red line, a subtle yet consistent design element that knits together the different phases of Westfield’s history. BrandCulture presented its concept to Stephen Lowy, Co-Chief Executive Officer of Westfield Corporation, who liked it so much he asked the studio to present it again to Westfield’s global board. “The idea of Westfield’s DNA is now used as the backbone of all internal communications. It’s become their way of describing the fabric of Westfield,” says Minning.
Crafting Time and Space
Showcasing Westfield's past, present and future was realized symbolically through a physical journey. A continuous red thread weaves through the space, connecting the imagery and serving as a timeline.
Historic imagery commemorating Westfield's past lines the walls surrounding the elevators, lobby and reception areas; UV printed onto dark glass, the overlays and tonal values were carefully chosen to complement the space. The printing technique makes use of biodegradable polyester film and is far more environmentally friendly than PVC-based vinyl.
As visitors travel deeper into the office, a long hallway exposes an enormous world map, which has unique visual properties. BrandCulture used a premium 3M film to design the global map on which landmasses appear and disappear, and city names come and go, depending on where the viewer is standing. “We had to figure out exactly which dots would pop out from certain angles, and worked with lighting consultants Point of View to determine how light changes from morning to dusk throughout the space,” says Minning.
Visitors can catch a glimpse of Westfield’s future in waiting areas and meeting rooms, where panoramic images showcase flagship destinations from London to New York. Meeting rooms and spaces were given names where flagship shopping centers are located. Inside, the rooms feature panoramic imagery of their respective centers, each image converted to black and white and carefully screened with a dot matrix—with the exception of the red Westfield logo.
By far the biggest challenge tackled by BrandCulture involved printing panoramic images onto Skyfold wall systems, which were imported into the country by Dorma. Each wall system consists of panels that can be retracted into the ceiling to create one massive space. The BrandCulture team had to work with a master Italian upholsterer to dismantle the Skyfold panels, take them off site, and wrap printed fabric over the joinery to form each panel. “Unfortunately, when we added glue the fabric shrank, and we had to start from scratch. We printed everything again, this time adding backing so the fabric wouldn't distort. We spent an entire week in the factory with Dorma working closely with their R&D team. It was a huge challenge, but together we achieved a great result,” says Minning.
The response to BrandCulture’s designs at 85 Castlereagh Street has been overwhelmingly positive. For Minning, the best thing about this project was the client’s passion for innovation and collaboration, nothing that “Westfield truly did not shy away from innovation in any form. The biggest joy we got from this project was seeing a family like the Lowys taking an interest in finite design details, from the smallest attachments to new materials and printing techniques."
Project Name: The Fabric of Westfield
Client: Westfield Corporation
Location: Sydney, Australia
Open Date: 2013, updated in 2015/16
Project area: 1250 m2
Experiential Design: BrandCulture
Experiential Design Team: Stephen Minning, Jeremy Tombs, Julian Frood
Architect: Woods Bagot
Collaborators: Point of View, Dorma, Coleman Group
Photos by: BrandCulture
Artwork: Alex Baldock