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Mediating the Message


Prominent, permeable and transparent, the Media House symbolises a new media age

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previous pages The large front terrace

with wide bluestone steps invites the public into the building above The bluestone paving continues into the Ground Floor below Atrium-like stairwells encourage staff interaction right The Ground Floor café is open to the public, creating a sense of community engagement

edia House, designed by Bates Smart, has now emerged from its prominent site on Spencer Street, Melbourne. Home to the Fairfax Group including The Age, The Australian Financial Review, Rural Press, The Melbourne Weekly, various community newspapers and radio station 3AW, the seven-level building provides a striking counterpoint to Southern Cross Station directly opposite. “Southern Cross Station, with its wave-like roof, juxtaposes with our more geometrical design. Both buildings also traverse the railway tracks,” says architect Roger Poole, Chairman of Bates Smart, who worked closely with interior designers Jeffery Copolov, Grant Filipoff and Rachael McCarthy. Unlike the previous Age building, designed in the 1970s, this new building is transparent. With fortresslike brown brick walls, the earlier building had outgrown its use. “That office building also originally housed the printing press. It was a different form of media when that building was designed,” says Poole. In contrast, Media House literally brings the public into the building. As well as a lawn area (which was inspired by Melbourne’s State Library of Victoria), Media House features a large front terrace not dissimilar to the typical Australian verandah. Wide bluestone steps double as seating areas for the public as well as Fairfax staff. “Barbeques are often held at the front. The design was about engaging with the city,” says Poole, who extended the bluestone paving into the building’s interior. There is a sense of community engagement at Media House. The Ground Floor café is used by both staff and the public. Large bench-style tables, as well as armchairs in the foyer, allow for informal meetings or quick catch-ups. “It’s not the typical corporate office. Media House is open 24 hours. The café, like the offices, is continually in use,” says Filipoff. And while Bates Smart acknowledges the history of media in the form of books (a wall of faux printed books appears on one of the café walls), the direction is towards the future, both in terms of print, digital, online and everything in between. The laser-cut steel feature wall at reception suggests the digital age with its binary digital cut-outs, as does the wide screen emblazoned on the building’s façade. Bates Smart, who also designed the interior of Fairfax headquarters in Sydney, took a slightly less corporate approach to Media House. “Our brief was for more studio-like spaces, not dissimilar to our own offices,”


“The design was about engaging the city” roger poole, bates smart

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“The design is about connectivity, whether it’s looking out to the city or conferring with colleagues around a table” rachael mccarthy, bates smart

below The break-out

spaces are deliberately chaotic, with irregular steel beams and vibrant colours below right Within the flexible work areas, many desks are arranged in a circle around an open meeting space

says Poole, whose office in East Melbourne features large floor plates and generous glazing. “This design is about interacting, whether sitting at your desk or moving up and down the stairs,” he says. Unlike many corporate fit-outs where a lift core takes centre stage, at Media House two atrium-like stairwells, as well as lifts, connect staff. And rather than locate enclosed meeting rooms away from the stairwells, they are positioned directly adjacent with fully glazed walls. “It’s part of the move towards transparency,” says Interior Designer, Rachael McCarthy, Associate Director of the practice. “Those in the enclosed offices can see across the work spaces and vice versa.” According to Jeffrey Copolov, Bates Smart’s Interior Design Director, having only one occupant enabled the design to be slightly more edgy than most fit-outs. “When there are multiple occupants, you tend to be safer for fear of offending anyone. In this instance, there was a clear vision from Fairfax from the outset.” The way workstations are arranged at Media House is a giant leap forward from the cramped cubicles journalists previously occupied. Staff are elevated above walkways, with many desks arranged in a circular manner, framing an open meeting area. “The design is about connectivity, whether it’s looking out to the city or conferring with colleagues around a table. You don’t have to look very far to find someone,” says McCarthy. And rather than designing fixed workstations, Bates Smart ensured the spaces (approximately 2,000m2 on each level) can be re-configured. “There are very few enclosed offices,” she adds. “And those that are enclosed are set back from the perimeter. We wanted everyone to enjoy the northern light and the views.” While the configuration of workstations differs on each of the seven levels, there is a series of break-out spaces, including nooks for a quick coffee, as well as

