Sparke Helmore Lawyers

Project Type:

New Canberra Office space


L7, 224 Bunda Street, Canberra ACT



Sparke Helmore are a well-respected, nationwide, proudly Australian law firm with multiple locations across the continent. CIA Designs were very early on, in a strategic manner to explore what Design Standards reflective of the dynamic culture & values of the organization should be adopted across their multiple locations in Australia.

The first location which was used as the “pilot” project for such standards was their Canberra Workplace. This was seen as a great flagship to test and explore the organization and how both the evolution of their working culture and style as influenced by the many years of experience alongside the obvious influences. The goal was to create a set of workplace standards which, whilst being flexible, could also be adapted to cater for the nuances specific to each unique location. The pilot project also occurred at an opportune time as the organization, like many other organizations, was trying to understand the impacts of the COVID pandemic on how they came together as a team and further embraced the hybrid of working from home, the office and also navigating the challenges of the court systems, their new requirements. One of the biggest decisions made to embrace the new work from home approach was to incorporate a duo office.

As part of our Strategy process of “Analyse, Strategise, Test” CIA first embarked on the explorative Analysis phase and looked deeply into the operations and cultural nuances of the organization and specifically the Canberra location. Being located in Canberra meant there was a dynamic mix of “FIFO” lawyers coming in for specific government secondments and more permanent staff who were doing a mix of working from home and the office. The teams were yearning for some interactive team spaces to try to re-connect. Furthermore there was a need to have a Client space that incorporated a café & connected to the transformative meeting environments. The dynamic space is one which can all be opened up and used as a client function space yet also broken down into either a larger meeting space or further to 2 small meeting spaces. The space is a nice “surprise” as you wrap around the curves that connect to the reception and waiting areas.

A key element in the design is the incorporation of curves that connect to the inherent architectural features of the cornerstones of the building. It was a natural design decision to replicate and accentuate these circular features internally and are used as the main reception & meeting spaces and also the corner team hubs of the building.

The overarching design aesthetic of the space was to have a materiality that respected the longevity of the organization yet also reflected the innovative nature of the staff. To achieve this the mix of materials is based on Classic materials detailed in a modern manner. For example, the cabinetry hardware is a bronze finish yet the style of the hardware has a modern edge. The reception counter shape is a curved, monolithic shape with a natural, marble stone top. Of further importance was to represent the Sparke Helmore Brand focus of being proudly Australian. To achieve this, native gum timbers were incorporated along with colours that reflect the vast Australian landscape.

To promote staff to come together and actually have a lunch break (something they were struggling to do in their existing space) the spacial decision was made to have an internalized breakout and kitchen space. This decision was key, as it positioned the space close to the lifts and also the amenities. The belief was that by doing so, staff had no choice but to walk past such a space on the way to and from their office. This promoted incidental interaction and was the opposite to their previous space which was tucked far back in the office. The warm & calming finishes give a sense of relaxation and this combined with the introduction of natural elements via the ceiling mounted plants makes the space a welcome re-charge zone and a break away from their hectic work commitments.

The outcome of the new space for Sparke Helmore in Canberra is one which has set the benchmark for all their future spaces across Australia. The space marries their strength and longevity with their innovative & vibrant staff effortlessly and seamlessly.