Custom made bricks from Robertson's Building Products Pty Ltd were specified for the recently refurbished lobby of the office tower at 2 Southbank in Melbourne.

The refurbishment designed by BVN for owners GPT has transformed a late 90s building into a highly valuable 21st century asset aligned with the needs of a modern workforce. The well-considered design has a welcoming and friendly vibe, infused with an inclusive, communal spirit that embraces a diverse demographic.

BVN’s design relaxes the traditional boundaries of a corporate CBD lobby by encouraging meaningful connections and interactions between diverse groups of people. BVN has created a place that the entire community can enter and use, blurring the boundaries between public and private, corporate and ‘black collar’ worker, retail, social and learning spaces.

“Building a mixed use community that includes a diverse group of people, beyond the typical buttoned up corporate space user was a key aspiration,” says Sally Campbell, senior practice director, BVN.

“The goal was to create an environment that appealed to all generations in the workforce, and one where a user in a T-shirt and jeans feels as comfortable as one in a suit.”

The lobby is much like a village town square, where people come in for business, but stay because they are well taken care of, and feel at home. Visitors and tenants enter the lobby through six-metre high steel and glass pivot doors, which divide the space into three distinct zones, each with a different character and function. The Street Café links Southbank Boulevard with the adjacent piazza, and contains a variety of booth options, two roaming concierges and a new interactive way finding. A Digital Collaborative Space, much like an informal business lounge for small or large business or social gatherings, includes an LED digital wall showcasing artworks by emerging Melbourne artists. Finally, an Events Lobby is available for tenants to book for meetings, functions and product launches.

BVN’s carefully selected material palette, which was critical to achieving their design goals, focussed on comfort and quality over flashy furnishings. While retaining significant existing materials such as the stone wall cladding, BVN added new materials to complement them and transport the lobby to the present day.

Brick was a critical design element in BVN’s vision for the lobby: It not only visually connects the three defined lobby spaces, but also enhances the friendly character of the lobby furniture, providing authenticity though its texture, warmth and character.

Instead of a tile, BVN searched for an actual brick that could deliver the authenticity and quality of the space. This was difficult since they were working within the limitations of an existing commercial lobby, which allowed them a thickness of 50mm after demolition of the existing flooring and substrate. Following a visit to Robertson’s Building Products, the architects chose custom made Albicocca Arazzo bricks for the floors and bar returns. Being 28-30mm thick, the bricks allowed for a 20-22mm mortar bed.

“The warmth and tactile nature of the brick transforms the ground floor from what was previously a transactional space with cold commercial finishes, to a people space, which feels welcoming and that people want to hang out in,” Campbell said. “Everyone likes something different in the job, but personally, the brick floor is my favourite element in the project.”

Photographer: Tom Ross