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Well connected – Westralia Plaza

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Westralia Plaza by JCY Architects

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Urban renewal is revitalising our inner cities, and it's often the challenges posed by the existing infrastructure that produce the most innovative design solutions.

Westralia Plaza at 167 St Georges Terrace is a good example. The Insurance Commission of Western Australia required an office building with ground-level retail tenancies that would encompass a square block with a long, narrow finger of land extending back to the street.

A limited-entry competition to design the building was won by JCY Architects and Urban Designers. Project director Andrew Rogerson says the firm recognised the need to maintain a human scale to the building, which adjoins a pedestrian precinct that is the gateway to Westralia Square and the Convention Centre beyond.

"We were also mindful of the heritage aspect of the site," he says. "Originally developed in the 19th century, the site had been home to Bible House, an old brick building – the second such building on the site – which was demolished some years ago. It was always our intention to keep the St Georges Terrace gateway open and welcoming by providing a low building at this end of the site, rather than a 12-level office tower. We felt it was particularly important to provide this urban gesture – the new building needed to match the height of the ridge of the neighbouring Old Perth Boys' School."

Rogerson says the needs of the future tenants were another influence.

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"The building needed a presence on the street. This helped determine the decision to create a ribbon element that would effectively wrap around the front of the building and wind its way right through to the rear of the site."

The design team set the building 7m back from the eastern boundary, which, when combined with the setback provided by the adjoining site, ensured the laneway could be a generous 10m wide. The high-rise component was positioned on the large square block at the rear, and the building stepped down towards St Georges Terrace. At the rear, levels 9-11 have a cantilevered section, designed to maximise an expansive view of the city and river.

But it is the front of the building that commands the most attention. An intersecting vertical ribbon element, in black, encloses the three floors above the retail tenancies and provides a backdrop for the bank's signage. Further visual drama is provided by a tessellated pattern of contrasting composite aluminium panels on the horizontal ribbon.

"The patterning creates a sense of movement – it can be traced right through the building," says Rogerson. "The projecting bold sculptural form of the ribbon element also provides an interesting juxtaposition between the new building and neighbouring heritage buildings, namely Old Perth Boys School and Perth Technical College. And it creates a sense of playfulness along the eastern facade, drawing pedestrians towards the entry foyer, which is set well down from the Terrace. On the interior, the ribbon element forms the high ceiling of the main foyer."

But the design innovation wasn't just about the aesthetics and the connection with the city. Sustainability is another feature of Westralia Plaza – the building was the first in Western Australia to receive a 4-Star Green Star rating for Office Design.

Key sustainable design initiatives include the use of exterior sunscreens, double glazing and high-performance glass that reduce heat loads on the building. Natural light is maximised – offices are positioned near the windows, while the building core is on the north side, where Westralia Plaza abuts right up close to the adjoining building.

"We incorporated high-efficiency T5 fluorescent light fittings, which are integrated with the Building Management System, so different zones can be operated separately," says the architect. "The air conditioning is also zoned so it is only used when and where it is required."

Other sustainable features include solar-powered hot water heating, the capture and re-use of fire systems' test water for irrigation, extensive bicycle parking and associated facilities, and the use of low-maintenance, eco-friendly building materials. The building is also close to public transport and provides a number of key amenities for people in buildings in the immediate precinct.

The holistic design approach is reflected in the St George Bank fit-out by interior design firm Geyer. Designer Kim Thornton-Smith says the building was suitable on a number of levels.

"The building offered a very attractive space in a good location," he says. "With meeting areas opening up to a large balcony overlooking the plaza, the office also provided an indoor-outdoor space that is near impossible to find in the inner city. We could see it would be ideal for training seminars, breakout spaces and client entertainment."

Thornton-Smith says St George Bank belongs to the Westpac group, and the fit-out follows the style adopted in all Westpac banks.

"It's a very flexible arrangement and it is predominantly open plan with very few separate offices. Workstations are laid out in a more dynamic manner, compared to the more conventional orthogonal layouts, which makes the space that much more interesting."

The tessellated pattern on the outside of the building continues on the interior, notably along the corridor that runs alongside the meeting rooms.

"We extended the graphic language from the exterior, using it an abstract sense, with muted tones of the bank's corporate colours," says the designer. "The long wall also has secret doors to cupboards where additional seats, food and beverage items are stored."

In the reception area, the desk is defined by a dark charcoal lacquered wall and a dark timber slatted ceiling. The wall features a bas relief pattern that provides textural interest. And just like the vertical ribbon element on the exterior, the dark shade forms a strong backdrop to the St George corporate signage.

First published date: 29 November 2012

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Credit List

Location Westralia Plaza, 167 St Georges Terrace, Perth
Developer Insurance Commission of Western Australia
Project manager PDC Project Management
Architect Andrew Rogerson, Paul Jones, Paul Steed, Stephen Pennock, JCY Architects and Urban Designers RAIA, ACA, Perth Interior design for St George
Bank tenancy Geyer
Structural and civil engineer BG&E
Facade engineer BG&E Facades
Electrical engineer BEST Consultants Mechanical and
ESD engineer Aecom
Hydraulic engineer Hydraulics Design Australia
Fire consultant Aurecon
BCA consultant John Massey Group
Quantity surveyor Ralph Beattie Bosworth
Construction company Doric Group
Fit-out company CDI Commercial Fitout
Landscaping Hassell Landscape
Cladding Alpolic and Aluclad composite aluminium panels
Roofing Colorbond finished roof decking; KingKlip 700 sheeting from Fielders
Facade construction Powdercoated aluminium-framed curtain wall by Yuanda
Precast concrete facade Paragon Precast
Hardware Nova, Dorma
Flooring Attica Tiles Casalgrande Pietra Serena Naturale; Artedomus GranitiFiandre Asiago; Ontera carpet; black granite; grey basalt; Marmoleum from Forbo; Gigacer concrete tiles from European Ceramics
Paints Dulux
Lighting Dynalite, Stanilite, Kliktube, Fagerhult Pleiad, Illuma, Pierlite, Louis Poulsen PH5 from Design Farm
Heating-air conditioning Honeywell
Security system Security Management Australia
Partitioning system Sapphire
Interior hardware Parker Black & Forrest
Blinds Verasol Aspect
Interior feature graphics Digital Artworks
Ceilings Hunter Douglas Luxalon Baffle Grid ceiling in reception; Supawood Supaslat ceiling in breakout area
Veneers Eveneer EvenCharred and Evenmilkwood from Elton Group
Boardroom furniture Wilkhahn
Reception furniture Living Edge; Design Farm; custom joinery by Sympari