The MLC Campus is an icon in its own right; once the largest commercial building in Australia and start of the new Central Business District that is now North Sydney. This defining building was designed by Bates Smart Architects and opened in 1957 by Prime Minister Menzies to great fanfare.
MLC has always embodied a culture of cutting-edge innovation, derived from James P Garvan, the founding father of the organisation in 1887. Garvan's vision brought life insurance to the masses, it was no longer limited to society’s elite, this sense of frontier-style thinking continues to this day and is very much aligned to Australian popular culture. MLC not only took on the English financial institutions back in the day, but was a foundation block of Martin Place in Sydney’s CBD and key to establishing North Sydney's CBD. MLC is inherently a patron of modernist architecture, a leader of innovative financial investment products and a champion of modern work place culture.
In 2000, Bligh Voller Neild Architects introduced glass stairwells through the centre of the building to facilitate vertical pedestrian traffic between floors. The architects also introduced the integration of completely 'themed' floors, an innovation of work place environments. Each floor is an extremely different experience, which is refreshing when in such a large building (25,000SqM over 12 floors). Many have attempted to copy this formula with varying degrees of success compared to MLC.
2012 marked the 125th Anniversary of MLC and this coincided with the refurbishment of the building by Woods Bagot Architects. To celebrate this momentous occasion, CEO Steve Tucker chose to acknowledge the importance of the organisation’s heritage. Several individuals were empowered with the challenge and undertook a study tour of other leading workplaces to determine the best practice approach to creating a strong brand culture.
Woods Bagot recommended BrandCulture to the MLC study tour team for our environmental graphics heritage work for Sydney Water, Westfield and George Weston Foods. We were immediately engaged and underway on one of our most impressive projects to date.
The basement of the MLC campus headquarters housed the archives since the company’s inception and before... It was hard to fathom just how much information was stored there. Our team consisting of a content producer, photographer, designer and writer spent three continuous weeks establishing the MLC 'blood line' story.
The two stairwells traverse the height of the building; one is essentially a glass box and the other is open with glass floors. With both stairwells you can look up or down through the building with uninterrupted views but for the stairs. These became the canvas for us to tell the MLC story with a continuous glass wall, 30 metres high by 7 metres wide (approximately 210 Square metres of surface area).
At MLC, there are many key people who believe in creating a better brand culture. We collaborated closely with them to define the MLC story. During the project, the 125th Anniversary book (Bounce Books) was underway and a short movie (Solid state) was also produced, for the yearly financial advisers’ meeting in November 2012.
Each floor was re-themed using modern vernacular and the interiors were modernised. There was no need to reinvent the floor themes, just to evolve these very well liked and lived in concepts. Wood Bagot created another world leading environment and Built was engaged to realise the overall vision for the MLC campus. BrandCulture consulted with Woods Bagot and MLC on the best way to interpret the MLC Heritage story using environmental graphics.
A gallery-style design treatment, for the environmental graphics, was decided on for its ability to flow through the diverse visual language of each floor and remain a 'piece' on its own. The main visual narrative applies to one side of the 30 metre high glass wall with information to add context while navigating the stairs, but not to hinder traffic flow. On the office side, the stories are elaborated on and relate to the many images. The history has three main story lines: MLC, Australia's financial industry and defining moments in world history that changed the way we live.
The glass stairwell was built 12 years earlier, so consideration to the application of graphics to the existing structure required innovative and safe thinking. The film itself is a sustainable polyester based material that is optically clear and has a 'hard' surface. Black and white inks were printed/backed on using Ultra Violet (UV) heat lamps. This process of transferring images to film does not use solvents and the biodegradable polyester film is more environmentally friendly over using PVC-based vinyls.
We track sustainability three ways: working efficiently whilst being conscious of our carbon footprint at every opportunity, specifying sustainable materials in addition to maintaining ethical work practices in the production of our branded environments and, finally, creating designs that can last for years; ideally the duration of the interior fitout.
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