large communal kitchens on each floor. And to create a sense of direction through the building, each kitchen features its own vibrant palette, from hues of green, to blue and red. “The interior scheme is relatively neutral, except for the break-out areas. There’s a deliberate sense of chaos in the kitchen designs,” says Poole, pointing out the angular striations of colour used in the flooring, as well as the irregular-shaped steel beams traversing the break-out spaces. “It was important to create a different mood in these areas.” Despite similarities with Bates Smart’s own office, Media House wasn’t designed for architects. “It was designed to be more relaxed than the spaces we work in. It’s also a little more pared back,” says Poole. “The spaces are quite robust. They were also conceived with longevity in mind, rather than being faddish.” As well as creating a gallery-like space at ground level for exhibitions and functions, Bates Smart inserted a number of feature walls throughout the building which allow key moments of Melbourne’s history to be displayed. Laser-cut steel screens enclose some meeting areas, and on each floor are ingenious ‘two-way screens’. Viewed from one side there’s a photo-montage of the late Princess Diana visiting Melbourne, while on the flip side is a rural scene, depicting a time of drought in Victoria. “It is about capturing the heart of Melbourne, its people and places,” says McCarthy.

Stephen Crafti is Indesign’s Melbourne correspondent. For more images

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opposite The open and transparent building with wide screen adorning the façade is representative of the future of media

Media House Architect Bates Smart Design Director Roger Poole Project Director Jim Milledge Project Team Andrew Raftopoulos (Associate Director), Olda Kudiovsky (Project Architect Documentation), Luke Murphy (Project Architect Construction), Asanka Jaywardena, Gina Kenah, Stanley Kor Interior Design Director Jeffery Copolov Interior Design Team Rachael McCarthy (Associate Director), Paul Purcell (Associate Director), Grant Filipoff (Associate Director), Carolyn White (Associate Director), Evan Reeves, Martine Bonich, Kate Anderson, Guilherme Rodrigues, Lai Yee Chan, Ernst Rutte, Jack Oscini Project Manager Russell Harvey Builder Grocon Graphic Designer emerystudio Quantity Surveyor Currie & Brown Services Engineers Norman Disney & Young Building Surveyor PLP Structural Engineers Winward Structures Acoustic Engineers Marshall Day Acoustics DDA & OHS Architecture & Access

Kitchen Consultant McCartney Taylor Dimitroff (MTD) Storage Consultant Primecare 3AW Studio Engineer Peter Brown Fairfax Digital Studio Engineer Steve McNally Time to Complete 24 months Total Floor Area 16,600m2 Bates Smart (61 3) 8664 6200 FURNITURE In Executive Waiting Area, Charles Wilson ‘Lamella’ bench by Woodmark, from Living Edge. In Conference Room, Wiege ‘Sito 240/4’ from Wilkhahn. In Boardroom, Eames ‘Soft Pad’ group executive chair by Herman Miller, from Living Edge. In Staff Hub, ‘Bubble’ stool from KORBAN/FLAUBERT, Formway ottoman available at Zenith, and Keith Melbourne ‘Amelia’ 2-seater from Interstudio. In Informal Meeting Room, Norman and Quaine ‘SID’ stool from Living Edge. In Gallery, Knoll Studio ‘Bertoia’ bench from dedece. In Executive and Ground Floor Waiting Areas, Knoll Studio ‘Saarinen’ side tables also from dedece. In Meeting Room, Herman Miller Eames base tables from Living Edge. In Work Area, workstations from

