The ACT Government has approved a new $300 million commercial development in the heart of Civic, Canberra that responds to leading edge workplace design principles already seen in other Australian capital cities.

Designed by peckvonhartel, Northbourne Square will comprise three commercial towers linked by an internal retail podium and civic square. The buildings will overlook Veterans Park with extensively glazed facades that allow maximum connectivity and visual access between internal and external spaces.

Nature has largely informed the form of the buildings, with the imperfect granite rock, weathering forces, and a split and fractured structure inspiring the design of the three towers and the atrium in between.

“The atrium represents the erosive qualities of water, smoothing and revealing layers of the earth and the history of the site,” peckvonhartel explains.

“The floor of the atrium is like the floor of a canyon, and the treatment of the ‘internal facades’ are smooth as though through erosion.”

The high performance insulated glazing units evoke a water and crystal-like imagery, with repetitive modules varying in reflective quality. This concept of the elements and nature is seen again in the planned living roof and vertical garden.

In the internal spaces, a monolithic approach to form will welcome building occupants with a peeling back of the skin to expose stone. A perforated aluminium skin to the internal facades of the atrium space ‘deteriorates’ as it touches the ground, with the light behind illuminating and expressing the perforations.

Honed bluestone floors will wrap up behind these illuminated panels, and into the floor and walls of lift lobbies. Organic timber public seating in the base of the atrium will complement the timber fixed joinery.

A key aspect of the design is the way in which the buildings can be targeted at and tailored to both the individual requirements of government and private sector tenants without compromising overall functionality. Placing emphasis on flexible and adaptable workplaces, the building floor plate consists of work, social and leisure hubs, each signifying a different type of ‘community’.

Urban and community contribution to the precinct was also important for the architects, who have ensured access and permeability to all four aspects of the site by incorporating an activated ground level with through site linkages.

An internal podium with a variety of retail and leisure uses will be open to both building occupants and the public. A glazed walkway also aims to generate pedestrian activity in the area, drawing people into the retail and café amenities, while Northbourne Square staff will have easy access to the park, the future light rail link and the Bunda Street precinct.

The project is expected to be completed in 2017-18. Each of the three building has been designed to achieve a minimum 5 Star NABERS Energy Rating, as well as a 5 Star Green Star rating.