For celebrated Sydney architect Joe Snell, transforming the headquarters of the Mamamia publishing empire is a lesson in the power of good office design.
Words by Neha Kale
Joe Snell is a believer in the relationship between good design and positive energy. The award-winning architect, who studied at Copenhagen’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts and serves as a judge on home renovation show House Rules, says that the right design elements can transform the way we feel in certain spaces.
“I think society has forgotten how important the built environment is when it comes to how we feel,” he says. “The space you inhabit affects your mood. If you’re sitting in an air-conditioned, badly lit space and there’s no inspiration around you and it’s not reflecting your creative culture than what’s the point?”
Recently, a collaboration with media powerhouse Mia Freedman allowed Snell to test this theory. Earlier this year, the founder of popular women’s website Mamamia as well as sister sites The Glow and iVillage asked Snell to redesign her team’s Sydney headquarters to better reflect the company’s evolution and growth.
“Mia came across another project that I had delivered for an advertising agency in the same building and asked me to work on her office,” he explains.“Mamamia is growing fast, so I worked really closely with them to understand how they’re going to grow, and what that meant for the office layout. Mia is a force of nature, and when I was listening to her I realised that she needed an uplifting space. When you walk into that office, there are TVs, conversations and post-it notes everywhere. I wanted to create an environment that represented that energy.”
For Snell, transforming the office – which features high ceilings, columns and classic timber flooring – called for clever use of colour and breakout spaces modeled on indoor greenhouses. Elements such as a yellow table and bench from NOMI’s Dove range create the flexibility essential for accommodating growth.
What I loved about NOMI was I could customise the furniture to create that energy I was looking for
“I used a lot of neon colours such as yellow, green and blue to create definition,” he explains. “I also used greenhouses that serve as rooms within rooms and provide different areas for staff to hang out in. The injection of the greenhouses add a bit of fun and reflect the forward-thinking, alternative nature of the company.”
Snell conceived and installed a separation device made out of colourful tubes to introduce borders between zones and embody the organisation’s spirit. It’s also his proudest achievement which makes this office design unique.
“Instead of building a wall, I introduced a separation device made out of colourful tubes that resemble billowing fabric – it sways in and sways out, there’s a softness to it and your perspective of it changes depending on where you are in the office,” says Snell, who detailed the device after lengthy research. “Mamamia is a disruptive company and there isn’t an aspect of the office design that’s conformist. At the same time, it’s functional and allows everyone to work and produce.”