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Oxigen’s Halifax Street office won the Office Fitout Category prize at the 2015 National Sustainability Awards late last year, lauded as a “truly inspirational space” by the jury.
Oxigen’s interior is an exciting and convivial space, which is characterised by a playful and imaginative take on the landscape design, urban planning and architecture that make up the practice’s main disciplines. Featuring a façade that engages with the streetscape, and Oxigen’s signature COR– TEN steel material palette, the office is an intriguing mix of industrial and domestic elements. The interior was designed around the idea of conversation, and encourages a social atmosphere for occupants. The studio space is flooded with light from the rear courtyard, and is flanked by green walls, which provide a cross–ventilation path along the entire floor plan from front (street) to back (courtyard space). James Hayter, Oxigen’s director, says they wanted to “create a space that stimulated a dialogue between people – our practice is all about conversations”. There are clever material choices inside as well – including polished concrete flooring, which embeds underfloor heating – creating a passive building which needs minimal temperature control throughout the year. Hayter says that while sustainable solutions are always at the front of the practice’s mind, they never set out to create the ultimate sustainable office. “We feel it’s really important to use local materials and to ensure that they age well and have a longevity to them,” he says. This mindset is evident throughout the meeting rooms and transitional spaces that are all imbued with a sense of community and social interaction. The building feels authentic and honest, rather than determined to announce itself as ‘sustainable’. This is the key to the Halifax studio: it’s unassuming. Having not gone into the process to design an explicitly ‘green building’, there is an ease to the way in which the sustainable elements are integrated into the fit–out. They don’t feel forced or obvious. The youthful incorporation of sculptural and decorative objects is refreshing: a hand–woven rug resembling a river bed (pebbles included) and small potted succulents that seem to creep out of the joinery. This inventiveness was noted in the jury’s citations that called the office a “great example of passive design and the integration of nature into the fabric of our built environment. The combination of plants, light, air quality and the flow of indoor and outdoor space creates a fantastic environment for people (as opposed to ticking the boxes of energy and water efficiency).” The building also has a rooftop garden that hosts a variety of plant beds and a covered entertaining area, taking in the surrounding cityscape. It is another way in which the office engages both inwardly and outwardly with the immediate environment and the broader city context. It sits as a nationally recognised example and extends the idea of sustainable design beyond the environment to incorporate and acknowledge social sustainability as a key component in the ultimate success or failure of a design. Oxigen’s distinctive approach is indeed fresh air for sustainable design. oxigen.net.au Photos: David Sievers and Dan Schultz