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A render of three floors of Hub Martin Place. There is a long staircase, and people working in offices and at desks.

The art of workplace design: How Hassell crafts authentic spaces for human connection

Prior to opening the doors of Hub Martin Place, we sat down with Hassell — the design firm behind our new workspace — to chat about the process of creating workplaces made for fostering connections.

Despite some common conceptions about interior design, architects and designers never make design choices based on pure aesthetics alone. Domino Risch, principal and commercial & workplace sector co-leader at award-winning design firm Hassell, says the design process is really all about creating a space that feels both authentic and purposeful for people to connect with each other.

“When we design a workplace, we try to align the approach with what our clients are trying to achieve for the users of the space, and what the building or site suggests is an appropriate response,” Risch says. “It should serve all of the traditional functions of a contemporary workspace, but also be warm and welcoming in new ways. What we do as designers is make choices through design that hopefully make people really want to be in the space, because it offers more than their home or other third spaces do,” Risch says. 



Hassell has been an industry leader for over 80 years, founded in 1938 in Adelaide. It’s now an international design firm with nine studios across the globe and over 750 staff, specialising in architecture, landscape architecture, interior design, and design strategy.

The team at Hassell has worked on many projects with Hub over the years, each time breathing new life into commercial and heritage buildings across the country. The success of each project has ultimately come down to the strong relationship built between Hassell and Hub.

From the firm’s first project with Hub in 2013, which was worlds apart in design and execution from this new clubhouse at the recently re-lifed heritage gem at 44 Martin Place, the process of working together to create great places for Hub members and their businesses to grow has remained much the same.

“It all centres around the location of the site — the building and the precinct around the area is critical in shaping the personality of each clubhouse,” Risch explains. “Hub Martin Place is located right in the beating heart of the CBD, set in a beautiful sandstone building full of heritage and history. It all starts there.”  

Originally completed in 1938, the building at 44 Martin Place is one of the finest remaining Australian examples of the inter-war Art Deco period and features strong Egyptian influences, relief sculpture, the famous MLC clock tower, and Sydney sandstone.


A photo of the outside of Hub Martin Place. There is a walkway and a shot of the Rolex store.


It was originally named after the first occupants — Mutual Life & Citizens Assurance Company — and has recently undergone a considered base building refurbishment (also by Hassell), taking the bones of its early Art Deco style and elevating them using luxury materials like brass, bronze, granite, and marble.  

Simone Daly-Sorokowski, design leader for the project and Associate at Hassell, approached the design of the space by drawing on the heritage language of the building itself.

“There’s the striking sandstone façade and street level base of red rose granite that the building sits on,” Daly-Sorokowski says. “We’ve taken cues from that red and the iconic urban context of Martin Place, and used it throughout the space to connect the old to the new, and build a strong relationship between the inside and outside of the building.”


The interior at Hub Martin Place. There are checked green and red tiles, and a lobby area in a heritage style.


Red-stained bamboo entrances to the office suites, deep red leather seating, an exposed waffle grid ceiling, and a glossy red-tiled aperitivo bar reminiscent of a whisky lounge evoke an invitation to escape the busy city rush, with spaces for dwelling, gathering, and passing through.

Think hotel bar rather than your everyday café, enveloped in luxury. This move towards a hospitality-centred offering in the workplace is a hallmark of Hub clubhouses, where members connect and collaborate with each other and their guests over a coffee, or perhaps something more refreshing.



“The very nature of how we work has changed, and people are now choosing to come into the office to connect with each other,” Risch says. “It’s this social energy and building connections with each other that sometimes doesn’t feel like traditional ‘work’ or productivity that is crucial to the success of every organisation. That’s why we put so much energy and thought into these spaces where people bump into each other or sit and have a conversation.” 

Sustainability is, of course, considered throughout. Though bamboo does have an aesthetic appeal, it was also selected because of how fast-growing and sustainable it is as a natural resource. Opting for a timber frame instead of aluminium means higher carbon offsets and less embodied energy use, given it’s a renewable resource. 

“In the day and age we’re in now, we need to be renewing and refurbishing our buildings instead of knocking them down and rebuilding,” Risch explains. “We need to make the best of what we have and give them a second life, instead of starting from scratch and putting everything into landfill every time. Hub Martin Place is a brilliant example of how to authentically breathe new life and purpose into a beautiful heritage building that sits in the heart of Sydney.”

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