Schiavello. In Auditorium, Andreas Storiko ‘Aline 230/1’ seats from Wilkhahn. In Lower Ground and Executive Floor Waiting Areas, Walter Knoll Pearson Lloyd ‘Oscar’ armchair with star base from Living Edge. In Dining Room, ‘050’ tub chair from Schamburg Alvisse. In Café, Takahashi Asako ‘Chair 170’ from Feel Good Designs. LIGHTING In Café, Cecilie Manz ‘Caravaggio P3’ by Light Years, from Euroluce. In Staff Hub, feature ceiling lights from NDYLIGHT. In Boardroom Ante Space, Michele de Lucchi ‘Castore’ suspension lights from Artemide. At Reception desk, Richard Sapper ‘Tizio’ table lamp also from Artemide. In Information Meeting Room and at Teapoints throughout, Ernesto Gismondi ‘Miconos’ floor lamps are also from Artemide. FINISHES In Work Area, workstation screens are ‘Echo Panel’ in colour 442 from Woven Image, and carpet tiles are ‘Soprano’ in ‘Alda 070’ from Feltex Commercial. In Lift Lobby and Reception Area, flooring is honed Deer Park Bluestone Bassalt available from Melocco Stone. In Staff Hub, rubber flooring from Dalsouple, and break-out bench top is CASF Corian. In Staff Hub and at Teapoints, colourback glass is from Design Inferno, and

Teapoint feature wall is ‘Merge Mars’ black wall covering available through Woven Image. In Boardroom and Dining Room, Calcutta marble from The Marble House. In Café Servery, bench top is polished gloss New York marble from Project Stone & Tiles. In Executive Lift Lobby, walls are Reneroc from Parchem Construction Supplies. In Meeting Room, veneer to tables is black wash natural FSC timber from Legno Veneers. In Offices, joinery from Laminex. Generally throughout, walls and joinery finished in Dulux paint and Dulux powder coating, various furniture upholstery from Kvadrat Maharam, Knoll Textiles, available through Woven Image, and Contemporary Leathers, screen fabric from Textile Mania, tinted glass and mirrors from Viridian, tinted film by Reflex 3M. FIXED & FITTED In Offices, coat hooks from Barben Industries. In Staff Hubs and at Teapoints, paper towel dispensers from Bobrick, Scala mixers from Reece, and waste bins from Häfele. In Make Up Room, ‘Liano’ basin from Caroma Dorf. In Upper Ground Food Preparation Area, Clark double sink also from Caroma Dorf. In Parenting Room, change table from Koala Kare. Generally throughout, joinery handles from Pittella Imports, and lockers from Interloc Lockers.

Artemide (61 3) 9349 3310 Barben Industries (61 3) 9349 2355 Bobrick 1800 353 158 Caroma Dorf 13 14 16 Contemporary Leathers (61 3) 9427 9055 CASF 1300 795 044 Dalsouple (61 3) 9726 8899 dedece (61 3) 9650 9600 Design Inferno (61 3) 9335 4477 Dulux 13 23 77 Euroluce (61 3) 9657 9657 Feel Good Designs (61 3) 9745 2077 Feltex Commercial 1300 130 239 Häfele (61 3) 9212 2000 Interloc Lockers (61 2) 9742 5855 Interstudio 1300 785 199 Koala Kare (61 7) 3807 7400 KORBAN/FLAUBERT (61 2) 9557 6136 k­ Kvadrat Maharam (61 2) 9212 4277 Laminex 13 21 36 Legno Veneers (61 2) 9645 2137 Living Edge (61 3) 9009 3940 The Marble House (61 3) 9822 2501 Melocco Stone (61 3) 9546 0211 NDYLIGHT (61 3) 9862 6800 Parchem Construction Supplies (61 3) 9380 2400 Pittella Imports (61 3) 9818 0311 Project Stone & Tiles (61 3) 9421 5366 Reece (61 3) 9274 0000 Reflex 3M 13 61 36 Schamburg Alvisse (61 2) 9212 7644 Schiavello (61 3) 9330 8888 Textile Mania (61 3) 9427 1166 Viridian 1800 810 403 Wilkhahn (61 3) 9670 5570 Woodmark (61 2) 9756 3066 Woven Image (61 3) 9429 0142 Zenith (61 3) 9693 2600


Profile for Bates Smart Architects

Media House, Indesign, Aug 2010  

Media House, Indesign, Aug 2010