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Variety of meeting options, dramatic staircases, and an emphasis on nature are all part of the new Mercury head office people-centric fit-out

31 Jul, 2019
A scissor stair reaches across the atrium divide architecture, building, commercial building, design, facade, home, house, interior design, lobby, mixed-use, property, real estate, shopping mall, gray, black
A scissor stair reaches across the atrium divide at Mercury's new offices designed by Warren and Mahoney.

When your firm's a trusted national renewable energy generator, total reliability and care for people is an unwritten part of your company agenda. It makes good sense, then, that these fundamental attributes are written into the very design and fabric of the workspace that you experience each day.

Mercury is a New Zealand energy provider generating 100% renewable energy. Undertaken by architectural firm Warren and Mahoney with senior associate and senior designer Holly Campbell at the helm, this project relocated and consolidated the company's 600 Auckland employees under one roof using an agile workstyle business model.

The key design principle for the workplace was Nature Mirrored – evoking the sense of a sustainable work environment, with wellbeing at its heart.

"The challenge was to connect all Mercury staff over levels three to five in the new Mercury Building," says Campbell. "In all, there are six floor plates situated over the three levels, which is divided by a central atrium."

The majority of staff workspaces could have activity-based principles applied, but the customer contact centre required dedicated technology within a homebase environment.

"Our focus was on ensuring the largest unit – the contact centre – was given an efficient and liberating experience. Contact centre employees have rostered breaks daily, which are at fixed times and staggered throughout the day. So, the contact centre's proximity to kitchen and staff amenities on the fourth floor social hub was crucial."


There are a number of formal and informal architecture, building, ceiling, floor, flooring, furniture, house, interior design, lobby, restaurant, room, black
There are a number of formal and informal meeting spaces on the top floor of Mercury's new head office, this one adjacent to the main boardroom directly across the atrium.

In terms of the bigger picture for the interior architecture and fit-out, Warren and Mahoney modified the base building by consolidating stair and offset bridge connections across the atrium. While this meant less stairways, those introduced by the architects are as dramatic as they are functional.

One is a complex scissor stair that provides vertical and horizontal links to support circulation and connect people over the upper level hubs. In terms of aesthetic impact, think an MC Escher drawing with stairs appearing to go nowhere – although here, they take you almost everywhere.

"Our scissor stair enhances the possibility of 'bump' meetings with colleagues, and integrates the contact centre on levels three and four with the social hub, which is also on the fourth level."

The grandstand stair in the Mercury offices fit-out architecture, building, ceiling, daylighting, design, house, interior design, lighting, line, lobby, stairs, wood, brown
The grandstand stair in the Mercury offices fit-out provides auditorium seating for the large-screen digital monitor below. The sculptural ceiling element directly overhead provides lighting and protection from solar gain from the atrium's glass ceiling, while also addressing acoustic dampening.

However, dramatic as this element is, the real showpiece is the large grandstand stair at the centre of the atrium that rises from the social hub to level five. The broad stair is as much auditorium seating as it is a thoroughfare. Staff can sit on the padded stairs to take in presentations on a large screen opposite the base of the stairs and above the main kitchen, which is the heart of the social hub.

"The grandstand stair was designed to bring everyone from Mercury’s Auckland teams together by creating a large AV-enabled, versatile and open space," says Campbell.

"In addition, staff at sites outside of Auckland can connect in to the space across their AV network."

"We wanted this central space to feel alive. The atrium showcases lively and dynamic activities, shared work zones, social areas and informal meeting spaces. These include digitally enabled booths, a variety of team and project spaces, drop-in work points and AV/VC meeting rooms – all of which further enable positive collaboration."

Mercury also has a project space that can be transformed into an emergency response area in the event of a civil defence or national emergency.

Following through on the Nature Mirrored theme, shared spaces on every floorplate are referred to as garden hubs, where plants are central to the ambience. Adding to the aesthetic impact, dichroic film cladding adorns the grandstand stair balustrading and pop-out boardroom on the top floor as a physical representation of energy. The light-catching film constantly changes colour through the day, mirroring the surrounding cityscape of Newmarket.

A light, natural palette of finishes contrasts with the pops of coloured film and complements the natural plantings. The flow of the floorplates is outlined by the floor finishes and enhanced by the organic forms of the meeting rooms and garden hubs.

Meeting rooms are clad in lightly stained timber or painted dowel rod, appearing like huts in the landscape. Wood fibre ceilings accent key shared areas – places to meet, focus and socialise. Plus comfortable booths and alternate work settings are dressed in soft tones and bright finishes, evoking a sense of spaciousness, calmness and energy.

Designed by Warren and Mahoney, Mercury's new offices architecture, building, ceiling, design, floor, flooring, headquarters, interior design, lobby, office, real estate, room, yellow
Designed by Warren and Mahoney, Mercury's new offices includes booth seating spaces and casual meeting space options. Natural plantings are integral to the look of the contemporary office environment, as seen in this garden hub with booths behind.

Branding overlay is subtly integrated into the fit-out with bold internal messaging and graphics.

Wellbeing is also at the heart of the Mercury work fit-out strategy, ensuring the health of all staff is supported by the environment. Plantings and greenery integrated throughout the modern work and social spaces contribute both physically and symbolically in promoting a healthy environment.

In fact, many aspects of the interior design address wellness directly.

Workstations and focus pods positioned around the perimeter maximise natural light and external views, while sit-to-stand work points and alternative work settings located around the open building core offer choice and the ability to move freely.

The flow of each space is designed to enable staff exploration and integration beyond just teams.

With plenty of connected and open-plan spaces,  clever balance of acoustic treatments throughout was a must – both to enable privacy when required and also to retain an overall energetic ambience.

