When Rob and Jenny Gill acquired the Kiwibank building in Hastings at the end of 2018, they asked Fat Parrot Architecture Hawke's Bay to turn part of the old Farmers retail store into a modern co-working office space, maximising the opportunities presented by the building and the unique location. In this blog Pierre du Toit, principal architect and owner explains their brief, the challenges and some of the architectural solutions.
The concept of co-working is a well-established one across the world and has become increasingly popular in New Zealand. Realising the purpose and use of the building was imperative for the success of such a project, At Fat Parrot Architecture we set about researching developments both here and overseas.
A co-working space is a shared office or building where entrepreneurs, start-ups, freelancers, developers, small businesses and teams can work independently or collaborate on projects. A co-working space is not just a place of work; it can be as much about networking and socialising, with sharing of experiences as well as spaces.
Working with the available space was a real challenge, with its long and relatively narrow shape, having two natural light sources with an existing glazed frontage on to Market Street at one end, and a newly glazed elevation on to a carpark at the rear. As a result, the property was rather dark internally without the new LED lighting panels. There was a single fixed services location which dictated the positions of the shared facilities such as bathrooms and kitchen.
Lastly, there was no obvious entrance way to service such a large building, further complicated by an existing fire egress stairway from the tenancy above (Editor’s note: that had to be maintained to meet fire regulations), coming down through the only obvious future entrance way in the disused fire sprinkler room.
We realised that we had to create a bright, cheerful and interesting environment and, at the heart of the space, provide a focal element for social activities. We also felt strongly that the space needed a theme and the idea of a HIVE reflected the busy environment and community feel the owners wanted to create, and it nicely referenced typical Hawke’s Bay imagery and activities. This theme then provided the cues for the building naming, Hastings HIVE, the branding and the interior design. (Editor’s note: Pierre is being modest - he came up with the theme and working name Hastings HIVE, which immediately struck a chord with everyone).
The space had wonderful high suspended ceilings thanks to its retail heritage and we kept the full height right through, where possible, to make the continuity spaces like corridors and entrances feel light and generous. Ceiling-high glazing and skylights contribute to this open feeling, whilst sound-dampening panels bring warmth and intimacy to the quiet areas like the lounge. A new foyer and lobby accommodate the demanding fire regulations whilst creating a wonderful arrival area, with dramatic planting and light from the new entry doors, creating theatre and a welcoming feel.
When it came to the interior design, we were keen to introduce Amy Henderson of AA Design and from the first meeting she totally bought into the theme which was reflected in her classy designs for the colours, fittings and finishes that bring the spaces to life. The execution of the design and build by MCL Construction was to the highest standard and this can be appreciated as soon as one enters the space. To complete the local themes we introduced Hawke’s Bay photographer and artist Tim Whittaker, whose canvas-sized artworks of the Hawke’s Bay bring the continuity spaces to life, with colour and texture.
The success of the design and the building is in no small means thanks to the progressive clients, Rob and Jenny Gill, who were prepared to trust the design and construction teams, but pushed us all for a facility of exceptional quality that really has no comparison locally, and very few nationally. Rob says of the design process, “Good co-working spaces have a gathering place, like a village square where locals come together to catch up with the goings-on. We wanted to have one central location bringing people together, maybe for coffee, lunch or a simple top-up at the water station. But then we envisaged separate meeting and working spaces where people could quietly focus on their own projects.
Finally, the space needed great flow, with minimal continuity areas to maximise space utilisation. Pierre and Justin from Fat Parrot Architecture realised all these concepts for us and more. We were always confident this team would find solutions to the challenges, with Fat Parrot taking the lead on co-ordinating with the interior designer, builder and engineer, then keeping the Council briefed and on-side.”
This has been one of the most enjoyable projects that we at Fat Parrot Architecture have worked on in recent times. Thanks to all involved and good luck!
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