Felicity Roocke joined global design practice, HASSELL early in 2012 to head up the interiors and workplace teams in the firm’s new London and Cardiff offices. We find out from her how things have been progressing since then, and hear about some of HASSELL’s exciting – and very different – workspace projects (think cycling up rather than up-cycling, and if that’s too cryptic, you’ll have to read on to solve the riddle!).

A respected public speaker on the subject, Felicity shares her expert opinions on the way our workplaces are exploding the boundaries of more rigid traditional forms to become much more fluid, inclusive and collaborative. She also touches on a fascinating project HASSELL is working on for Clerkenwell Design Week in London, which will examine the importance of stillness in a hectic world.

An avid traveller, Felicity was born in the exotic state of Queensland in Australia and came to live in the UK in 2001, initially working for the innovative ID:SR practice prior to joining HASSELL. She tells us what prompted the move half way around the globe 14 years ago, her adventures in Sweden (also involving cycling) and why she never needs an alarm clock when she goes home to sunny Queensland…

Firstly, we’d like to welcome you to our judging panel for Workspace Interiors in this year’s World Interiors News Awards. How did you come to know about the awards and what made you want to become involved?

Thank you, I’m very excited to be involved. Interior environments and inhabiting interior spaces is fundamentally part of everyone’s daily lives, so the focus on interior design and integrated design is really important. WIN highlights this and provides a platform that focuses on great interior design.

I’ve known about WAN and WIN since I first arrived in London and worked as a Design Director at ID:SR.

And three words summing up the qualities you’ll be looking for in the best submissions?

Engaging, narrative, different…challenging the norm. Apologies that’s more than three words! I’ll be looking out for inspirational design that engages with and enhances people’s general well-being, has a strong narrative, and is that little bit different.

You joined international Australian firm, HASSELL’s new London office in early 2012, and also lead the interior design team in the new Cardiff office. What are you working on at the moment?

We are working on a number of very exciting projects at HASSELL at the moment, from workplace to education, healthcare and residential schemes across a number of fully integrated disciplines from public realm to architecture and interiors.

I am currently working on the design of some progressive workplace projects in London, such as the headquarters of a leading UK broadcasting company, where we’ve used an urban realm approach to the planning of the workplace environments. In order to achieve that we’re looking at landmarks, nodal points and intuitive wayfinding to create a balanced mix of public and intimate working spaces within a building.

We were also involved with the Battersea PowerStation development project last year, as a workplace design advisor, reviewing the office component of the rich, mixed-use scheme. It’s a great iconic London landmark development to have been involved with.

One of our recent smaller projects is a residential penthouse for a private client at One Tower Bridge, which has spectacular views over London.

Do you have a favourite project since you joined, and what is it you like about it?

Yes, we have a major global HQ project, right in the heart of the West End of London. The historic site became a key part of the workplace design narrative, using subtle contextual references in the project. Critall-style partitions are placed throughout the workplace and black, hot-rolled steel finishes are used in cladding and joinery to mimic the wrought iron posts outside and also reflect the raw and refined nature of the company’s core business. I was very much hands-on for this first project, leading the design with a great team.

Has momentum been building up well in the London and Cardiff offices, and what changes have you seen over the last three years?

There have been some big changes for us in the UK and it has been both incredibly exciting and also challenging to help grow the business here. I joined the London studio - when we only had a handful of staff - to focus on Interior Design. Three years on we are about to relocate to a much larger studio space, as we have physically outgrown our Morelands Old Street studio. To be part of helping to establish the practice in the UK has been an exciting and rewarding experience.

You’ve previously commented that Queensland University of Technology, where you graduated in interior design, had a very ‘flat hierarchy’, where architects, landscape architects and interior designers all studied together. You’ve said that this same ethos applies to HASSELL and that your Managing Director is an interior designer (not an architect as one might assume). Do you think that this sense of equality can sometimes be lacking in the profession as a whole? Is there a certain snobbery that puts interior design lower down the food chain, and if so, how can this perception be altered?

At HASSELL we like design to be the focus, not the discipline. It gives a rich, interesting, diverse design approach when you have a mix of designers with different backgrounds all working together on a project. Design is transferable across a number of sectors and also disciplines and design outcomes can be so much more interesting when you are able to mix it up and collaborate together. For example, workplace and education projects are so similar and influence each other. We’re really excited by this cross-fertilization across sectors.

And yes, the UK market does tend to silo architecture from interiors and landscape architecture. Having an integrated design approach is of great benefit and added value to our clients, as we understand and influence design holistically from the inside and out.

A great deal is currently being said about the merits of creating workspaces that embrace collaboration. HASSELL has a strong reputation for designing such spaces, for example, dtac House in Bangkok where employees have a whole floor offering a running track, music stages, karaoke, and outdoor terraces in which to exchange ideas in a fun environment. While that sounds fantastic, do you think that in general there is perhaps a danger of neglecting to cater for those times (or personalities) where a focussed, quiet approach works best?

