Sydney Water toasts new era with community-centric working space

by Helena Morgan
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Global design studio GroupGSA was tasked with transforming Sydney Water’s Parramatta headquarters into a vibrant and energised space conducive to both hearty collaboration and solitary work.

Post-pandemic workplaces require flexible working solutions that not only encourage employees to trickle back into the office but ensure workers thrive in an inspiring workspace that lends itself to productive efforts. 

Sydney Water’s newly reimagined workspace by GroupGSA demonstrates this employee focus and discipline need not be sacrificed in a bustling open-plan workspace. GroupGSA’s design of the 1000-employee-capacity space sought to facilitate interaction between different business units in a bid to generate a sense of community and connection in Sydney Water’s headquarters.

Workers experiencing the best of both worlds

Sydney Water is proud to be Australia’s largest water utility and provides water, wastewater, recycled water and some stormwater services to Greater Sydney. GroupGSA aimed to capture Sydney Water’s commitment to togetherness and unity through design elements such as wayfinding and strategically selected tones and hues for collaborative areas. 

GroupGSA design lead Amanda Ly says the central collaborative areas are adorned with deeper tones of blue and green that then bleed out into a lighter shade towards the periphery of the area. 

“This approach not only reflects the ripple effect of a watering hole but also serves as a consistent wayfinding element replicated throughout all floors,” says Ly. 

The design is an innovative leap forward in the amount of space allocated to collaborative working areas. GroupGSA’s design strategy swaps a traditional cubicle-heavy floor plan for informal collaboration booths and lounges. Individual workstations are available if workers require a quiet and peaceful place away from the collaborative areas.

A new era for Sydney Water

Employee wellbeing is prioritised in the redesign, with one floor solely devoted to recuperation and socialisation.

GroupGSA principal Liam Higginbotham says office features such as a designated ‘recharge zone’ aims to bolster the value and appeal of Sydney Water as a workplace of choice. Employees can decompress in a yoga room, unwind in the games room and make use of the prayer and parenting rooms. 

Additionally, a room with soft furnishings and adjustable lighting caters to the needs of neurodivergent users of the workspace. Training rooms, client meeting spaces and uniform storage rooms are also up for grabs.

“Our design rejuvenates the building and offers compelling attractions to appeal to a new generation of talent,” says Higginbotham. 

A belief in executing sustainable and ecologically responsible building practices is sustained throughout the redesign – wood panelling and anodised metal skirting boards that featured in the building’s original interiors are repurposed to blend old and new aesthetics. Additionally, acoustic treatments and technological enhancements are incorporated to deliver an ideal working atmosphere.

“We have reimagined the existing workplace model to encourage cross-pollination among different business units and accommodate the technical infrastructure necessary for a business of this magnitude,” says Higginbotham. Photography by Luc Remond. 

The Great Room subverts traditional understandings of an office.

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