Looking the goods
Simplot ranks amongst Australia’s top-ten distributors of frozen and canned foods. The company’s new head office and research and development facility, located in Melbourne’s Chifley Business Park, exudes a high level of amenity and presence.
Its façade is understated yet compelling, with a sequence of visual breaks in elevation that intrigues and tantalises as to what lies beyond. The 6,000 m² office building and 750 m² R&D facility prove that architecture can become its own living, breathing brand by virtue of intrinsic qualities.
Packaging and contents are highly relevant to the world of architecture. Simplot’s new home lives right up to its external promise. In other words, there’s style and substance. It’s a project of simple transparency.
The main atrium, with its glass mural of Earth and Ocean, sets the scene. Approximately 350 staff occupy the two-level building. The building presents an inventive, fragmented screened façade featuring Pilkington Eclipse Advantage™ Arctic Blue reflective solar control low-e glass. The project is a landmark building for the office park.
Evolution of light, shade and identity
According to design architect Frank Faelli of Qanstruct, the major design challenge was to provide a quality working environment for the staff, with a real sense of personal space in a high performance, modestly budgeted, building. The brief specified a high level of amenities, so that facilities such as the lunchroom, a 500 m² area, could be used by staff and also large numbers of visitors. Flexibility of floor plan was paramount. The design was based on being on the inside and looking outwards.
For the reception area, stackable glass doors are used to provide a flexible connection between atrium and dining hall as it is required for large functions. Given the nature of the client’s business, this was especially relevant, justifying the creation of a memorable space and was consequently central to the brief. The major challenge was to create much more than just a huge “call centre” style of building. Considerable effort went into breaking up the form visually, so rather than settling on one idea were created three distinct zones that defined distinct work zones.
At over 6,500 m², the floor area was so large that it splashed more daylight throughout the room and building than could have otherwise been imagined. The light carried through into the staff dining area, bringing illumination into the centre of the building.
There is also an absolute minimum number of solid walls, reflecting an increasing interest by businesses to achieve an open working environment to stimulate improved employee communication. The use of glazing, in preference to solid walls, dramatically contributes to a connectedness that is positive for morale.
Pilkington Eclipse Advantage™ Arctic Blue, solar control glass with low-e properties was selected for the project. Pilkington Solar-E™ laminated glass was also used for most of the exterior. It was economical and offered excellent performance characteristics. A mesh screen and louvres on the north and west elevations are used to reduce heat from the direct north-west sun without compromising views.
The building is four-star energy rated. This is a good example of how a building can be aesthetically pleasing whilst also contributing to energy efficiency by using natural daylight.