Medibank to stay in Docklands
27 Mar 2012
Medibank managing director George Savvides didn’t make any friends in Docklands last September when his critical comments about aspects of our suburb received widespread media attention.
He said he was considering leaving Docklands because it was too sterile and did not offer enough greenery.
“No trees, no birds, no grass, a lack of community but a plethora of structures,” he complained at the time.
But rather than pack up and leave, Mr Savvides says he decided to become part of the solution by designing some “soul” into a new building for his organisation at 720 Bourke St.
Medibank has signed a ten-year lease on a 30,000 sqm, six-star green-star structure which will consolidate six Medibank businesses into a single location.
Mr Savvides said Docklands offered great functionality and the economics stacked up too.
“The issue around sterility was the weakness,” he said. “It’s all glass and steel and traffic jams and dusty pavements and cold, windy corridors.”
“But if you sit around and wait for someone else to solve the problem you just become part of the noise.”
He said the opportunity to start from scratch meant that the design process could be used “to build in the things that human beings appreciate and enjoy.”
“One of the advantages of talking to a developer who is building a property from zero is that you can influence the design so it has come of the characteristics that you value. So we’ve done that.”
“And the design meets all our functionality requirements but we’ll also be putting in an amenity for our staff and the public that will be appreciated as an attractive place – a place where they can enjoy some greenery and some real life.”
Mr Savvides said the ground floor of the new structure would be mostly a park and that greenery would also climb the walls of the building.
He said cyclists would be able to enter the building without dismounting and that the “activity-based work flow” would mean that people would not have offices as such.
“People sitting on their own in a box inside a building is no longer the future. If you are going to sit alone inside an office, you might as well work from home,” he said.
“Work is no longer the time you sit in the office, it is pretty much every time that you turn a device on. Offices are no longer places were work starts and finishes.”
Mr Savvides said the negative press which emanated from his comments last September was unfortunate and unintended.
“I think unfortunately those who are working hard and investing in making the precinct more attractive and successful got a bit of a punch below the belt and were rather wounded,” he said.
“In certain social settings I picked that up and I felt I might have been a bit of a lightning rod for some unfortunate criticism that came their way which wasn’t really intended. It was more about how to make it better.”
“We did look around. But it’s very hard to get large-plate footprints for 2000 people and, by the time we move, we will have 10 years of behavioural DNA around Southern Cross and public transport and location.”
“So in doing the evaluations we had options to go elsewhere – and they were very competitive.”
“The situation was that we could get an economic solution (in Docklands) and we could stay with the soulless problem, or we could be a contributor to a solution.”
“So we could tick the boxes on the commerciality but why don’t we contribute to something that’s got soul?”
“We couldn’t deny the commercial logic of being here. We just had to design it so that it became a place where we wanted to be more than anywhere else.”
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