Office Lobby and Forecourt Refurbishment

Design/Completion 2010/2011

Glass and steel lobby enclosure
Stone linings, café and furnishings
Lighting and landscaping

  • AIA (NSW) Commercial Architecture Award, Commendation, 2012

Historically the entrance to the Capita Centre at 9 Castlereagh Street was designed by Harry Seidler around a thoroughfare that was intended to link the nearby Hunter Street with Angel Place. Unfortunately the through link was never realised and the proposed public Galleria transition space with glass vaulted roof, kiosk, trees and waterwall feature was relegated to private use, originally as a restaurant and function space and more recently a much needed corporate Childcare facility.

With the new owner, Stockland, came a vision to reinvigorate the entrance to the office building and, therefore, the opportunity to rebalance the entry experience to one more relevant to the current framework.

Primarily Stockland’s brief wished to create a grand lobby commensurate with the high quality of the corporate office tower it serves and re-establish a sequence of experiences that reconnected the lobby to the street. The design of each of the following components aimed to achieve this goal and enhance the office building’s entrance and public space on one of Sydney’s primary boulevards, Castlereagh Street.

The streetscape was intended to be an integral part of the entry experience to 9C and contiguous with the Forecourt. New light coloured granite paving to the Forecourt and Lobby was to seamlessly transition from the street to the office lift lobby to draw the public into this site. The dense grove of fig trees to the threshold of the Forecourt have been removed to open up the view towards the entrance.

The existing Green Ash trees to the street remain, not only continue the local boulevard rhythm along Castlereagh Street but screen the site from the street creating a sense of enclosure to the open, more noisy side of the Forecourt. The trees will also form an archway of foliage to the Forecourt reinforcing the building’s diagonal brace frame portal.

First in the sequence of experiences inside the streetscape the Forecourt provides the first ‘wow factor’ with the revelation of the Atrium. Ones view is lead upwards to the vast volume of the vertical space which reveals the unique nature of the office building above. Paring back the existing grove of trees enhances this view and allows a stronger visual connection to the new grand lobby with the Lin Utzon tiled mural as a backdrop. Paving format subtly changes to reinforce the pathway to the entrance along with the winding edges of the flanking gardens.

The gardens are tailored to the new lobby configuration and replanted with fern type vegetation to retain the pocket rainforest character of the Atrium. Plant species are selected to suit the filtered daylight entering from above. The gardens form a layered planting screen to the handsome grey granite walls and sculptured fire stair with tall tree fern features giving scale to the vertical space beneath the Atrium. An outdoor terrace nestled into the garden allows café patrons to enjoy the landscape and passing parade.

The primary focus from the Forecourt, however, is the new gleaming glazed lobby that fills the full height and width of the undercroft. The second “wow factor”, the 10 m high glass wall is punctuated by a translucent glass entry portal, a glowing lantern inviting one into the lobby. The glass wall reveals the inner workings of the lobby with the Lin Utzon mural, feature lighting to gleaming silver lift doors and an elegant café to take respite from one’s daily rigour.

The lobby and Forecourt become one space contained between the Lin Utzon mural inboard, the trees and brace frame to the street, illuminated lift door features to the lift bank and the café with glass blockwall and counter opposite. The vast space enclosed by new lobby glazing to take in the full linear bank of lifts feels luxurious, yet is given a more intimate scale by balancing the focus of attention to low lying elements that carefully structure the space.

Key focus is given to the lift bank where new bright silver cladding to the existing lift doors strongly reflects new transom lighting. Opposite the lifts a generous seating group with textured rug and low marble illuminated screen helps contain the transient space. A directory panel informs visitors and a concierge desk takes prominent position to greet tenants and quietly watch over the domain. A Charles Perry sculpture, previously located in an original building tenancy, is given new life between the entrances to high rise and low rise lifts. Secure access is provided to the Childcare facility.

Located beneath the Utzon Mural, the café completes the offerings of the lobby. Subtly delineated from the office lobby by a slight change in level and low screening, the café offers a variety of seating places to suit individual preferences. Plush banquette style seating, communal tables with stools or sofa style lounge settings are provided all to a high quality commensurate with the corporate lobby. An elegant crisp antique black granite counter with low glass canopy intimately displays the day’s fare and permeates the aroma of coffee.

The indoor café benefits from the sheltered and tempered space of the lobby, while a generous bank of pivot glass doors freely connects the outdoor terrace in favourable conditions. Temperature comfort is achieved to the lobby with a hybrid system of in-floor heating and cooling water together with conditioned air being supplied at low level and low velocity through floor and skirting grilles to maintain air displacement and comfort in the occupied zone (lower two metres) of the lobby.

The atrium style building provides a unique filtered daylight quality that informs the artificial lighting design. While a judicious choice and location of planting allows maximum penetration of daylight from the street, additional lighting has been used to provide brightness to the deeply shaded landscape of the undercroft Forecourt.

Highly efficient metal halide downlights have replaced those currently in the Forecourt ceiling and sensors will determine their need to boost daylight levels. These are double focus ceiling recessed fittings with small apertures to reduce glare. The lobby glass wall sparkles with adjustable mullion mounted spotlights striking the slender metallic framing, washing its threshold and illuminating the translucent glass portal. Beyond the glass the Lin Utzon mural is awash with light to show it off to the street and reflect light to the inner space of the café. Metal halide ceiling recessed washlights have been used.
Otherwise, mostly task or feature lighting will focus on other lobby elements again to recapture one’s attention down at human scale. The low wall adjacent the seating group with rich back illuminated marble, subtle LED lighting to the silver lift doors all drawing one’s view from the Forecourt into the lobby as a counterpoint to the mural. A translucent glass canopy over the café counter provides indirect lighting for its display and operation.

At night the bright overall illumination is progressively dimmed to the glow of the feature lighting to specific elements such as the main portal, the back illuminated marble wall, spotlighting to the Perry sculpture and uplights picking out garden features casting frond shadows onto the ceiling. The past overall power usage is significantly reduced with the use of efficient LED and metal halide sources. Maintenance frequency is greatly reduced also with these long life lamps