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Tthe Exchange @ DBS captures the spirit and energy of the New Asia

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Open-plan offices and breakout spaces are consistently proving the most effective model for a healthy business environment – it turns out there are several advantages to having a floor without walls. Besides setting up an egalitarian blueprint, where outlooks and amenities are shared by all, open spaces also evoke a dynamic where ideas flow freely and energy resources go a lot further.

When DBS, Singapore, moved to its new headquarters at Marina Bay Financial Centre, the shift presented an opportunity to create a dynamic aesthetic to reflect the bank's philosophy and direction. The brief to interior design firm Woodhead, with Kelly Hiew as lead designer, was to highlight the flagship DBS headquarters as an established Asian institution and evoke the bank's concept of ‘New Asia'. This included the treatment for the Exchange @ DBS – a social hub, food hall and meeting space used by DBS staff from all departments, says Hiew.

"To reflect the bank's long-standing presence in Asia, we conceived the mid-level Exchange @ DBS as a series of courtyards, loosely drawing on the many styles of open-air spaces found throughout Asia and serviced by DBS," says Hiew. "These are drawn together as one large open-plan experience that leads the eye forward."

Turning left from the Exchange @ DBS entry, there is a Starbucks, a food kiosk and an office touch-down space where staff and visitors can access power and Wi-Fi, creating a hot desk on the go. To the right are versatile meeting and conference spaces and enclosed video conferencing and media rooms. However, it is the way all the open spaces connect and flow that gives the floor its visual impact and efficiency.

This hub is all about recreating the sense of contemplation found in any courtyard – the act of observing or passing from one area to the next, says project director Fiona Nixon.


"Like a pleasure garden within city walls, the space represents a journey through a simulated natural landscape, punctuated by pavilions placed to focus views and expand vantage points."

To this end, stepping stones lead across vivid synthetic grass, slatted booths and furniture allow views through and beyond them, and built-up pavilions with large wicker chairs create areas of repose. There is a pagoda facade and a recessed seating-style vestibule. Overhead, there are floating lanterns. Artificial trees with real bark reach up through the ceiling. Towards the end of the space, large glass doors can pivot shut, creating a large semi-private meeting space. Social awareness is also part of the agenda for the hub and employees are encouraged to reduce their carbon footprint by means of e-storage and proper waste recycling, says Hiew.

"The Exchange @ DBS effectively balances visual connection with a degree of separation throughout – this approach enables large numbers of DBS staff to work, play and eat in one area and symbolises the productive harmony of the New Asia."

First published date: 19 June 2013

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Credit List

Location The Exchange@DBS Asia Central, Singapore Interior designer Woodhead project team Angelo DiMarco, Fiona Nixon, Kelly Hiew, Michael Pua, Sally Chu, Rommel Jimenez, Phuong Oanh Tran Project architect ATA Architects and Architects 61 Construction company Shimizu Corporation Mechanical and electrical engineer J Roger Preston Quantity surveyor WT Partnership Flooring Shimizu Interior Renovation Division Lighting Zumtobel, Space Furniture, Bizlink Joinery Custom Furniture,Comfort Furniture, Dream Furniture, Proof,