GridAKL at the Wynyard Quarter Innovation Precinct is being crafted with Auckland’s vision in mind of becoming a major innovation hub of the Asia-Pacific.
When all three buildings are complete (with co-working building Madden St opening imminent), it will cover around 48,000 square metres of space, catering to a range of businesses, from start-ups to large corporates.
But in order to meet that goal, there was a need for cutting-edge design that would allow for creativity and collaboration between the different businesses occupying GridAKL.
As well as this, the design needed to be flexible enough to adjust to the future of work and any further changes technology may bring.
The various organisations helping make this a reality are Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic (ATEED), which is responsible for facilitating the strategic development of GridAKL on behalf of Auckland Council, architects Warren and Mahoney, which has developed the exterior of the GridAKL buildings, Precinct Properties, which is the developer and owner of the new 12 Madden St building, and Jasmax, which designed the building’s interior.
Below, we take a closer look inside and outside of the new Madden St coworking building with the design minds that created the look and feel of it.
Jasmax was responsible for the interior design of the buildings, while Warren and Mahoney created the outer shell.
Jasmax principal Alasdair Hood says the biggest shift in interior design that’s happened in the last decade is how technology has impacted the workplace and made coworking take off.
“A decade or so ago, when groups of people within an organisation needed to move, typically desks and chairs and computers and fixed infrastructure was moved as well – people moved with the amenity they owned,” Hood says.
“Today, we’re seeing a big shift in that interior environment. They’re typically really static – the furniture itself very rarely moves, it’s the people that are moving around. In any given day, you might be working in two to three different environments in a coworking space. That’s how design is facilitating that.”
This is the case with the 12 Madden Street building, he says.
The building's floor plates have taken inspiration from the wider Wynyard Quarter development’s laneways, with a central thoroughfare running through the middle of each floor with amenities such as kitchen and printing rooms connected to it.
This laneway space on each level also features tables, stools and chairs to create “collision spaces” where people can bump into each other and cross pollinate ideas when they’re moving around the centre of the building.
“That underpins the coworking philosophy of connectivity, collaboration and idea sharing, as people are all interconnected in the space,” he says.
Jasmax project designer Mel Kassian, who worked on the building’s design, says each floor has a different theme, or identity rather than using a colour to differentiate between them.
The ground floor is inspired by a marketplace in a town square, while level one is like a workshop or studio, level two is the ‘home’ as it features the staff kitchen, while level three is the rooftop garden.
Ways the interior has been tied into these ideas include the standalone pods on the ground floor that act as meeting room spaces being made out of timber cladding and resembling market stalls, while on level three’s rooftop garden, the carpet tiles have been made to look like pavers.
“We wanted to bring a bit more identity and personality to it than what you’d find in a typical corporate space and drawing on hospitality trends as opposed to corporate trends,” Kassian says.
“It’s not a theme, but more of a conceptual inspiration, or driver for what we’ve done. It helps people navigate the building and works incredibly well.”
She says the other real differentiator is GridAKL is the first of its kind in coworking in the sense that it’s coworking of a corporate quality.
“It’s fit for purpose and doesn’t compromise on key aspects like privacy, the protection of technology (IP is kept safe from fire and sprinklers that would cause major disruption to companies) and air conditioning systems are all specialist driven and have increased outdoor air flow.”
In the wider precinct, a variety of collaborative facilities are on offer: A 300-person event space and a smaller more intimate 100-person space, meeting rooms, the GridAKL members lounge and the GridAKL tech café.
Hood says this reflects the next generation of coworking spaces, as there’s been a shift from boutique startups flying by the seat of their pants into the corporate, higher-end realm.
“The corporate tower on Queen St is not necessarily as attractive as it once was for a lot of businesses, and it all comes back to people,” Hood says.
“They’re having to start to address things like traffic congestion, attracting and retaining the best staff, while organisations are also wanting to be much more nimble and closer to customers, and having a tower in the CBD can be seen as being quite disconnecting from customers.
“Coworking is starting to facilitate that and evolve dramatically. It shouldn’t be seen as the realm of startups or SMEs alone. GridAKL is creating the first environment of its kind to facilitate that level of corporate quality that these sorts of organisations are looking for.”
Warren and Mahoney has been involved with master planning the entire block GridAKL is located on since 2013, and has since done the exterior design of the Mason Brothers building, where its own studio is located, as well as 12 Madden St.
Principal Blair Johnston says the Madden St building has been designed as a simple frame for innovation use that responds to the character of the adjacent heritage buildings surrounding it.
“It’s flexible, it’s able to be subdivided over a long period of time and is able to support businesses at different stages of a growth cycle,” Johnston says. “I think the way in which the building is configured around a central core makes it easy to be subdivided and create different spaces.
“In terms of architecture and its appearance, Wynyard Quarter’s quite unique in Auckland. It has a really well designed industrial heritage and is made of robust, tactile materials such as brick, steel and glass. It’s the antithesis of a shiny CBD office building.”
Most commercial developments have variants of glass walls facing onto the street, he says, but the Madden St building does the exact opposite – the upper level is highly glazed, while the lower level isn’t.
“What goes with that is the location of balconies at upper levels that provide workers the ability to get out and overlook the public realm, as well as encouraging interaction between occupants and the public. There’s also windows and doors that can open and close so that tenants can open out onto the laneway.”
He says he thinks the creation of an innovative space in a globally competitive marketspace will attract the best of the bunch to the city’s shores.
“The world’s best minds have lots of options as to where to locate themselves, so the creation of a precinct for like-minded people on a great harbour in proximity of Auckland, those all add up to a precinct that can be a leader in innovation.”
But most importantly, he says the design of these new buildings play into the larger ecosystem of Wynyard Quarter.
“It’s a place for people and it has a life that extends beyond 9am to 5pm. It’s not a soulless office park, it’s a combination of residential and office uses with public spaces, great streets and great parks, and all of those elements bring the precinct to life.”
Idealog has been covering the most interesting people, businesses and issues from the fields of innovation, design, technology and urban development for over 12 years. And we're asking for your support so we can keep telling those stories, inspire more entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and keep pushing New Zealand forward. Give over $5 a month and you will not only be supporting New Zealand innovation, but you’ll also receive a print subscription, an Idealog t-shirt and a copy of the new book by David Downs and Dr. Michelle Dickinson, No. 8 Recharged (while stocks last).