Creating workplaces that are tailored to the needs and the way an individual organisation works is key. We put a lot of energy into designing some very desirable, focused work settings for our clients that offer a wide variety of spaces, as we believe it is essential to create environments that are adjustable and respond to our clients’ business needs.

Most organisations generally need a variety of work settings to support the diversity of tasks during the working day. We like to think of our clients as co-collaborators in our design work and the design outcome fundamentally supports the way they work or would like to work.

We are currently doing some very interesting work in collaboration with Sto Werkstatt and Draisci Studio for Clerkenwell Design Week. The project is called “Hypnos: The architecture of sleep” and is a unique immersive environment that explores the benefits and pleasures of inactivity. In a climate where everyone is perpetually doing something, either on or offline: working, eating, drinking, tweeting, keeping-fit, and socialising; the exhibition will explore the architectural spaces needed for our physical and mental withdrawal.

the re-development of the site, and it’s a testament to his level headedness and good humour that he managed the process of working with his father in-law, brother in-law and wife!

You recently lectured at OnOffice magazine’s ‘Going Public’ event about the evolution of working practices in the 21st Century. What was the most important point you made (it can be more than one)?

Work is blurring into our daily lives. Mobile technology is allowing us to work anywhere at anytime. So workplaces are literally going public. Pushing the security lines and public realm further into commercial buildings, providing usable, co-working hubs, and shared workspace within and throughout commercial buildings - not just at street level - is something HASSELL is currently doing in Australia, as illustrated by our work for the bank, ANZ.

Another recent HASSELL project was for Medibank, a new-build workplace tower in the Melbourne CBD, allows you to ride your bike into the building through the front door and up a large featured sinuous blue bike ramp in the atrium. It celebrates the notion of staff health and well-being by encouraging cycling and making it a design statement rather than storing your bike in a dark basement with limited daylight, down a goods lift, in the bowels of a building.

And do you get a buzz from public speaking?

It is important to have a voice in the design landscape and I enjoy sharing and debating ideas with my peers and other key people in the industry. You never know when you’ll meet someone and that conversation leads to an interesting collaboration or sparks a new concept.

Prior to joining HASSELL, you worked for Sheppard Robson’s ID:SR Interiors on projects for a number of extremely high-profile media clients, including the BBC and Channel 4. Can you tell us a little about both of those projects, and what you enjoyed about them?

Both BBC and Channel 4 were fantastic clients to work with when I was a Design Director at ID:SR. We worked with them over a number of years on several projects.

Channel 4 has great brand values. E4’s “irreverent sense of humour”, and Channel 4’s “no brow” brand ethos were both fun to translate into a unique Channel 4 design narrative in its Horseferry Road HQ workplace.

The BBC’s John Peel Wing in Great Portland Place had interesting three sided, super thick, anti-reflective glass radio studios which were both technically challenging and interesting from a design and services viewpoint.

Winding back the clock to the very beginning of your story, where in Australia were you born, and what are some of your most vivid memories of the environment you grew up in?

I recently went back to Australia to visit my parents who live on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland. The sunlight and clarity of light, the glare and big skies you get in Queensland are very different to the UK. Local wildlife and the beautiful beaches are all part of vivid childhood memories. I’d forgotten you really don’t need an alarm clock living near the beach, the native birds and lorikeets will wake you up every morning!

What/who made you want to become an interior designer in the first place – where did that passion start?

It started quite young, building cubby houses for my siblings, and grew into something a bit more serious. Interior design, interior architecture, always seemed to hit the right balance as a professional career that also had a large amount of artistic inspiration and creative input. Having a job that is creative and involves creative collaboration has always been important to me.

You moved to London in 2001 – what brought you here?

I’ve always believed to be a good designer you need to travel and expose yourself to different cultures, cities, environments, thinking and concepts. Travel always provides me with inspiration, new ideas and a fresh approach, and living in London was a key part of that with its easy access to the rest of Europe.

Where do you think of most as home now, and whereabouts do you currently live?

Australia will always be my home but I’ve definitely adopted London as my second home over the last 14 years. I currently live in Muswell Hill, North London, which has a London village feel and is close to great outdoor spaces such as Highgate/Queens Wood and Alexandra Park.

And lastly, when you’re not busy designing, what other interests or hobbies might we find you enjoying?

I love reading a good book, or seeing a good film as downtime to a busy work life. My fiancé is Swedish so we travel to Stockholm in summer quite a bit and I love bike riding around the archipelago.

Gail Taylor


Img 1: ANZ Centre Atrium – Earl Carter
Img 2: Medibank – Earl Carter
Img 3: ANZ Centre Atrium – Earl Carter
Img 4: Medibank – Earl Carter
Img 5: .ING Offices – Grant Smith