Arup’s Melbourne workplace ‘pulls back the curtain’ to reveal how the exchange of ideas, process of discovery and power of engineering define their company and culture.

Despite their move to a conventional commercial building, Arup wanted their new offices to feel creative and open to everyone – a place that draws people in, inspires them to do their best work and encourages them to mix with colleagues and clients daily.

Hassell worked in partnership with Arup on a project that fulfils the promise of their ‘living.Arup’ guidelines, which was developed together to set the design direction of their offices across Asia and Australia, including their Sydney workplace.

‘Hackable’ spaces add energy and variety to the workplace

From the moment you enter via an elevated ‘Sky Park’ – not the typical lift lobby – Arup Melbourne sends a signal that they’re not doing business as usual.

The workplace takes up three floors, but expansive voids with mezzanines create a cascading, terraced effect that results in five separate levels – or one huge, multi-connected space for all kinds of work and programs.

Design studios on the top of the mezzanines act as ‘hackable’ spaces for sharing ideas and experimenting – practices that define Arup’s culture. There are sound and light labs, a maker’s space and an experiential lab for learning, researching and testing. In addition, formal and informal meeting areas, training rooms, a working kitchen and a co-working-style cafe for clients and suppliers are dotted across the levels.

A showcase for engineering that is also warm and inviting

The workplace is a perfect combination of creative design thinking and integrated engineering. For example, the exposed stairs, ramp and mezzanine steel structures – which extend out into the void – demonstrate Arup’s technical prowess. Similarly, services and acoustic treatments are on show, not hidden away.

At the same time, the space feels warm and inviting, with materials like cork and timber bringing a softer touch. Extensive planting and vistas add to the healthy, vibrant atmosphere.

Together, Hassell and Arup have designed a workplace that embodies everything Arup stands for within this dynamic, free flowing space that feels alive with possibilities.

Strategy for both Melbourne and Sydney workplaces

The design revolved around meeting seven strategic objectives at Arup to create a workplace that:

– Allows staff and visitors to experience Arup at work

– Supports the full spectrum of working modes

– Makes Arup’s people visible

– Challenges their people and inspires them

– Is efficient and easy to use

– Is flexible, elastic and adaptable

– Expresses health and sustainability

The key challenges Hassell faced in meeting those objectives included:

– Same but different: Each workplace needed to convey the essence of Arup while still feeling like a place with a meaningful, local difference. Real insight was needed into each location to get the balance right.

– Space to explore: Across the organisation, there’s an emphasis on sharing knowledge and experimenting with new ideas. But how people do that still varies across sites, where there’s a wide range of working styles. It took smart thinking and careful planning to meet all the different needs – and do it within budget and space constraints.

Project: Arup Workplace, Melbourne
Design Studio: Hassell
Photo Credit: Earl Carter