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Bringing Nuance and Balance to a Sydney Icon

Soaring a proud 41 storeys above the Sydney CBD, Harry Seidler’s Australia Square remains of the city’s most instantly recognisable silhouettes and a beacon of imaginative office design.

Upon completion in 1967, the building was distinct for its status as Sydney’s first skyscraper and the world’s tallest lightweight concrete building; today, it is distinct as an emblem of bold, innovative design thinking that deliberately diverges from the norm.


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Australia Square, image via Wikipedia (CC-BY-SA)


It’s only fitting that this innovating spirit and passion for radical design be carried through to the building’s interiors, which are home to some of the nation’s biggest corporate players.

In its recent refurbishment of level 39 of the building, National Projects & Maintenance (NPM) took a leaf from Seidler’s book, devising an elegant, nuanced response to a commercial brief.

Named “Yin and Yang” for the philosophical concept that inspired it, the project expertly navigates contrast, teasing out the contradictions and complexities that underpin contemporary office design. Thanks to the centrality of technology and shift toward agile, flexible work methodologies, today’s offices place a greater premium than ever on adaptability and choice.


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It is now well understood that the rigidity of conventional office design – with its grid of cubicles and Spartan design aesthetic – is not conducive to nourishing employees’ wellbeing and helping them reach their full potential. In light of this, it is increasingly common for offices to confer an unprecedented amount of choice on employees, allowing them to select the work environment and style best suited to their particular workload.

Few projects provide this flexibility as sensitively and with as much flair as Yin and Yang. Completed over just 6 weeks, Yin and Yang divide level 39 into two suites that explore the contrasts between negative and positive, feminine and masculine, rounded and straight, soft and hard, calm and energetic, and slow and fast. Eschewing the literal, NPM enfolds these binary pairs into the subtleties of the design, deftly incorporating contrast into a well-considered colour palette and careful selection of furniture, fittings, and equipment.


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According to traditional Chinese philosophy, the “yin” element of yin and yang is the “shady side” and the “yang” the sunny side. Yin and Yang subvert this relationship, with the Yin suites adopting soft, light tones that craft a delicate, fresh and distinctly feminine environment.

A palette of pastel jewel tones – think seafoam blue, rose pink, and fresh mint green – is offset by natural timber and shades of grey to create a comfortable, welcoming work environment that merges the best elements of residential and commercial design. Shared workbenches replace individual desks to facilitate employee interaction, and are complemented by spaces for collaborative work and relaxation.

In the Yang suites, bright, bold colours and industrial-inspired fittings are used to construct a sophisticated, masculine space that makes ample use of geometric elements. Highly graphic, linear patterns are a motif throughout the suite, appearing in kitchen splashbacks, carpets, and wallpaper. In contrast with the muted, warm tones of the Yin suites, Yang’s palette is strikingly assertive, pairing electric blue with dark wood and mustard highlights.

Again, shared workbenches co-exist with quiet rooms, collaborative spaces, boardrooms and breakout areas, with the disparate character of the spaces reflecting a balanced approach to space apportionment. Employees can select the space best suited to their particular task or the time of day and easily switch between spaces and modes of work.

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Recognising the centrality of furniture to the project’s success, NPM turned to P4 to meet their seating needs. In both suites, Kastel’s Kalea KA2 and KA4C chairs add a welcome burst of colourful style and provide employees with unmatched comfort and flexibility. The lightweight and stackable sled-based KA2 provides the ideal solution for agile workspaces that need to be quickly rearranged to serve different functions, while KA4C with swivel base and castors brings style and ease of movement to boardrooms and collaborative workspaces.


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