27/09/2005 - 22:00

Function meets workplace form

27/09/2005 - 22:00

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AS is the case with many businesses in Western Australia, interior designers are enjoying good times, as the resources-led economic boom shows no sign of slowing.

As is the case with many businesses in Western Australia, interior designers are enjoying good times, as the resources-led economic boom shows no sign of slowing. But even in such periods of growth, and maybe stung by past excess, companies are leaning towards practicality in office fit-outs.

Many premium offices on St Georges Terrace have taken on a utilitarian approach, with work stations carefully framed around communal areas and meeting rooms, and openness and interaction the leading principles guiding office design.

Recent advances in technology, such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), are becoming more mainstream, while companies are reluctant to create wireless offices because of concerns over information security.

Many of the interior designers surveyed for the 2005 WA Business News Book of Lists reported significant increases in business activity during the past year.

Trojan Horse Interiors managing director Troy Ward said his business had experienced a 30 per cent increase in business over the past 12 months.

“There is a lot of work with exploration and resources companies, and also the associated industries that service the resource sector,” he said.

“Companies want clean efficient functionality, not ostentatiousness.

“Design is being driven for employees, not clients. More and more money is going into breakout areas and workstations.

“The trend is towards open-plan offices with functional meeting rooms in a more casual fashion.”

Trojan has recently completed fit-outs for LionOre, Paladin, AdCorp, Azure Capital, and Pullinger Readhead Lucas.

Mr Ward said Trojan was one of several WA-based designers to make a push into the eastern states.

Head of Hassell interior design group, Gavin Campbell, said business had been good in the past year and that trends in interior design were moving towards more functional use of space in creating efficient work areas.

He said space was increasingly being treated like a Japanese lunchbox – consisting of several smaller components that can be rearranged, but with a consistent theme.

“There is a lot more exploration of the open-plan concept, and offices are being based around the needs of workers rather than hierarchy,” Mr Campbell said.

“People are beginning to use break out spaces a lot better, and rather than just adding a funky cafe, they are adding value to their space and creating interaction on a workplace level.

“Design is becoming less specific and more general as workplaces become less insular.”

He said VoIP was becoming very popular, with most large national practices that didn’t already have it now exploring the option.

Hassell has recently completed work in WA for Jackson McDonald, Singapore Airlines, Parliament House, Westralia Air-ports Corporation, Telstra, and KPMG.

Marshall Kusinski Design Consultants design director Kathleen Kusinski said clients were requiring higher levels of technology in their workstations, boardrooms and meeting rooms.

“A lot more vibrancy is being introduced into workplaces, with much higher use of graphics,” Ms Kusinski said.

“One big issue that has come up is people putting more staff into smaller space, and older buildings in particular don’t have the facilities to support that.

“The open-plan model is being led by companies saying they want to fit more people into the same area – designers are not pushing for it.”

‘Hot desking’ – where workers do not have their own work area but rather function from a variety of work stations – was a trend that hadn’t taken off, Ms Kusinski said, as people preferred to have their own work areas and a place to call their own.

The use of designers rather than office decorators was making offices look much more corporate and sophisticated, she said.

“A higher expectation is becoming the median, and creating a good staff environment helps both attract and retain staff.”

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