Surry Hills is a village tuned in to the latest trends, lined with cafés and curated shops. One of its landmarks is a row of buildings— formerly owned by Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox—that were considered icons of Australian film culture through the early 1970s. In the days before the internet, people passing by on the street would look up at the beautiful brick buildings and envision Hollywood glamour. However, more than thirty years after the two companies left the town, the tenants continued to struggle.
The once ill-fated building has since been revived as Paramount House, a mixed-use facility that fosters a local creative community, through the work of Right Angle Studios, the developer and consulting agency responsible for the new design. Reflecting on past businesses that failed to take root in the community, Right Angle was careful in choosing each new tenant: a café, a cinema, a bar, a sports club, and a co-working space. “This is quite unusual in Australia,“ says Barrie Barton, the director of Right Angle Studio. “Usually there is a big rush, so all the new tenants start at once.”
The first tenant chosen was Paramount Coffee Project. Barton was convinced that serving quality coffee would create a new community and lead to a chain of success, because, as he says, “Surry Hills people drink coffee every day.” Gauging a tenant’s willingness to cooperate was also key. Many people create their own communities within the building, and Barton actively pursued businesses that were enthusiastic about sharing space and creating friendly relationships. The eight years it took to fill all the spaces has proved worth the trouble—each tenant has successfully integrated into the town.
Exterior of Paramount House seen in the far right of the image. The Art Deco building was previously the Australian headquarters of Paramount Pictures.
Barton believes that Sydney’s lack of public transportation makes it unfriendly to travelers, remarking that “there’s no Yamanote line.” People who visit Paramount House also tend to live nearby. These neighbors live in the same area as the building: postcode 2010. Surry Hills is one of the most densely populated areas in Australia, home to many young, single people who work in central Sydney, which is a mere five-minute walk away. They’re always looking for new and interesting things to do, so it’s only natural that they set their eyes on Paramount House. Companies like Paramount House—community oriented and with a strong sense of responsibility toward the local area—share values important to Millennials.
“The older generations, maybe fifty-five and older, are very different than the younger generation. The younger generations have always had the internet, and they understand the relationship between them and other people as a community, whether through Facebook or Instagram. They want to express their values on climate change or gay marriage.” says Barton.
Millennials’ values are reflected in each workspace. They aren’t satisfied with just a place to work in. Naomi Tosic, the founder of The Office Space, the company responsible for the co-working space in Paramount House, describes coming to work as “the new church.”
She says, “People want the spiritual and they want the community, so I think we’re elevating to meet those needs.” This generation is eager for human interaction, preferring movie theaters to Netflix and cafés over UberEats. The interior design is neutral and sophisticated so as not to interfere with those interactions.
Today, Right Angle Studio is receiving a steady stream of office-design requests from large corporations, which tend to be conservative and are looking for outside influences for new work environments that can attract younger people. “Our clients take advice from lots of different types of consultants. We are unusual consultants. We have learned through watching people in the building, a different way of thinking about what people need. We are just a very small niche advisor to them, but because we are small we can provide unexpected, brave, different ideas,” says Barton.
Right Angle Studio
The Office Space
photo: Hirotaka Hashimoto
From WORKSIGHT 16（2020.7）