WorkHouse involves an extensive refurbishment to the first Harry Seidler-designed commercial building in Haymarket, Sydney. The brief seeks to return the upper levels of the deteriorating mid-century architecture, which used to house various commercial uses over six decades, to a workplace that stands out in a competitive marketplace. 

To create a point of difference, we leverage the increasing domestication of the workplace and the rare mid-century aesthetic of the building. The former inspires an adaptive-reuse design approach that transforms the building into a homely workplace; the latter inspires a heritage design approach that returns the building to the glory of its mid-century heyday. 

Despite the shoestring budget, the cost-effective twofold design approach results in an all-new building that exceeds expectations and challenges the workplace paradigm. 

The adaptive-reuse design approach repurposes the under-utilised spaces of the building into home-like spaces. 

On the graffiti-covered rooftop-floor level, we repurpose the abandoned storage room into a cosy Multipurpose Room with breakout areas and end of-trip facilities. Then, we repurpose the condenser-filled outdoor space into a laid-back Communal Garden that includes a private meeting area, a bicycle parking area, and a veggie patch. 

We also repurpose the spooky fire-isolated staircase into an uplifting Everyday Staircase. In addition to creating a home-away-from-home experience, the new spaces for work, relaxation, and corporate events unleash the potential of the building, the new end-of-trip facilities support fitness, and the new everyday staircase encourages physical activity. 

The heritage design approach entails a series of conservation works that bring the mid-century heroes of the building to life. On the outside, we replace the dysfunctional operable louvre facade on a like-for-like basis, redesign the incongruous street awning and restore the broken sash ribbon windows. On the inside, we reveal the top and bottom surfaces of the unusual beam-free concrete floor structures. 

We also retain the mid-century balustrades throughout by adding a new set of glass balustrades in the new Communal Garden and making minor adjustments to the balustrade steelwork in the new Everyday Staircase to meet current design standards. In addition to re-establishing the mid-century experience of the building, the new inoperable louvre facade, whose dynamic patterns are also highlighted by a new compatible skylight awning from below, revives the sun shading initiative of the building while animating the street day and night. 

The fully operational sash ribbon windows, which are also protected by new fire attenuation screens at the rear, revive the cross-ventilation initiative of the building. In each new Whole-Floor Office, the newly polished concrete floor with natural aggregates adds to its mid-century aesthetic, and the higher headroom with exposed services increases its sense of space. 

The heritage design approach equally entails a series of interpretation works that amplify the mid-century experience of the building. We introduce new design references like the popular rich and bold colours of the 50s alongside other mid-century-inspired finishes, fittings, and fixtures to highlight, unify, and divide spaces in a meaningful and contextual manner. The new pared-back landscape in the new Communal Garden, the new feature wall with horizontal lines in the new Whole-Floor Office as well as the new cove letterbox and vintage balustrades in the new Entry Lobby are also a nod to mid-century architecture.