When Link Group and Super Partners underwent a merger in 2014, GroupGSA was on-boarded to create a space that was suitable accommodation for both businesses, and their 2,200-strong staff. The brief, received from Link Group, necessitated that any design demonstrate a focus on employee health and wellbeing, in line with the current trajectory of contemporary workplace design.
At GroupGSA’s disposal was 25,000sqm within the new Collins Street development in Melbourne, a building that was literally just emerging from the ground. The new build afforded much freedom to the firm, and negated the need to override the often outdated technologies of older builds.
However, connectivity is always a stretch to achieve in larger spaces. GroupGSA’s response to this challenge was threefold, comprising a 260sqm void that spans ten floors and the vertical green wall that anchors it. Finally, a continuous open staircase provides more traversable connection between the various levels and workspaces. An integral means of facilitating physical and visual connection between the two previously separate businesses, the void and staircase combo also allowed a heightened sense – and actuality – of employee wellbeing.
One of the barriers to creating a holistic sense of wellbeing was the limited natural light and ventilation that resulted from close quarters with three neighbouring buildings. The pervasive, 13-storey green wall was the direct and imaginative result of a lack of possible connection between interior and exterior.
The benefits of plants to wellbeing have been extensively documented in recent years. Not least by a study from Washington State University, which found that plants help people to feel more relaxed and focused, leading to an increase in productivity, creativity, idea generation, and problem-solving capabilities. Through monitoring the participant’s blood pressure and emotions while completing a simple, timed computer task in the presence or absence of plants, it was concluded that when plants were added to the space, participants were more productive (12% quicker reaction time) and less stressed (lower blood pressure). Immediately after completing the task, participants in the room with plants present reported feeling more attentive than people in the room with no plants.
As well as the holistic health benefits associated with plant life, the giant green wall also acted as an effective acoustic buffer. One of the downsides of the ten-storey void was that it facilitated the transmission of noise between floors. The inherent acoustic properties of the wall helped to counter-balance this.