Design of the Month

Design of the Month add

As New Zealand's oldest city, Dunedin boasts many of our most impressive heritage buildings. While some of these remain empty and unused, as modern buildings have taken preference over time, others of these have been given a new lease of life.

This week Defign looks at one such building for Octobers Design of the Month - the Donald Reid Warehouse designed by ADNZ member Hamish McCaul.

Built in 1882, there was work to be done to modernise the warehouse and bring it up to scratch. The company that purchased the building - ADInstruments - provided Hamish with a very informal brief along with a whiteboard sketch of how they envisioned their new workplace.

Hamish is a self-taught designer, with twenty years' experience as a draftsman and carpenter before starting his business, ArchiDesign, in 2003. While his team works on a variety of different projects, heritage buildings are Hamish's specialty. He sees value in their history, and enjoys doing his part to preserve what's left of them.

The drive behind this project was to create a modern, comfortable and energy efficient design in which ADInstruments could continue to prosper. It's very much a meeting of two eras - a modern workspace enhanced by the preservation of the building's historical elements. Hamish made sure the design paid an impressive tribute to these, with the interior sand-blasted to expose timber, sarking and brickwork.

"We definitely wanted to embrace the historic nature of the building and leave its skeleton exposed. We didn't want to get rid of anything we didn't have to," says Hamish.

Hamish says when designing any commercial project' it is important to first consider how the business requires it to function. ADInstruments' staff works in teams, and so the brief called for "pod"- spaces; two larger offices either side of a smaller office, with the creative space in between. There are also casual meeting places throughout the space that allow for random meetings of people from different teams where other aspects of the business can be discussed enabling cross pollination of ideas.

"It's an amazingly creative space. The staff stick half ideas and thoughts on post-it notes all over the walls in their pods and then work together to create results greater than the sum of the parts."

One of the most difficult aspects when working on heritage buildings, is code compliance, especially fire safety. There are always conflicts between code requirements and keeping the integrity of an old building. While it was enjoyable to work on, the project also came with its challenges. There were difficulties getting the stairs and lift to work with the existing structure. Hamish says it was also hard to fit straight walls to columns that were out of alignment and out of plumb.

"This was a big space though, so there was no trouble finding room for services, and because it was a warehouse, it was ok to have the HVAC exposed," says Hamish.

Along with that HVAC system, an insulated roof, double glazing, thermal mass, and LED lighting boost this design's energy efficiency.

From a very informal brief has come a well-executed, detailed and comfortable design very much fit for its purpose. It successfully pays tribute to its historical context with striking industrial elements left exposed, providing a unique workspace backdrop.