DISCUSSION PAPER MARCH 2018
AN INSPIRED FUTURE FOR THE DESIGN OF COMMERCIAL PRECINCTS
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
NIK IS KNOWN FOR HIS ABILITY TO EXECUTE COMPLEX NEW CONSTRUCTION, REFURBISHMENT AND WORKSPACE PROJECTS IN THE ASIA PACIFIC REGION.
An experienced Architect, Nik maintains a loyal client group that relies on his advice, beyond the traditional architect’s role. Nik believes design is ultimately about the people that engage with the space, externally or internally. He collaborates with his clients to deliver their required outcomes whilst always considering the human response to each environment. Nik has directed the delivery of many multiaward winning projects including Bendigo Bank Headquarters, Yarra Valley Water Head Office, Kangan Institute’s Automotive Centre of Excellence (ACE) Campus and 2, 4 + 6 Nexus Court at Nexus Corporate Park. Maintaining Gray Puksand’s mission to create an inspired future, through its knowledge and design excellence, Nik enthusiastically steers Gray Puksand’s national team research in the commercial sector.
DISCUSSION PAPER AN INSPIRED FUTURE FOR THE DESIGN OF COMMERCIAL PRECINCTS
AN INSPIRED FUTURE FOR THE DESIGN OF COMMERCIAL PRECINCTS.
DESIGNING COMMERCIAL COMMUNITIES Commercial Precincts are becoming much less about ‘office space’ and much more about communities. “The office really became like a pseudo factory when it was first conceived, and office buildings were treated just like a factory floor,” explains Tabain. “They were originally designed with that in mind, and that became the prevalent topology.” The business parks or Commercial Precincts that many of us would know grew out of this typology, often alongside actual factories where the land was cheap.
Bucking this trend, Chiswick Park in West London was originally designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners in 1999. This Commercial Precinct has since been acknowledged as one of the best in the world. Centred around an expansive manmade lake, the heart of the development is entirely pedestrianised, with a ‘ring-road’ for vehicles enclosing a cohesive collections of buildings, parklands, waterways, and activity spaces. “Chiswick Park was designed for people rather than cars,” Tabain explains. “This whole internal space creates what is almost like a university campus, where all the way through there's opportunities for connection through space. All the buildings front the central courtyard, so no building really has a central street address.”
The development benefits from direct connection to public transport nodes, and the established urban village of Chiswick—including Chiswick High Street. Ultimately, the aim of this project was to create a sense of community with and around a diverse and changing group of tenants. “The buildings themselves used standardised construction, with relatively traditional internal layouts, so it was really the campus approach, and the natural parklands that helped set it apart,” notes Tabain.
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“THIS WAS MORE ABOUT PROVIDING ACTIVITY ZONES AND PERMEABILITY OF THE SITE, PUTTING PEOPLE FIRST” NIK TABAIN, STATE PARTNER, GRAY PUKSAND
ESSENDON FIELDS COMPETITION ENTRY
DISCUSSION PAPER AN INSPIRED FUTURE FOR THE DESIGN OF COMMERCIAL PRECINCTS
NEXUS CORPORATE PARK
PEOPLE FIRST The ‘people-first’ approach of Chiswick Park had a direct influence upon one of Gray Puksand’s early Commercial Precinct projects, Ferntree Business Park in Melbourne. “We employed the same ring road approach, with multi-deck car parks acting as nodes, so everyone walks through the precinct, focusing on pedestrianised movement.” While Gray Puksand’s design ethos has evolved, this early project demonstrates a profound shift towards an activated campus.
A more-recent project, Nexus Corporate Park in Melbourne’s South-East by Salta, has captured more than half the pre-committed lease deals over the last five years. “Masterplanned before Gray Puksand became involved, our focus, along with Salta, has been upon providing amenity for workers, from childcare and gym facilities to state-of-the-art end-of-trip facilities.” The development also benefits from adjacent links to the freeway—bringing workers directly to the park—and established nearby shopping centre.
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DISCUSSION PAPER AN INSPIRED FUTURE…
THE ‘STICKY’ COMMERCIAL PRECINCT By providing on-site amenity, these precincts become much more appealing for workers and genuine communities are formed amongst the worker cohort. At Nexus, Gray Puksand is also working to provide leisure activity spaces to improve health and wellbeing, including, rooftop basketball courts, outdoor static exercise equipment, and shaded barbeque areas for social gatherings.
Borrowing from the latest developments into university campus design, the aim is to create ‘sticky campuses’, which encourage workers to stay within the precincts, improving the health of peripheral businesses located within the precincts – cafes, support services, health providers – and generally ensuring a base level of activity throughout the day and week; making these precincts safer, more enjoyable work environments.
At Williams Landing in Melbourne’s West, developed by Cedar Woods –where Gray Puksand has been engaged to design six commercial buildings – the town centre was actually developed first. The masterplanned town centre and residential developments take advantage of a train station, placing the Commercial Precinct directly adjacent to the node. The value of this approach is in the pre-developed community and shopping centres, alongside substantial home developments. Rather than a business park flung out beyond the activity, it becomes an integral part of the township, ensuring new residents can live, work, and play within their 20-minute ‘city’.
FERNTREE BUSINESS PARK
THE URBAN REGENERATION, KINGS CROSS
PROTECTING COMMERCIAL ASSETS FOR A CARLESS FUTURE Perhaps the most interesting aspect of projects such as Chiswick Park, and even the King’s Cross redevelopment in London, is the increasing focus on ‘people over cars’. As autonomous vehicle technologies improve and the transport share economy continues its rise, we’re likely to see a shift away from car-centred Commercial Precincts. Tabain believes that Australia, along with North America, has a long way to go before our love-affair with car ownership abates, but there is a future on the horizon that involves far less car ownership, and Commercial Precinct owners and developers must confront this as a commercial reality.
“How do we futureproof the commercial estate when driverless technology reduces the focus on car parking? Are today’s carparks adaptable for other uses, or are they potentially redundant structures?" “We need buildings that are adaptable. We should be preparing for the day that cars are no longer at the heart of business parks. And if you're a developer or owner of primarily business estates that have big carparks, you need to look at them as an opportunity for future development and profit, to look at them as assets that should be protected and prepared for tomorrow.” Where they can be re-imagined as social spaces, work spaces, or even yet-unimagined businesses (could we see delivery drones utilising old parking structures?), shouldn’t we be preparing for these opportunities? These things are only possible if developers and designers plan for a carless future. This means developing parking structures that allow for retrofitting. “This pragmatic approach may cost more initially, but in a future without cars, it will pay great dividends.”
TRIANG0 SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS PARK, PARIS
Whether it’s creating a sense of community through carefully masterplanned communal spaces, designing ‘sticky precincts’, or preparing for a world without cars, the nature of Commercial Precincts is changing rapidly. In Australia, they will no-longer be the humdrum factory-style workplaces of the past. “We're in the knowledge economy, knowledge is everything now. And so the focus is back to people, and I think designers and developers, everybody really, has realised that it's all about the people.” You can download Nik’s full presentation and speech HERE.
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Discussion Paper – Nik Tabain