From the architect:

Sydney Water recently commissioned global design studio GroupGSA to rejuvenate and modernise the working environment of its 14-storey Parramatta headquarters, housing nearly 1,000 employees. The outcome is a contemporary and collaborative workspace that signals a new chapter for Sydney Water’s people, partners and community.

Through an extensive stakeholder engagement process, GroupGSA unearthed a fresh workplace strategy aimed at fostering a more integrated approach to work — breaking down silos and fostering more enriched connections between Sydney Water's operational and field staff.

GroupGSA Principal Liam Higginbotham summarises the design team’s response: "We have reimagined the existing workplace model to encourage cross-pollination among different business units and to foster a stronger sense of community, all whilst accommodating the technical infrastructure necessary for a business of this magnitude.”

Drawing inspiration from watering holes

Just as watering holes serve as vital connectors between land and water, GroupGSA has reimagined an interior to foster unity across all facets of the workplace.

"In nature, watering holes play a pivotal role in facilitating gathering, nourishment, community and renewal," explains GroupGSA Workplace Interior Design Lead Amanda Ly. "Our interior design endeavours to echo those functions," Amanda says.

Drawing inspiration from the hues of natural watering holes, shades of blue and green are infused into the design. Deeper tones are concentrated in the central collaborative spaces on each floor, gradually transitioning into lighter shades towards the periphery. "This approach not only reflects the ripple effect of a watering hole but also serves as a consistent wayfinding element replicated throughout all floors," Amanda says.

Breaking with tradition

GroupGSA's interior design revolutionises conventional cubicle-dominated floorplans in favour of expansive open-plan spaces. These areas feature a versatile array of furnishings, from informal collaboration booths to lounges and high seating that caters to various work styles and needs. Additionally, individual workstations are available for more focused or private tasks.

Liam commends Sydney Water's openness to change: "The proportion of floorspace dedicated to community and collaboration far exceeds what is typically seen in traditional workplace layouts."

An entire floor is designated solely for employee wellbeing — designed as an inviting space for staff to unwind, recharge and socialise. Liam emphasises the significance of these initiatives in relation to enhancing staff retention and recruitment. "Our design rejuvenates the building and offers compelling attractions to appeal to a new generation of talent," Liam says.

GroupGSA's design includes a wellness room equipped with yoga amenities, a games room featuring stadium-style seating, and specially designated areas for prayer and parenting needs. Thoughtfully crafted spaces, such as a room with soft furnishings and adjustable lighting, cater to the requirements of neurodivergent employees.

Moreover, provisions have also been made for training rooms, client meeting spaces, and utility areas for storing uniforms and equipment essential for off-site staff.

Reimagining existing materials

GroupGSA’s interior design prioritises the retention and/or reimagining of existing fit-out elements wherever feasible. Conducting a comprehensive audit at the outset of the design process facilitated the identification of components suitable for reuse.

Significant efforts were made to restore and repurpose elements such as wood panelling, once a highlight of the building's original interiors, and anodised-metal skirting boards. Erik Enstrom, GroupGSA Workplace Project Coordinator, describes the outcome as "seamless" and achieving a harmonious integration of old and new aesthetics.

Furthermore, technology enhancements and acoustic treatments were implemented to ensure an ideal working environment for staff members.

Maintaining workplace efficiency

The Sydney Water office includes a 24/7 emergency call centre and other vital operations that require uninterrupted service delivery. As such, GroupGSA staged the rollout of the interior design across three distinct phases — ensuring operational efficiency was maintained for the duration of the project.