Fresh From The Field — Comvita Paengaroa Workplace Design – By Blur the Lines
Fresh from the Field is a weekly article series sharing the fresh and inspiring work of our Aotearoa New Zealand Design Assembly community.
Taking a progressive hospitality design approach with a bold colour scheme inspired by nature and the warmth of honey and the hive, Blur the Lines walk us through their recent workplace design for Comvita.
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Comvita, New Zealand’s leading Mānuka honey company, was founded in the Bay of Plenty in the 1970’s where the brand’s head office and production facility was established in the small settlement of Paengaroa.
The multi-building site, which was once a local pub and shop, is surrounded by native gardens and has gone through many changes over the years.
With almost 50 years of business under their belt and the worst of the pandemic behind them, Comvita felt it was time to reimagine the office space to better reflect the ever changing and hybrid working style of their people.
Our challenge was to design an interior that paid homage to the rich history of the brand whilst also reflecting the global, contemporary and progressive company that exists today.
Comvita are passionate advocates for bees and nature and wanted to create a space that was welcoming and flexible for all staff but most importantly attracted them back into the office to connect in person more regularly.
To reduce the environmental impact of the project, we focussed on enhancing the existing base build and work within the footprint of the buildings which have had various additions over the years. Whilst surrounded by nature, once inside visibility to greenery and access to natural light in some areas was very limited.
The Design Response
Our approach to the plan was to open up the spaces and transform them into flexible co-working zones with a central hospitality hub to bring everyone together, ensuring connection across the two buildings.
Each building has a distinct core function, the first is for welcoming guests as well as co-working, meeting and collaborating. The second a lunchroom, flexible meeting and town hall gathering space.
Some structural changes were made in conjunction with project architects, Jigsaw, to improve access to natural light and the flow of the spaces including adding a large window and window seat to the dark co-working space.
Whilst a workplace design project, we took a progressive hospitality design approach and introduced a bold colour scheme inspired by nature and the warmth of honey and the hive.
We maximised key features and used colour as a key tool to create dramatic spaces that connected emotionally.
One of the biggest challenges with the 300sqm co-working space was creating an environment that would connect to the brand and inspire the teams whilst working with existing elements like a black suspended ceiling and limited natural light.
On arrival you are greeted with warm tone walls and a wall of lit honey in lab vessels which creates an impactful focal point. In front is a full length green upholstered bench seat with tables for perching with your laptop.
To the right is the new curved reception desk clad in organic aquamarine subway tiles for texture with framed imagery we commissioned from one of Comvita’s key Mānuka forests adorning the wall behind.
Beyond is the original café kitchen which has been enhanced with the addition of a strong terrazzo tiled splashback, green curved breakfast bar and new lighting.
This overlooks a café seating zone to enjoy a morning coffee as well as a lounge room for meetings. This room was previously clad in multicoloured wood from bee boxes which was repurposed into a contemporary custom artwork by Claudia Aalderink.
We used open shelving units to create a sense of privacy between spaces and house a treasure trove of memorabilia.
To the left of reception the space opens out towards the new window with a central lounge area and large communal work tables.
We unified the spaces by working with the existing concrete flooring and adding a sage green stain to create some drama. This was complemented with a combination of honey and green tone walls.
The bathrooms had an extreme makeover with the use of terrazzo tile on the floors and walls, complemented with coloured concrete basins and round mirrors.
The 180sqm lunchroom, which is accessed via a walkway through the garden, had its own set of challenges with a dominant vaulted corrugated metal ceiling and large air-conditioning duct. We used a combination of a large Mānuka wall graphic and pendant lighting to draw the eye away from the ceiling.
The natural toned scheme continues in this space with the stained concrete floor throughout, two tone green kitchen cabinetry and matching benchtop and seating zones.
We introduced a large organic floor rug as well as upholstered seating to soften the space and improve acoustics.
Throughout both spaces greenery was key, a large indoor tree as well as numerous pots added a much needed authentic connection to nature.
Comvita held a Whakatūwheratanga (opening and dawn blessing) last week to celebrate the opening of the spaces named Te Maru (The Shelter) and Tānga Manawa (the Place My Heart Rests). The Whakatūwheratanga was led by Tapuika, the local iwi, who also helped guide the naming of the new spaces.
The Design Team
Danielle Barclay – Creative Director
Naomi Rushmer – Interior Architect
The Client Team
Jigsaw – Project Architects
Photographer – Tyler Conelly
Photographer – Jess Lowcher