GreenAir has a longstanding and productive relationship with Warren + Mahoney (WAM), having worked with them as consultants and as design partners on several significant workplace installations.
With the recent Mercury fit out, GreenAir were invited by WAM to come on board at a very early stage of the design process, in advance of being confirmed as preferred plant suppliers by the client, to work on a prototype of the custom structures that were to hold the plants.
“Plants were fundamental to our design. Without the planting, the design is fairly pared back,” says O’Hagan. “The plants add the layer of texture and colour, and they also add atmosphere to the space – and although we didn’t actively pursue a measured sustainability rating [for the fit out], like GreenStar, we still wanted to have a sustainable, ‘green’ feel to the space, so the planting was an integral part of the overall design from the outset.”
O’Hagan says that the design team at WAM wanted plants to be the focal point, to create something a little bit different by installing ‘gardens’ within the space, rather than have a few token plants dotted around the office. The aim was to create a cohesive look, not just in the fact that there are plants in the space, but also in the way that they are contained and displayed. “Plants were definitely part of our plan from the outset – we wanted to have as much greenery as possible. The clients did, too, but they didn’t know what plants they wanted. They trusted us to get that right, and that’s where we called on the expertise of GreenAir.”
“We had an idea of how we wanted things to look, with the gridded, cube structures, to hold the plants. We then approached GreenAir for advice on the size and shape and placing of the pots needed to hold the plants, and also how to create an installation that was easy to maintain and easy to swap out the types or the density of the plants, as needed.
“Flexibility was a key driver of the design. We knew the installation was going to be in that space for a while, so the ability to change out the plants was essential.”
The choice of plant types was also something WAM deferred to GreenAir, as they have the expertise on which plants will grow best in each area of the building, says O’Hagan. “The dimensions of planters and size of plants are all based on the advice we received from GreenAir. They also worked out the best places on the floor plate to place the large groups of plantings, in terms of natural lighting. “That was probably the most collaborative aspect of the design, where we relied on the experience and knowledge of GreenAir,” says O’Hagan.
One of the highlights of the project for O’Hagan was going back to the office a few weeks after the initial planting and seeing how all the plants were doing in their new space – and also how good the space was looking.
“It was pretty cool to see, because normally the plants look sad for the first few weeks, but GreenAir had pre-grown many of the plants especially for the job and, as soon as they were in, they took off and were ready to go. We took their advice [on the types of plants] and they ended up thriving. Mercury was really happy with that.”
Since finishing the fit out in Newmarket, WAM have gone on to design another office for Mercury in Rotorua, and have taken a lot of the design cues and details used in the Newmarket fit out – proof that the client is definitely happy with the way everything turned out.
O’Hagan says he struggles to think of a project that WAM have completed in recent times that doesn’t feature plants as an integral part of the design.
“Plants give people a connection to nature, which is an inherent craving we have as humans"
Plants also help filter the air, so there are health benefits, too – but mostly it’s that connection to nature. Work shouldn’t just be a white box containing furniture. People actually expect there to be plants in their working environment these days – especially in the breakout, café and social spaces.”
O’Hagan says GreenAir ‘did an awesome job’ on the Mercury fit out. “We really needed someone to step up for us, because it was such a key part [of the project]. And we are really happy with the outcome.
“If we need specialist advice about planting, or a client asks us for a recommendation about plants and on-going maintenance, we would certainly tell them to talk with GreenAir.”