The eye-catching bespoke ceiling feature above the grandstand staircase plays a part in this. As well as protecting from solar gain and concealing lighting and fire protection requirements, it also provides valuable strategic acoustic absorption.

Mercury's fourth-level social hub can cater for up to 300 at one time and has a mix of kitchen and café style seating areas.

The main kitchen is at the heart of the atrium adjacent to the grandstand seating; it is central, open and visible to everyone. The nearby cafe-style Museum kitchen has panoramic views of Auckland Domain and Museum, and offers a quieter, more reflective social space.

Reception for visitors operates on the ground floor within an interactive brand experience space. Upon arrival to the level five external visitors area, guests and visitors can access meeting rooms and circulate freely within this space.

The atrium edge, stairs and link bridges have balustrades in lieu of full height glazing. To reduce safety concerns, solid balustrades were used for the stairs at heights above the minimum NZBC code requirement. Also in the name of safety, the balustrades have angled surfaces to avoid objects being placed on them.

The Mercury fit-out's cafe-style kitchen has views to building, ceiling, design, dining room, flooring, furniture, interior design, lighting, restaurant, room, table, wallpaper, gray
The Mercury fit-out's cafe-style kitchen has views to the Domain and the Museum.

The base building is Green Star rated and Mercury's fit-out is also aligned to these principles.

This was achieved by sourcing sustainable materials at every turn – timber cladding and flooring feature throughout, as do recyclable woven vinyl flooring and carpets, and reconstituted wood fibre ceiling battens. Benchtop drinking water and water heating units, along with sensor-driven, energy efficient lighting were also specified in the design. The scattered planting and gardens throughout naturally enhance wellbeing while other healthy/green design initiatives are charging stations for electric cars and bikes and a high standard of end of trip facilities.

"The project is finished to the highest quality and has resulted in a premium feel that exceeded all expectations, despite an accelerated construction programme," says Campbell.

"The space reflects the curated design, bespoke detailing and craftsmanship that was encouraged by a thorough sampling process with suppliers and contractors, getting buy-in from all involved to produce their very best work.

"Plus, the investment in a raised access floor will allow for flexibility of technology or company growth in the years to come."

A core deliverable for the project was to create ‘brand buzz’, both within the workplace and brand showcase area and outwards to the surrounding area of Newmarket.

"The building itself is striking and the visibility into the dynamic atrium space gives a sense of the activity and energy within. The ‘lightning bolt’ of dichroic film across the grandstand stairs and boardroom pop-out is an affordable way to create a bold statement, widely visible across Newmarket."

The space provides an exciting environment for Mercury staff to work in as reflected in the energy provider's post-move, staff satisfaction survey.

Credit list

Project
Mercury Head Office, Newmarket
Fit-out
Alaska Interiors
Quantity surveyor
Barnes Beagley Doherr
Window/door hardware
Dormakaba Madinoz in Dulux Electro Dark Bronze
Blinds
SP Blinds
Wallcoverings/treatments
3M Dichroic Film, from Colourworx; Abodo Wood Rhombus Timber Cladding, from Retail Dimension; Cube Autex panels and Composition Acoustic Panels, from SCE Stone
Paints
Resene Rice Cake, Resene Powder Blue, Resene Whirlwind, Resene Wild Thing
Atrium
Decortech Multigroove Panels, Custom Autex Cube wrapped rods in custom suspension system by Apex Interiors, lights by JSB Lighting
Chairs
Herman Miller, from Unison Workspaces; Vitra Softshell, from Cite
Boardroom/main meeting room tables
Smartspace, with Lamitak Laminate
Additional furniture
Baker Stools; IMO A2 Stools; Smartspace Focus Pods; Realm Pods and Field Seating, from Fletcher Systems
Kitchen equipment
Billi Quadra Sparkling Plus, by Merquip; Noel Leeming Commercial
Planting and frames
Greenair
Interior design
Warren and Mahoney Architects
Mechanical and electrical engineers
Agile Engineering Consultants
Fire consultant
Crossfire
Partitioning system
Potters Interior Systems in Dulux Electro Dark Bronze
Flooring
Tate Raised Access Floor, from Cemac; Bolon Artisan & Botanic Woven Vinyl, from Andrews Group; Modulyss Millenium Nxtgen Carpet Tiles, from Heritage Carpets; Ultra Oak Engineered Plank Flooring, from Forte Flooring
Ceiling panels
Heradesign Baffle Basic in custom suspension system by Apex Interiors, from Potters Interiors; Heradesign Superfine Tiles, from Potters Interior SystemsVeneers Prime Melamine Premium Oak, from Prime Panels
Lighting
Simon James; JSB Lighting; CGI Electrical
Workstations
Rubix Electric Sit-to-Stand Workstations and Okidoki Workstations, both from Smartspace
Collaboration booths
Prime Melamine Premium Oak and Kvadrat Maharam Fabric, by Retail Dimension
Cafe furniture
Vidak Bolero Chairs and Stools; Vitra Bistro Tables, from Cite; Ton Diner Booth seating, from Statement ID; Stork Leaners, from Aspect Interiors
Outdoor furniture
Custom outdoor booths, from Statement ID; Vitra Bistro Tables and Actiu Wing Chairs, from CiteKitchen benchtops Caesarstone Fresh Concrete and Solid Surface Real White teapoint benchtops by Laminex
Lockers
Smartalock in Prime Melamine Premium Oak Prime Panels, or Prime Laminate Soft-Matt Surrender Prime Panels, from Smartspace
Garden hubs and planter boxes
Aged Bronze Finish, from Retail Dimension