Heritage building reinvented as modern office premises

Iconic two-storey 1920s building is transformed into a modern office headquarters with a new upper facade that addresses heritage regulations in an inventive way

By night, the upper level facade of Xero’s architecture, building, city, commercial building, corporate headquarters, evening, facade, headquarters, metropolitan area, mixed-use, night, sky, black, teal, blue
By night, the upper level facade of Xero’s new Wellington headquarters in a reinvented heritage building is washed with LEDs in the firm’s brand colour.

The initial idea for the new Xero Wellington headquarters seemed pretty straight forward – take a heritage building, gut it, add three floors with a new complementary upper facade and then build up a vertical campus on the interior. However, a few issues turned this into a more complex project that required smart thinking from building designers Inside.

The reinvented building was to consolidate Xero staff from three offices to this new address and with the proposed five levels there was plenty of space for all, says Inside’s project designer Neville Parker.

“However, to meet the strict council constraints for the 1920s building, the new addition would have had to be set back six metres from the existing street frontages. This in turn would have severely compromised the interior space available and left the building too small for Xero’s requirements.”

Luckily Parker had a lateral-thinking solution.

“We had the idea to introduce a Stamisol mesh screen over the new facade which was to be a pared down modulation of the historic facade below.”

The designer put it to the council that the mesh would downplay the upper facade by day – when the street front is activated and the heritage face is most noticeable. Then, at night, the building’s upper facade would be washed with LED lights set on the inside of the screen – thus giving the new face prominence when it’s dark and the street is quiet. A belt line introduced between the old and new would highlight the play between them.

By day, the new facade on the upper architecture, building, city, commercial building, downtown, facade, house, human settlement, metropolitan area, mixed-use, neighbourhood, real estate, residential area, sky, street, town, urban area, black
By day, the new facade on the upper levels o of the Xero head office recedes and the original heritage face takes its turn to draw the eye.

In addition, large picture windows were to be introduced in the upper section to correspond to the scale of large openings in the facade below, from when the protected building had been a car showroom and garage.

This concept was approved by the city council, with no setback required. This netted a total of 6718m² of office space – room for all the Xero team.

Site access was another consideration. It was first intended a crane would be located outside the site with a boom long enough to reach all areas. However, when Xero confirmed they wanted an atrium stair at the heart of the building, it allowed Inside to position a smaller crane with a shorter boom in the intended atrium space. 

Near the end of the project, this was removed by another crane outside the site. This second crane dropped the huge 20m steel tree structure for the stairs – the main column plus landing beams – into the atrium space.

The high-profile staircase – with a large skylight overhead – connects all floors in a vertical campus style, with sightlines up and down to adjacent floors.

Old meets new – the blackened steel staircase architecture, building, handrail, stairs, black, brown
Old meets new – the blackened steel staircase in the Xero head office in Wellington is accompanied by a feature wall made from timber joists from the original floors.

Designer Jeremy Smyth of 4Work accentuated the stair in his interior design for the fit-out.

“We created a feature wall alongside the stairs that rises the height of the building, made from the wood joists of the original structure.”

While the timber wall designed by Smyth speaks about the history of the building, the crisp, machined black treatment of the stairs reflects the modern nature of the fit-out. Stairs and wall together make for a perfect symbol of the wider project that so tastefully merges the historic with the brand new. The exposed cross bracing that supports the structure and existing facade is another reminder of the building’s transformation.

“Overall, my brief from Xero was for a truly beautiful fit-out. To this end there is plenty of understated, consistent negative detailing, elegant material finishes, subtle light washes and a custom carpet, predominantly in Xero’s brand colours.”

Generous social gathering spaces are positioned to correspond with the large picture windows, while the third floor reception includes a cafe. There is also a gym, bike facilities and changing rooms.

“The fit-out is also intended to reflect human passion and purpose, and wellbeing is obviously a key part of this,” says the interior designer.

Credit list

Xero Head Office, Wellington
Building designer
Neville Parker, Inside
Resource consent consultants
Urban Perspectives
Fit-out building services engineers
Agile Engineering
Civil engineer
Fire consultant
Holmes Fire
Nu-wall aluminium
Stamisol Facid by Insol
Window/door joinery
Feature timber wall
Reclaimed wood from original building, by Autex Cube
Ceiling panels
OWA Oriental from Asona; basebuild ceiling from T&R Ceilings
Resene; Mirotone
Aspect Furniture
Reception desk
American Walnut Timber Veneer
The Wellington Company
Interior design
Jeremy Smyth, 4Work
Fit-out project managers
Arrow International
Mechanical and electrical engineer
HVAC – Pacific Consultants; electrical/plumbing – Mike Stretton
Project manager
Warm roof by Rooflogic Extreme
Lift service
Assa Abloy
Floor tiling
Ultra Basaltina from Tile Warehouse
Laminex; Prime Panels; Caesarstone
Aesthetics; Light Studio; UFL; Unison; PLN Group; Zenith
Office chairs
Zenith Life Chair
Additional furniture
Cite Furniture; Vidak Furniture

Story by: Charles Moxham

Photography by: Jason Mann

26 Feb, 2019

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