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Visual space and flexibility define the transformation of Bell Gully's Wellington office

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Proving that less can indeed be more, Seddon Associates responded to a plea from leading Wellington law firm Bell Gully to better rationalise the use of space across its existing floor plan by creating an open-plan environment that not only dispensed with the need for one of the floors, but provided a real affinity with the building's surroundings.

The expansive reception area, minimalist in design, but with the interest of curved wooden forms, affords panoramic views across the harbour. The distinctive stairwell leads up to the meeting rooms, with the offices situated one floor below.

According to designer Steve Seddon, the objective was to provide an environment appropriate to the functions of the legal profession – one that enhanced communication, yet maintained acoustic privacy, with the flexibility to allow tasks and teams to change without further structural upheaval.

"Each workspace is no greater than the task requires," he says. The office floors are close to open plan, but with full height glass walls, rather than part height screens, between perimeter workspaces. This has enabled an environment that is acoustically controlled, yet provides the ‘visual space' essential to the overall design concept.

"It was vital to encourage as much eye contact as possible, to enhance the energy, movement and workflow," says Seddon. "Moreover, given the building's magnificent location, it was important to maintain a connection with what was outside."

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The octagonal shape of the building can be quite disorienting, explains the designer. Therefore, the visual connection with the outside allows you to navigate your way around the interior by using external landmarks as points of reference.

The flexibility that allows people to be moved throughout the layout without compromising visual appeal represents a guiding philosophy of synergy between workplace and worker. And whilst as leaps of faith go, it may not have been in the "Trust me, I'm a lawyer" category, the willingness of Bell Gully to embrace the new concepts proposed by Seddon was, according to the designer, vital for the project's overall success.

First published date: 21 April 2006

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Credit List

Location Bell Gully offices, Wellington
Architect Seddon
Associates Stephen Seddon, Marian Salmon, Richard Baigent, Chad Smith
Construction LT McGuinness
Fire consultant Holmes Fire & Safety
Structural engineer Holmes Consulting
Services engineer D Farkas & Associates
Acoustics engineer Marshall Day
Operable walls Huppe System
Hardware Lockwood
Stairways/balustrades LT McGuinness
Structural steel Burnsfield
Cabinetry Millbrook
Metalwork Fabricon
Blinds Weathermaster
Tiling Limestone Jurabeige, installed by Bramco Granite & Marble
Flooring, reception Limestone Jurabeige
Carpet Feltex, installed by Hills Flooring
Paint Resene
Ceiling Tiles by Formans
Veneers American hard maple from Prime Panels
Workstations Ultimet System from Kada Commercial Furniture
Security system Nedax
Glazing Ultraglass Consultants on behalf of Bell
Gully Simon Watt, David Chisnall, Maggie Callicrate, Maureen Kelly
Client rep / managers Wareham Cameron & Co