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Inside Catalyst’s design for the Department of Corrections

This New Zealand Department of Corrections skills-up offenders in the community and prison. Every detail of the design, including its colourful Milliken carpet tiles, comes back to its ‘pathway of excellent’ mission.

When the New Zealand Department of Corrections decided to update its National Office in Mayfair House, Wellington, it was essential that the new fit out responded sensitively to the department’s mission of making New Zealand a safer place, as well as create a modern, agile work environment to support staff now and in the future. The department decided to once again collaborate with local design and construction practice Catalyst, who had previously worked on a refurbishment of the space in 2017.

The Department of Corrections works with offenders in the community and in prison to gain skills that will help them lead a crime-free life. This mission is encapsulated in the department’s Māori name – Ara Poutama Aotearoa – which refers to a pathway of excellence for those who are in the Department’s care and under their management.

“Catalyst’s design vision was informed by the story behind Corrections’ Māori name,” says Tessa Leonard, design team manager at Catalyst. “This narrative was woven into the design, reflecting the journey from earth and land to sky.”

This concept is realised throughout the 14-floor building via a new internal stairwell, which uses a combination of colourful Milliken carpet tiles in Free Flow and Colour Compositions collections in palettes of ochre, green, and blue to represent earth, land, and sky. The addition of the new stairwell allowed the department to radically rethink the spatial arrangement across the 13 floors to embrace an activity-based working model.

The new approach entails a diverse range of workspaces to suit different tasks, from open-plan hot desking and casual break-out space to more private meeting rooms. “This move provides Corrections opportunity to flex and reconfigure as the department navigates and re-examines its floor plate requirements in a COVID-19 world,” explains Leonard.

The bold, colourful concept of the journey from earth and land to sky was extended to the way the interior space is zoned, with collaboration spaces and meeting areas differentiated from the circulation routes using Milliken carpet tiles in the same ochre, green, and blue tones. Using the Milliken Couture design process to customise the colour palette to its intent, the result is an elegant spectrum of colour that clearly defines the space utilising the artful and organic Free Flow collection in the Path design, alongside Colour Compositions collection for defining areas.

“We selected the Milliken products as there was the opportunity to create custom colours and patterns to match the design scheme,” explains Leonard. “One of the biggest challenges was finding the right shade of ‘earth’ colour, and we went through numerous variations of custom tiles to get the right colour.”

Milliken tiles not only offered freedom of colour and pattern but were also the brand specified for the base build. As such, the Catalyst design team was able to work with the brand to specify a similar product that would fulfil the base-build requirements – including ambitious sustainability goals. In addition, the tiles are cost effective and benefit from acoustic backing that makes them an ideal solution for a more open, activity-based workplace.

Importantly, the project not only allowed the Department of Corrections to realise their vision for a next-generation workspace, but also allowed the Mayfair House landlord to update the building services.

“The Department of Corrections used this opportunity to review its current work environment and design a fit-out that meets the organisational vision of the agency going forward,” explains Leonard. “There is a new focus on connectivity, collegiality, and business continuity.”

Towards a carbon neutral future

Like Corrections House, Milliken has a commitment to sustainability that made them an ideal partner for the fit-out. Over the past 15 years, the company’s floor covering division has continued to reduce its global eco-footprint, and it is working towards a goal of zero landfill, zero waste, and committed to the Net Zero Standard framework.

The M/PACTTM Carbon Neutral Program is key to this ambitious goal, and has already resulted in all carpet, LVT, and entrance flooring tiles being carbon neutral.

 A lasting social impact

“The Mayfair House is a perfect example of a product having a lasting social impact,” comments Kate Mills, CEO, Property Industry Foundation.

The Foundation leads an industry-wide collaboration which, as Mills points out, “has a tangible impact on youth homelessness by building homes for homeless youth”.

The partnership between The Foundation and Milliken centres on innovation and interaction, with Milliken, a National Partner over the past three years, have donated flooring to The Foundation’s Haven Houses.

“[The Milliken] staff have also participated in fundraising and networking events, and they created the collaborative “Product Pathway ” initiative, which has raised over $120,000 to date,” says Mills.

“The Free Flow collection chosen for the Mayfair House is part of Milliken’s Product Pathway, and as a result, we have received a percentage of revenue as a donation.

“We thank everyone at Milliken and their participating partners for all their support.”


Catalyst Group

Jason Mann

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