Idealog - - SECTION -

Hav­ing al­ready de­signed the ex­ist­ing Un­leash Space for the Cen­tre of In­no­va­tion and En­trepreneur­ship at the Univer­sity of Auck­land, Space­works was in­vited back to sprin­kle some of its magic de­sign dust on the new Un­leashed space, but this time on a much grander scale. Space­works’ gen­eral man­ager Lizzi Wha­ley ex­plains the think­ing be­hind the de­sign.

How would you de­scribe the look and feel of this space? The space is fun and vi­brant with an in­dus­trial feel. The Mak­erspace area is steel, mesh, hard sur­faces, with bright orange ca­ble tray. The idea is to pro­vide a great func­tional space with that el­e­ment of un­pre­dictabil­ity. What kind of re­search did you do to in­form the de­sign? As the space needed to ac­com­mo­date mul­ti­ple uses – people mak­ing goods/ prod­ucts, hold col­lab­o­ra­tive work­shops, al­low for quiet space, host meet­ings and for people to hang­out – we needed to pull on the knowl­edge we had gained from de­sign­ing co-work­ing spa­ces and mul­tipur­pose spa­ces. We also needed to in­ter­view the users that would en­gage with the space, and the univer­sity also in­formed us of what stu­dents they wanted to at­tract and how they wanted the space to be used in the short term and the long term. There are three dif­fer­ent spa­ces here. How do they dif­fer from each other? They dif­fer based on func­tion­al­ity. Ev­ery space is de­signed with a par­tic­u­lar user and func­tion in mind. The colours and fur­ni­ture sim­ply en­hance that func­tion. If it is the col­lab­o­ra­tive ar­eas, the fur­ni­ture can move al­low­ing larger or smaller groups to con­gre­gate. Is there any­thing in par­tic­u­lar that you think stands out about this space? What’s your favourite fea­ture? The Mak­erspace area stands out. It’s dy­namic, in­dus­trial and colour­ful. It was a key part of the en­tire space util­i­sa­tion, and the de­sign ful­fills that be­cause its pres­ence re­ally does dom­i­nate the space vis­ually. My favourite part in this area is the orange ca­ble tray that goes over­head.

Of­ten when you in­herit a space there are some el­e­ments you need to main­tain from a cost per­spec­tive. Some­times they are not ideal and we do what we can to min­imise. With this site we hit the jack­pot: there was over­head lin­ear light­ing that was run on a di­ag­o­nal, which is some­thing we would have looked to do our­selves to make the col­lab­o­ra­tive ar­eas dy­namic as well, not the poor cousin of the mak­erspace. So this was a great win and another favourite el­e­ment. Flex­i­bil­ity is key theme in mod­ern in­te­rior de­sign. How did you in­te­grate that into this de­sign? And why is it im­por­tant? Ev­ery­thing can move – ex­cept the built walls. Flex­i­bil­ity in some places can be overde­signed and over utilised, en­deav­our­ing to fac­tor for the ‘what ifs’ and maybes. Gen­er­ally we find if it’s not easy to move then people won’t, and this can be be­cause it may have some ca­bling at­tached to it, or it’s clunky and heavy (we find that with wind-up stand up desks, if it can’t be done quickly and eas­ily then it won’t be done). So ev­ery­thing in this space was made to be light, user friendly and easy to move. With a space this size and the va­ri­ety of people that use the space, we also can’t put user man­u­als ev­ery­where, so it re­ally has to be ob­vi­ous and easy to change or move around. For a space like this, flex­i­bil­ity is im­por­tant be­cause it serves many people and is re­quired to pro­vide mul­ti­ple so­lu­tions. In­flex­i­ble spa­ces are too re­stric­tive for this type of en­vi­ron­ment. Bio­philia is big at the mo­ment. How have you used plants to soften the in­dus­trial feel of some of the spa­ces? Plants are such a great way to soften a space, es­pe­cially if there are hard sur­faces and in­dus­trial el­e­ments. It also adds another colour without it be­ing a painted wall or other fab­ric ma­te­rial. Plants are a dy­namic el­e­ment in them­selves as they change/grow etc. Plants can also add vis­ual breaks to a space, min­imis­ing the long view across a space, cre­at­ing nooks or more de­fined area. I’m a big fan of plants in spa­ces. It adds life and al­ways a lift to any de­sign. It’s of­ten the way a space works, rather than how it looks, that sticks in people’s minds and that’s cer­tainly the case for a lab like this. What were some of the smaller, prac­ti­cal things you needed to con­sider? Ab­so­lutely. The ini­tial im­pres­sion will be aes­thet­ics, and shortly af­ter its func­tion. And the func­tion is what is talked about long af­ter we have left the space – that be­comes your re­sume – if it’s be­ing used to its full po­ten­tial and work­ing well then this is a big win. The smaller, more prac­ti­cal things in a space like this were en­sur­ing good WiFi, en­sur­ing plenty of power out­lets for people charg­ing their phones, and mak­ing sure acous­tics were con­sid­ered, es­pe­cially with the maker space in the same area. Spe­cific to the Mak­erspace area we had to get into the mind of a user, to fig­ure out where would they put tools, how would they op­er­ate their bench, how we can pro­tect them and oth­ers pass­ing the space from any haz­ards, how to keep mov­abil­ity/ flex­i­bil­ity (e.g. by hav­ing power come from above). A great de­sign looks great, but works in­cred­i­bly well and in this case, makes users want to en­gage with it and use all the avail­able spa­ces. How did this dif­fer to other non-aca­demic spa­ces you’ve de­signed? We pulled on re­search and ex­pe­ri­ence from the myr­iad of non-aca­demic spa­ces – the large open area was largely set up how we would de­sign a co-work­ing space where there are to be mul­ti­ple user groups and mul­ti­ple func­tions. The Mak­erspace com­po­nent is very unique, we have not done any­thing re­motely sim­i­lar to this. But I think ex­pe­ri­ence is not al­ways re­quired, as long as you en­deavor to un­der­stand the users and their re­quire­ments. Never as­sume. To see what Space­works can do for your space­works. co. nz busi­ness, visit

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