After an unexpected hiatus, due to several projects running ‘outside hours’, I am pleased to return to exploring Architecture in Melbourne. Recently this exploration took me to the workplace of a keen Architecture enthusiast who is both a reader of this blog and a reader of the nightly Channel 9 News, Peter Hitchener.
Seven17 Bourke was designed by Melbourne Architecture firm Metier3 with construction completing in 2010. Channel 9 moved into the building in early 2011 after 54 years of broadcasting from the Bendigo Street Studios in Richmond.
From any angle the most distinctive aspect of the Seven17 Bourke are the rectangular floor plates which are expressed as a series of roughly stacked block layers. This simple yet effective stacking concept makes reference to the two urban grids intersecting and colliding at the site. The overall effect reminds me somewhat of a Rubik’s cube, mid rotation. Secondary to the stacking floor plates is the bar-code like vertical expression on the glass. I am pleased to report this defining vertical expression is continued in subtle ways throughout aspects of the internal finishes.
The continuity of the façade on all sides provides a strong identity to the building in the round, however it also raises questions as to how the building performs from an occupant comfort perspective. The East side of any building will be drenched in sunlight every morning, whilst the West façade will be hit by the sun in the afternoon. This fact often leads to each façade treatment being crafted and engineered to the specific site orientation, rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach. It would be fair to say that those with offices on the East side will have a different experience to those on the West, yet despite this the building has quite impressive environmental credentials.
The common benchmarking system for a commercial building such as this one is the Green Star rating which has been developed by the Green Building Council of Australia. Green Star is a completely different benchmarking system to the 6 star energy ratings required for new homes. Under the Green Star system, a four star rating is considered ‘best practice’, 5 stars is ‘Australian Excellence’ and 6 Green Stars signifies ‘World Leadership’. Seven17 Bourke has a very solid rating of five Green Stars.
The most public approach is via the footbridge connection between Southern Cross Station and the Docklands Stadium. As one moves closer to the building, the path opens up to create an unexpected public refuge from the robust urban pedestrian bridge.
The main entrance to the Channel 9 area is through an oversized door beyond the reception desk which appears to be a wall until it most unexpectedly slides away to reveal glamorous meeting rooms and a multi-purpose studio space.
The previous studio in Richmond was based on the Hollywood idea of a collection or village of small spaces. Peter explained to me that the more contemporary office structure with a focus on open plan spaces and communication has ‘democratised’ the newsroom. This can be seen in the bright and open work spaces and break out spaces which feature canvas prints from the Bendigo Street Studios, connecting the new studio with its heritage. The move to the new studio has coincided with a perceived lift in the Channel Nine News performance and an actual lift in ratings.
A clear highlight of the tour was the newsroom and news studio. To my surprise the studio for recording is not separated by glass or in fact any acoustic restricting barrier.
One particularly interesting aspect of the news area, are the walls which are covered in printed images, both funny and meaningful to the people who work there. This gives a strong sense of community and a work place which people care about. It creates an interesting battle between the ordered and the disordered, the personal and the professional.
This building is an example of how good architecture can make a difference to the people who use a space, changing not just how people feel in a space, but also their actions and the way they work.
For more information check out the Metier3 website here
Architecture is for everyone