Stuck in the City: Getting to Auckland's most interesting & innovative workspaces

Wed, 30 Aug 2017

Last month we had our annual sales conference and decided to spend the first day outside of our office and in Auckland City, popping in and out of our client spaces.

What a vastly different and diverse city Auckland has become over the last 10 years. There is so much more international interest than I can remember growing up there, and this was clear when we made our first stop at UniLodge International Student accommodation in Anzac Ave. This 300+ self-contained room facility designed by Ashton Mitchell is at polar opposite to what I lived in while studying in Dunedin (and I’m not just talking about the weather). The space is designed with two inviting social/study spaces where students can relax, surf their social media or university work from a very comfortable and technology supported environment. I can see the need for more of these as the desire to live, work, study in NZ continues to increase.

From here we made a trip across Queen Street, up to the award winning TVNZ building on Hobson Street. Of course most of us drove (something I will come back to later), while two of us walked, going through some of the back alleys as we traversed our way across the top end of the CBD, an area that hasn’t had the same recent investment and development as its lower end sister.

Those that know the old interior of TVNZ HQ would hardly recognise the new one (though they have kept the old curved mirrored lifts), which pays tribute to design and architectural work Warren & Mahoney has done. The new space makes an instant impact. I’ve always remembered the building as dark and mysterious, as the normal world was separated from the local celebrities that inhabited it.

It couldn’t feel more different now, with an open reception with a café that you can sit shoulder to shoulder with Shortland Street stars sipping on a flat white. Open, diverse and connected is the feel of the workspace, as you navigate around and over the newsroom seeing the inner workings of the national broadcaster as a constant reminder of where it all started. In case you forget, the large neon “On Air” sign centred in the atrium will remind you. We were very impressed and would love to use the ground floor space for a future function.

It was to another client’s social spaces that we decided to stop for lunch. Fonterra HQ (Jasmax designed) has been stationed at Wynyard Quarter for the past two years, and has an amazing public space anchoring the building (including the old anchor that was pulled from the water during the laying of the foundations). The design, like TVNZ, lets the public in to get an insight of the cooperative and what it does. An educational experience area and open visible working floors connects visitors and employees to each other promoting the trust that is at the corner stone of Activity Based Working (Veldhoen + Company).

As we always experience when visiting our valued client, Fonterra was a hive of activity. Lots of one-on-one interaction mixed with group collaboration and individual work. The workplace environment still performing to the intended way of working that was strategised and delivered over a 3 year journey. Those of our team that hadn’t seen it before could be observed staring in amazement at what this environment offers and how it appeared to perform.

From here we took an unscheduled tour of what the rest of the latest Wynyard Quarter development had to offer. Past the Mad Men style Baileys we journeyed to the Mason Brothers building anchored by Warren & Mahoney. The theme again promoting openness, as the shared and private spaces merged into one. Those of us that have been around the industry for a while will appreciate the refreshing change from showing up to a closed off consultancy waiting to present our offering. (Thanks to Andrew for the quick tour, we know how busy you are.) This space is only going to get better as others start to occupy it by the end of the year.

From here we felt we needed another coffee. Lysaght building, home of Biz Dojo and part of the ATEED innovation precinct, provided this service to us. The team enjoyed the casual nature of the in house café, where you could feel the energy of the start-ups growing behind the secure line. Coffee was good as well.

After a day of visiting inspiring spaces and innovative organisations, there was an issue that kept niggling at me. How can NZ’s largest city continue to grow the way it has without smarter local government planning and infrastructure investment. Quite clearly the organisations that inhabit it are getting more sophisticated in their approach, in some cases world leading with their developments, but the access to them is still hindered by a sub-standard transport system.

The world of working is changing as the platform of people and place move into the virtual. So people can work 'anywhere', even from home, but this doesn’t mean place and space isn’t important for physical human interaction. Through our global research, it is proven people need to be together to produce the best outcomes for their organisations, so it is vital we can get people to these spaces so they can continue to solve problems and innovate. For a nation of 4.5 million people located in the South Pacific it is vital we foster and enable this so we can keep delivering globally. If the problem isn’t solved through the infrastructure of the city, then perhaps it is on us in this industry to provide the solution by developing the design of districts and spaces.


Jono Vidak - Director - Vidak Limited


(Credit: TVNZ image, Architecture Now)