Working with Hummingbird House


The founders of Queensland’s first children’s hospice invited us to connect with the Queensland Kids Community for the design of Hummingbird House.


Together with ThomsonAdsett, the designers of Hummingbird House, we hosted a series of workshops in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne to gain invaluable insights into the lives of those affected by terminal illness. We opened conversation with the families of sick children and involved them in the design process.


We also invited other key stakeholders, such as the clinical experts and hospice staff, to discuss their experiences – and visited two other kids’ hospices to learn from their wisdom and build on their best practices.


We then articulated the community’s wishes in a comprehensive brief for the community leaders and their architect.


As a result, we have helped bring families, facility users and designers closer together and have given a voice to those with expertise in caring for sick kids.







Other current projects


The Endodontic Group, Indooroopilly, Brisbane


We were hired by this specialist dental practice to help create a safe, nurturing and natural environment that would put patients at ease. We began by mapping out the patient journey and identifying key interaction points that could be used as a focus for our design. We also spoke to various staff members to gain a thorough understanding of how the space needed to function.


We concluded that the right environment would be multi-layered; clinical and functional, but also rich with experiences that activate all the five senses. Natural elements, such as stone, timber and plants, create a sensory connection to nature, and a dark colour scheme is soothing and relaxing. Finally, to bring endodontists and their patients closer together, we found ways to reflect their individual personalities through artworks and furnishings.



The Head Office


We have recently been appointed by Left Field Consulting, a workplace psychology firm looking to design their new venture. The Head Office will host their workshops and showcase spaces that stimulate mindfulness and creativity.


We are currently exploring how environments can create various states of mind – and will be working with interior designer Kasia Jarosz to create exemplary design.



Australian Catholic University Library


Working with ThomsonAdsett architects, we are part of the winning bid to undertake the Library project at the Australian Catholic University, at Banyo, Brisbane. We will design and host a series of workshops with the university’s community of stakeholders, such as students, employees, academics and administration.






NOTE: The underlined names in paragraph four denote hypertext links to the relevant case studies.




We’re adding a community focus


Surroundings is extending its focus on human-centred design with the launch of Community – a specialist consultancy that sits alongside its residential equivalent, HOME.


Surroundings Community will specialise in the business-to-business market, working with both designers and owners on everything from small business ventures to large-scale community projects.


Human-centred design is about designing projects around a set of human experiences and rituals – ensuring buildings meet the needs of both their inhabitants and the greater community.


Surroundings Community has been appointed by high-profile clients – such as Hummingbird House and the Australian Catholic University – to facilitate and run community workshops that help people clarify, articulate and realise their ideal environments.


We specialize in managing the complexities of a large building project, and make everything as simple as possible from the outset. As our new name suggests, we help bring the community together and provide a clear, objective design direction for the future.





Our methods


We’re in the business of starting conversations. Our workshops inspire stakeholders to discuss ideas, viewpoints and experiences – creating a culture of trust and inclusion between the community, design team and project owners. Here’s how we can make a difference:


• Traditional community consultation involves tabling a concept or idea for support and agreement. We’d rather involve the community at the idea generation phase – so our workshops and surveys happen much earlier. We collaborate with the community to explore and generate ideas, which are then processed by the design team into an early project brief.


• In a workshop setting, we bring clients, designers and the community to a shared table and facilitate a series of exercises to generate ideas that capture the diversity of the community. The interactive exercises are carefully designed to invite self-reflection and guide each individual to share their personal thoughts.


• Our exercises harness different learning modalities and support each individual, be they a visual, auditory or tactile learner. We trigger a sense of ‘play’ through the use of games and drawing – moving our participants into an open creative mindset, where they respond through intuition as well as thought. This intuitive-creative state often finds our participants learning about themselves and discovering preferences they were unaware they had.


• Our workshop sees each participant move through each exercise as an individual; this way it can be a true reflection of their unique self. We share at the end of each exercise in a controlled format. The sum of the day is a series of around forty personal insights shared side by side, with each person leaving with the imprint of the group’s collective thoughts.


• The workshop design excludes any synthesis, patterning or organisation of the insights during the session. This allows us to gather ideas from the community in a convivial way, without promising things that may not be feasible, or asking the community to form agreements which may cause disruption.


• After each session, there is a debrief with Surroundings, the specialist design team from ThomsonAdsett and the client (when available) to capture our ‘response’ on what insights we will take forward and integrate into the concept design.


• By sharing personal ideas and thoughts, a quick and deep intimacy is formed in the group, as well as a trust in the designers and clients at the table. We liken it to breaking bread together, and this is the reason we cap the numbers at nine for the table. We have found that this deep trust is weakened beyond that number.


• A designer is present to listen to each person’s deep personal experiences – ensuring that everyone feels truly consulted and heard. By using exercises, open questions and idea generation, we take it beyond the anticipated question and answer format, allowing us to conducta comprehensive consultation that is not restricted by the design of the questions.


By removing the synthesis, group work and need for agreement – and adding a fantasy element to the format – we can harness a wider collection of ideas without committing to specific design outcomes. Not all ideas are implemented, but the process helps to shape and discover best value. These wider ideas deliver innovation opportunities.