Westpac, one of Australia’s “big four” banks, celebrated their 200th year in 2017, the milestone coinciding with the refurbishment of their flagship Sydney office. The overhaul of their headquarters also prompted a move to an agile working environment.
Engaging Geyer and The Studio* Collaborative to deliver on interior design, Westpac commissioned THERE to provide signage, wayfinding and environmental branding across 24 floors of workplace. The firm was asked to aid navigation and provide intuitive cues for the new types of work styles available to employees, while activating specialist breakout floors and spaces.
The brief from the outset was to create a space that felt inherently Westpac by telling stories that only Westpac could tell. That led THERE to research testimonials of how the bank has made a positive impact on the lives of its customers. The challenge was to find a way to communicate stories that constantly change and are broad in nature, ranging from agribusiness to private wealth to institutional banking. The stories needed to be specific enough to carry significant meaning yet general enough to be the backdrop to any of the business divisions.
As the new Westpac Place workplace was an agile environment, every space needed to support the organization’s entire breadth. THERE’s solution was to create a series of abstracted super-scale graphics for each floor. Each image, be it of a fern or circuit board or coffee beans, was purposefully selected to support a range of stories. For example, coffee beans could equally illustrate the story of a small-business loan to a local café as well as charitable support of fair-trade initiatives in the developing world.
Once a library of stories was established, THERE allocated images across floors. In focus zones, they were applied as quiet, tonal graphics onto backdrop walls. In more active areas, they were etched into timber screens or perforated into wall claddings. Lift lobbies also featured integrated level numbers built from sections of painted dowel, providing a unique placemaking experience on each floor of Westpac Place.
Every image was also accompanied by at least one story, a small disc that interpreted the graphic with a backstory and brought the meaning overtly back to the customer. The intent is for these discs to be added to over time, creating an evolving record of the impact the bank has on its community.
The final area to address was the café and wellness floor. Throughout the project, Westpac was committed to promoting Australian creativity and this extended to engaging a local indigenous artist, Lucy Simpson, to design woven structures above reflection pods. Crafted by a community of indigenous weavers in Northern Australia, the pods became the final story to tell.
Taking cues from the seedpods that inspired these pieces, THERE developed impactful feature walls that activated elevator lobbies and meeting spaces, providing a contrast to typical floor treatments. Much like the layered graphics from floors below, these pieces symbolized the creation of a new, nurturing workspace, woven together from the sum of its many parts.
Paul Taboure (executive creative director), Charlie Bromley (design lead/head of environments), Jon Zhu (senior designer), Lauren Barber (designer), Mansur Amiri (designer), Christina Maricic (designer), Danielle Senecky (project manager), Tania Sacco (project manager)
Geyer Sydney (interior design), The Studio* Collaborative (interior design), Aspect Studios (landscape architecture), Llight (lighting design), Lucy Simpson (artist)