Woods Bagot principal Bronwyn McColl and associate Marcia Ascencio led the project team in creating an aesthetic that is pared-back, contemporary and refined. Colour has been incorporated and defines areas, while the floorplan has been conceived for flow and adaptability.
The genesis of the design emulates from the minerals that are integral to Rio Tinto’s business. Cleverly, McColl and Ascencio have incorporated the features of aluminium, bauxite, copper and iron ore into the heart of the project, using the colour and materiality of the minerals throughout the work space.
From the lift, the entrance to the Headquarters is a spacious Welcome Area with reception desk, banquette seating, meeting spaces, and a monolithic ever-changing emersion wall, aside a smaller interactive screen.
The area is warm and textural and evokes the idea of bauxite and copper with pink and reddish-brown hues in the furnishings as the large screen showcases giant images of the minerals’ properties as an art installation. Steel plinths and occasional tables populate the space and original drilling apparatus is featured as unique sculptural objects on the table tops.
The reception desk is extraordinary with leathered, flamed and honed stone that has been joined seamlessly as a grand geometric shape that is both substantial and eye catching.
Between the ceiling voids, copper mesh has been moulded by hand into each space and the undulating contours and transparency of the material softens and adds interest to the area. Large windows frame the Melbourne skyline outside and there are views to Port Phillip Bay and beyond.
This Welcome Area has been designed for events where staff and clients can gather. Allowing for flexible use, there is the opportunity to open adjoining areas and move furniture to create a more extensive entertaining space for larger groups.
To the right of reception is the main boardroom that seats 24. Here the colour changes to represent the blue of iron ore. The cool shade is expressed in the leather chairs and striated floor rug and together they add a rich aesthetic to the space. A display unit inset into the wall showcases raw minerals and, top-lit, these gnarled objects become beautiful and minimalistic sculptural pieces within the space.
Around the perimeter of the 1100-square-metre floorplate are meeting rooms and offices, interspersed with quiet places for one or two people and break out spaces for a group. Further in, and encircling the core of the floor, more offices and meeting rooms have been loosely positioned with a kitchen and social area for relaxed gatherings.
Throughout the interior, graphics on glass by Studio Ongarato replicate the copper mesh ceiling in the Welcome Area. A tangles and swirls graphic allows for transparency as these glass partitions divide meeting rooms and the reception area but also afford an element of privacy.
While materials are key to this design, they have been used sparingly and the colour palette of ochres, greens, blues and browns complement each other to create a resolved and expertly realised interior. Perhaps it is as much about what has been left out not to clutter spaces, as has been included, that makes this workplace so elegant.
McColl, Ascencio and their team at Woods Bagot have designed a workplace that offers all amenity, and through layering of colour and texture, the interior has a timeless quality that is both beautiful and expertly resolved.
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