Chow:Hill fast-tracks Hamilton law firm McCaw Lewis' modern new look to celebrate the organisation's centenary.
If there was ever a year to refresh a workspace, an organisation's 100th year in business would be it.
And that's exactly what Hamilton law firm McCaw Lewis did, with the design expertise of Chow:Hill's Hamilton / Kirikiriroa studio.
The modern law firm operates out of the top two floors of 586 Victoria Street, a building formerly of 1970s concrete modernism with very little design aesthetic. Chow:Hill’s vision for the multi-storey building was a fresh modern look that included a sense of personality and identity – both inside and out.
In addition to modernising the interior design and fit out of McCaw Lewis’ offices, Chow:Hill Director, Brian Rastrick, refurbished and re-lifed the original building, working in collaboration with property development specialists, Foster Develop.
“This was a multi-layered project,” explains Brian Rastrick. “McCaw Lewis wanted to redesign the workspace their 50-strong team operated out of in the top two floors of the building in such a way that it supported more agile team dynamics and dissolved some of the workplace’s traditional silos. They also wanted to ensure it was future fit for the next generation of its practice and clients.”
Fast-Track Design and Build
Chris Wano, McCaw Lewis Operations Manager, said the firm had been looking to move close to the CBD when the opportunity to move into 586 Victoria Street presented itself. “We wanted a new premise that fit with our vision and values, along with offering a modern yet traditional office for the future. Chow:Hill understood that brief and presented us with a concept we really liked,” she says.
The other requirement McCaw Lewis had was a strict timeframe – the firm wanted to ensure all staff were in their newly designed and refurbished offices by the beginning of 2019, which meant a five-month design, document, consent and construct process.
“It was a fast-track project and one which needed to balance both budget and timeframe,” says Brian. “That brought with it extra challenges. For example, we were limited with the materials we could use as some we just couldn’t source certain materials in the timeframe we had to work with.”
The design Brian and the Chow:Hill team modelled the work on was a modern industrial aesthetic, but one that enabled the team to preserve and respect the history of the original building. “McCaw Lewis have a century of history within the Waikato and 586 Victoria Street is also a building of significance on Hamilton’s main street,” says Brian. “We wanted to reflect that heritage, of both the firm and the building, but merge it with a modern design, that would enhance both client and employee experience.”
To achieve this, Chow:Hill exposed the existing internal structure where possible and integrated those exposed surfaces with lighting and mechanics. “We used glazing bars to break out windows, contrasted natural materials throughout with modern black ceilings, made use of internal space by turning them into meeting rooms and breakout areas, all while enhancing areas of natural light.”
“We were really pleased with the outcome,” says Brian. “We wanted to play homage to McCaw Lewis’ history while setting them up for another century of practice. That was achieved through stakeholder sessions with the wider McCaw Lewis team. The sessions enabled us to test and develop the workplace environment all while ensuring buy-in from the team of the change to their workplace design.”
“Brian and the team were great to work with,” says Chris. “It was an amazing, if slightly stressful, project to be involved with due to the fast turnaround and tight timelines we were working to. Brian was always on hand to help with design changes as and when we needed.”
A Modern Façade
Modernising McCaw Lewis’ workspace was just part of the project. The other element was rejuvenating the external façade of the Victoria Street building. Working collaboratively with Foster Develop, Brian and the Chow:Hill team wanted to achieve a look that fitted in with the revitalisation of Hamilton city.
“We focused on the canopy of the building and unifying columns, and added lattice to the façade,” Brian says. “Not only did this bring the building out of the 70s, it also paved the way for an open entranceway which has been designed to encourage a communal and inviting atrium.”
The outcome has meant 586 Victoria Street now boasts a modern spacious look and feel conducive to the trend of today’s workplace and office environments. “It’s been an exciting project to work on, and one we’re incredibly proud of,” says Brian. “The timeline gave us a real challenge but one our team thrived on, and working in collaboration with the Foster Develop team who shared our solution-based mindset to the design and delivery of the project, meant the end result is a landmark to be proud of!”
The McCaw Lewis team now work from a modern premise that reflects their vision and values, and is a fitting environment from which they can proudly serve the Waikato for many years to come. “When you go through such a big move in such a quick time you really need to trust the people who have designed the journey,” says Chris. “Brian and the team ensured 586 Victoria Street had its place among the surrounding buildings but became an iconic building for our next generation. Chow:Hill will challenge you to look at things differently but once you see the vision it is really exciting.”
November 25, 2019