Sydney Water Head Quarters

  • Interior Design
  • Sydney
Sydney Water reception with mural

New interiors at Sydney Water HQ support unity and collaboration

Sydney Water commissioned the Group GSA Interiors team to rejuvenate the working environment of their 14 floor Parramatta headquarters, housing 1,000 employees.  The goal was to recalibrate how their staff work together and cut through silos to create a more seamless, collaborative and integrated workspace. The Group GSA team reimagined an interior to support unity and collaboration across the workplace. The extensive stakeholder engagement process unearthed a fresh concept inspired by natural watering holes or billabongs.

The Group
Client: Sydney Water
Studios: Sydney, Australia
The Team:

The billabong concept permeates every aspect of the project.

“In nature, watering holes play a pivotal role in facilitating gathering, nourishment, community and renewal. Our interior design endeavors to echo those functions,” says GroupGSA Workplace Interior Design Lead, Amanda Ly.  It represents a sanctuary amidst disruption and environmental changes. Crucially, the watering hole is the connection between land and water.

The concept is realised through the application of color-blocking in their tea points and meeting spaces to encourage their employees into these centralised social or collaborative areas. Drawing inspiration from the hues of natural watering holes, shades of blue and green are infused into the design. Deeper tones are concentrated in the central collaborative spaces on each floor, gradually transitioning into lighter shades towards the periphery.

“This approach not only reflects the ripple effect of a watering hole, it also serves as a consistent wayfinding element replicated throughout all floors,” Amanda says.

GroupGSA Principal, Liam Higginbotham, summarised the design team’s response, “We have reimagined the existing workplace model to encourage cross-pollination among all the business units and foster a stronger sense of community, while accommodating the technical infrastructure necessary for a business of this magnitude.”

Sydney Water’s openness to change allowed a break with tradition.

This openness allowed GroupGSA’s Workplace Interior Design team to revolutionise the conventional cubicle-dominated floorplan in favor of expansive open-plan spaces.  Liam says “The proportion of floorspace dedicated to community and collaboration far exceeds what is typically seen in traditional workplace layouts. Our design rejuvenates the building and offers compelling attractions to appeal to a contemporary workforce.”

Areas feature a versatile array of furnishings for informal collaboration booths, lounges and high seating – catering to various work styles and events. Individual workstations are also available for more focused tasks. One floor is entirely dedicated to collaboration, and contains a “spine” of highly customizable, agile working spaces that can be arranged for multiple requirements.

There is a floor designated for employee wellbeing — an inviting space for staff to unwind, recharge and socialise. Liam emphasises the significance of these initiatives to enhance staff retention and recruitment. The design includes a wellness room equipped with yoga amenities, a games room featuring stadium-style seating, and specially designated areas for prayer and parenting needs. Thoughtfully crafted spaces, including rooms with soft furnishings and adjustable lighting, cater to the requirements of neurodivergent employees.

This innovative approach extends beyond the headquarters to satellite depot sites, fostering a cohesive work environment.

Provisions are also made for training rooms, client meeting spaces, and utility areas for uniform storage and equipment essential for off-site staff.

Reimagining existing materials

GroupGSA’s interior design prioritised retaining and/or reimagining existing fit-out elements where feasible. At the outset of the design process, we conducted a comprehensive audit to identify suitable components for reuse.

These included restoring and reposing wood panelling, once a highlight of the building’s original interiors, and anodised-metal skirting boards.  Existing doors were meticulously removed during demolition, refurbished with a fresh coat of paint, and reinstated in rooms in the newly built environment. Ceiling panels remained largely untouched. Close coordination with the lighting designer ensured new light fittings complemented the existing cutouts seamlessly. Additionally, a furniture audit was conducted to maximize the reuse of existing pieces wherever feasible.

Erik Enstrom, GroupGSA Workplace Project Coordinator, describes the outcome as “seamless” and achieving a harmonious integration of old and new aesthetics.

Maintaining workplace efficiency

The Sydney Water office includes a 24/7 emergency call centre and other vital operations that require uninterrupted service delivery. To accommodate this, GroupGSA staged the rollout of the interior design across three distinct phases — ensuring operational efficiency was maintained for the project duration.

The outcome

A contemporary and collaborative workspace signalling a new chapter for Sydney Water’s employees, partners and community. By merging sustainability with innovation, GroupGSA revitalised the physical environment to cultivate a culture of connectivity and productivity.

Get in touch

Liam Higginbotham Principal

Liam is the Principal and leader of the national Interior Design team. He is a leader and a catalyst for innovation. He motivates and inspires project teams, drives strategic thinking, and influences design culture. Liam collaborates with diverse talent across the practice to bring the best design thinking and innovation to life through his role as a facilitator of knowledge and research.

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