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IN GOOD TASTE from Commercial Design Trends volume 2515
Brand awareness is crucial to a business but marketing your brand takes money. In some cases, overt advertising can have the opposite effect and alienate clients.
When your business is producing and roasting coffee, it's important to leave patrons with a good taste in their mouths. The new Mojo Coffee Holdings headquarters and main roastery in Wellington is an exercise in subtlety and economy and a collaboration of old and new – a distinctive architectural solution that speaks louder than any billboard.
The office is and is not a new building. It is in fact two new cubes erected at opposite ends inside one of the city's oldest warehouses, Shed 13.
Supported by columns approximately one storey high, the 6m x 12m steel-and-timber structures tucked beneath the rafters are mirror images of one another. Mezzanine A houses an administration office, while Mezzanine B is a training, tasting and meeting room. Designed as a portal, each frame is painted timber with floor-to-ceiling, 2.4m-high glazed walls at either end. Access is via an attached staircase.
The design harks back to times when offices were built to overlook the shop floor, so managers could keep an eye on employees. While Mojo has no such micro-management tendencies, this unusual solution was born from a need for a new head office and larger roastery that would also appeal to the public.
City council-owned, heritage-listed Shed 13 had undergone a series of structural improvements to make the warehouse suitable to rent. Council requirements included maintaining public access to the building, making it unattractive to some businesses, and Shed 13 was therefore unoccupied for almost two years.
However, to Mojo and architecture firm, Allistarcox Architecture, it was an ideal opportunity. Principal architect Allistar Cox says that the small footprint was one reason for the success of the tender.
"Apart from the flues, nothing touches the existing structure. If the tenant leaves, the only marks left will be 12 single bolts in the floor," he says.
Despite the simple design, there were complex engineering challenges, says Cox.
"Before we started, there was no way of knowing how far down the bolts would have to be embedded in the floor. Fortunately, it wasn't necessary to dig very deep, which would have incurred more costs."
To ensure the minimum contact with the original warehouse, all services were concealed in the 190mm ceiling frame of each cube. This is slightly thicker than the rest of the box to counter the visual distortion of the height and create an even-looking frame. The cubes are insulated to retain heat and fitted with acoustic Gib tiles so that staff are not disturbed by noise from the roasting process on the warehouse floor.
Load-bearing walls were installed after the structures were complete, making the cubes feel more sturdy and stable for staff inside.
The result is a distinctive head office within an iconic historic building. With double-height glass windows on both sides of Shed 13, plenty of passers-by stop to stare inside.
"This," says Cox, "is the best advertising there is."
The new head office of Mojo Coffee Holdings sits on stilts, occupying the space below the rafters of Wellington's historic Shed 13.
Mojo Coffee Holdings headquarters and main roastery, Shed 13, Kumutoto Plaza, Customhouse Quay, Wellington
Allistar Cox, Allistarcox Architects (Wellington)
Fabricated steel by Nidus
Nicma plywood from Nicholls & Maher NZ
Pacific jarrah timber stair treads and landings from Moxon Timbers
Custom-designed steel, fabricated by Nidus
Renalls Joinery, Australian ash
Supplied and installed by Metro Glasstech
Resene paints on walls, Cabot's Danish Oil on exposed timber
Lighting Supplied by Advance Electrical
Interior designer of mezzanine floors
Allistarcox Architects (Wellington)
Carpet tile in mezzanine
Interface from Blueprint, installed and supplied by Bill Rickets
Story by Frederique Gulcher
Photography by Paul McCredie