Working with the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, Smart Design Studio (SDS) recently completed the design of their new offices in The Rocks that provide the 200-strong team with flexible, hierarchy-free spaces connected to a deeper cultural shift. Beginning with Saatchi & Saatchi’s desire to reestablish their business at the forefront of advertising in Australia and to revitalise the working environment for employees and clients, SDS undertook a series of ‘Workplace Change’ workshops, identifying areas that would improve the agency’s energy, morale, profile, and importantly, how they wanted to be perceived by others. The brief called for a design solution that would go even deeper and create cultural change.

‘Key to the Saatchi & Saatchi project was trying to provide a way to make the team feel organised and connected with one another,’ remarks William Smart, Director of Smart Design Studio. ‘We went through this with SDS a few years ago and we now host monthly talks with guest speakers and slideshows, and there is a very open-plan workspace with clear glass meeting rooms so we are all connected to the projects going on in the studio’.

In the new Saatchi & Saatchi workspace, desks incorporate pin boards and are coupled in bays matched with little round meeting tables, a great metaphor for an egalitarian work environment. Different levels of privacy are supported by partitions with breakout spaces so people can get away from their desk, but can also find privacy in another part of the office. By arranging desks and meeting rooms in the central parts of the building,  the best views are shared and there is a level of democratisation of real estate in the space.

‘It was important to give back to the people who are there from nine to five every day, and acknowledging that senior people are not at their desks all the time’, says Smart. ‘In the boardroom there is a curtain but it rarely gets drawn so you can see what’s going on. The other thing was to say to Saatchi, “You’re in the creative industry let’s show off all the work that’s not computer-based”. So now they have a creative studio environment that clients are invited into, it’s a way to see behind-the-scenes too’.

The interior’s chunky robust style and high-end details respond to the needs of the Saatchi team. The refurbishment incorporates technical advances including a digital lighting system and energy efficient heat-recovery AC that will connect with the Sydney Harbour heat exchange. To promote conversation with people who don’t usually work together, a café was created for internal and external meetings. ‘It’s another way of breaking down the silos that exist’, remarks Smart. ‘We tried to use all of those tools to change the work environment.’