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Getting down to the serious business of a day's work takes on new meaning in this office, which provides a lively, free-flowing workplace with an emphasis on transparency, collaboration and time out

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Technology may be changing the way we work, but that doesn't mean employees are turning into automatons. In fact, it seems the opposite applies. As recent office fit-outs attest, the more sophisticated the technology and work practices, the more relaxed and sociable the workplace.

One of the key reasons for this change is the increasing value placed on attracting and retaining good staff. It also reflects a more holistic approach to business – from the desire to incorporate sustainable design practices and a sense of transparency, to the recognition that interactive, collaborative spaces and breakout areas have positive spin-offs for both employees and clients.

The new Accenture office in The Gardens North Tower on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur puts these ideas into practice. Designed by SL+A, the offices needed to reinforce Accenture's professional image as a leading global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company.

Accenture director Janet Yap says the move from a central office to the new location allowed the company to move from the typical one workstation per staff member setup.

"Technology allows people to work anywhere, creating new opportunities to collaborate both physically and virtually," she says. "The office is not so much a place to work as a place to collaborate and connect with leadership. Our offices needed to reflect the fact that we are more flexible and collaborative, so social spaces were important. So, too, was a connection with nature, and the use of environmentally friendly materials. We wanted to minimise Accenture's consumption of natural resources and look at waste management through responsible reuse and recycling."

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Taking these challenges on board, SL+A designed a dynamic, flowing interior that begins with the cool, sleek formality of the reception area and continues past eye-catching, glazed meeting rooms to culminate in the lively, colourful Bistro breakout area on the opposite side of the triangular tower.

Designer Dylan Tham of SL+A says although the use of colour and materials is contrasted between the formal and informal areas, there is still a strong visual connection.

"We introduced organic curves to the reception area, for example, that not only help to break up the more angular elements and straight lines, but also reference the rest of the interior."

The curves appear on the reception desk, which is reminiscent of a violin, and on the suspended ceiling that echoes the shape of the marble flooring and helps to define the key circulation areas. Curves also feature on the film on the glazed meeting rooms either side of the reception seating area. Tham says these rooms have lowered ceilings to keep the spaces in proportion and to make them feel more comfortable.

The boardroom also has a lowered, eco-friendly bamboo ceiling that wraps down to form a wall.

"This design was driven by the desire for a sustainable design, and also to create a very simple, yet sleek, high-tech environment. The look is enhanced by concealing all the lighting and air conditioning behind a mesh panel that runs the length of the ceiling."

Nature is also referenced in the Accenture corporate symbol, which can be seen in a sculptural tree near the boardroom. In addition, the nature theme is reflected in the meeting rooms, most of which are named after trees.

One dramatic meeting room features handpainted clouds and blue skies, and an artificial grass carpet.

"We wanted to provide our employees with an opportunity to work outdoors without having to set foot outside," says Yap. "So, we brought in the grass, the sky and LED stars. It's about thinking out of the box and having fun."

This sense of whimsy continues in the Bistro breakout area, which has an elevated seating platform bordered by a multicoloured glass screen that was salvaged from the former premises. Chairs and furnishings in different colours and styles, and a juke box reinforce the laid-back, relaxed look.

A collaborations area and all the hot-desking workstations are also colour themed.

"These areas are all about high energy," says Tham. "This is where staff can brainstorm ideas and be creative in their thinking. Again, it's a recognition that there are many different ways of working."

Yap says that as a multipurpose lounge, the Bistro is also being used to host functions, for both staff and clients.

"It is proving great for employee morale and for growing our business."

First published date: 09 April 2011

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Credit List

Location Accenture Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Interior designer Martin B Axe, Dylan Tham, SL+A Sendirian Berhad (a member of the Steven Leach Group)
Fit-out company PLM Interiors
Mechanical and electrical engineer Perunding Shanu
Quantity surveyor SL+A Sendirian Berhad
Fire consultant Perunding Shanu
Partitioning system and ceilings Boral Plasterboard (Malaysia)
Window and door joinery Dorma Door Control
Hardware Resilient Marketing
Blinds Moonlight Industries
Tiles Terrazzo by Agrostone (M); granite by Marble-Avenue
Flooring Interface carpets from Carpet Ideas; artificial grass carpet from Southwest Greens; vinyl from Martex Enterprise; bamboo from Mein Flooring Gallery and Polypalm Wood Products
Veneers TAK Products & Services; Maica Corporation; Greenlam Asia Pacific
Paints ICI Paints (M); Nippon Paint Marketing Co (M)
Lighting Lightcraft (KL)
Wallcoverings Wallpaper from Goodrich Global (KL); Autex wallcovering from IPC Marketing; bamboo from Polypalm Wood Products
Heating/air conditioning York
Workstations and office chairs Steelcase Office Solutions (M)
Reception furniture Custom-built desk by PLM Interiors; task chairs from Steelcase Office Solutions (M)
Additional furniture Sofas by Space, Ligne Roset, Da Vinci Luxury and Xtra; loose furniture by Janine and XZQT
Operable wall Dorma Malaysia
Solid surface supplier Marbon Industries
Frosted film 3M Malaysia
Raised floor system Rekadjaya
Glass partitioning Heng Poh Glass