Clemenger BBDO

Clemenger BBDO - St Kilda Road, Melbourne
Advertising group Clemenger BBDO’s headquarters in St Kilda Road, Melbourne, has been refurbished a number of times since it was first built in the late 1970s. Spread over three levels, with a dramatic atrium, the requirements this time around was not space but strengthening the connections to the various ‘arms’ within this organisation. “Our brief was to locate the ‘suits’, the account managers, on the top floor and bring together creative and planning people on the middle level,” says architect Ed Glenn, director of Powell and Glenn, who worked closely with interior designer Jessica Zbornik and project architect Mark Trueman. Lighting designer Stephen Hennessy also collaborated with the architects.

One of the core hubs at Clemenger BBDO is the café located on the middle level. Previously carved up with offices, this vital nook has been opened up to the atrium. A new café, called the ‘Hat Shop’, formed part of the renovation. “The first Clemenger office was above a hat shop in the city,” says Glenn, pointing out the hatted mannequins displayed on the kitchen shelves.

Level two underwent the most significant changes. Previously open plan, there was little demarcation between creative groups. This area has now been loosely divided into three sections. The first area comprises black-framed steel-and-glass-enclosed offices with a mirrored wall. The second area, the central core, is bordered with a rendered masonry wall, while the third zone features floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. “A few simple elements enable spaces to be defined, while still allowing for transparency,” says Glenn, who enjoys seeing the reflection of people through the mirrored wall, magnifying as well as animating all of the spaces. “It does have a sense of a stage set, but specifically directed to the workings of an advertising agency,” he adds.

One of the most challenging aspects in refurbishing the 3000m² office space was ensuring that staff could remain working on the premises throughout the entire duration of the project. “The development was strategically staged, with people simply having to move to another work station on either the same level, or nearby,” says Matt Assouad, Project Manager at Project Group.

One of the most coveted spaces in the latest refit is the outdoor, and completely detached pavilion. Comprising two meeting areas, the simple rendered pavilion presents as a folly on the office grounds. “Previously, the creative department left the premises to find solace. They’d often go to places such as the National Gallery of Victoria, or even as far as the Heidi Museum of Modern Art in Bulleen,” says Glenn, who came up with the idea of a separate pavilion to satisfy the need for complete privacy at all times. Not surprisingly, it is one of the most solidly booked venues. Along with the pavilion came a new deck, combined with a soccer/basketball court for staff to use between work times. “Previously, this outdoor area was almost a wasteland, a place where smokers went,” says Glenn, who is delighted to see the outdoor space reinvigorated. “You often see people catching up on the deck to discuss ideas while shooting a hoop,” he adds.

While staff has long forgotten the challenges of the refurbishment, including craning materials onto the deck to build the detached studio, Assouad clearly recalls the 56 bins that were filled to the brim over a four-day period. “We removed five tonnes of material.” As complicated was the building and waterproofing of the curved walls of the studio, constructed in Hebel block work with interior walls featuring hand-applied finishes to create a rich patina, particularly on walls. “It was one of those labour-intensive projects,” adds Assouad.