Specified in a health care organisation’s new office space in Auckland, Milliken-Ontera’s whale song-inspired carpet tile designs help create an environment in which employees are comfortable and productive.
September 1st, 2021
Southern Cross is a not-for-profit group representing a range of health and insurance businesses in New Zealand. Established in 1961 with the purpose of achieving better value healthcare for the nation’s population, in 2020 the organisation was involved in providing care for over a million people.
In recent years Southern Cross has changed direction slightly. More than just a health insurance provider, it has evolved to become a health assurance partner. As such, today it is committed not just to delivering financial assistance when the need arises, but also working with its members to ensure they maintain their health and therefore don’t need this assistance in the first place.
Southern Cross’ new Auckland facility, designed by business interior specialist Stack, reflects this philosophical shift. A 4,800m² space, it shows what is possible when an employer chooses to prioritise the mental and physical well-being of its workforce. Now complete, the space is all about introducing new agile/mobile ways of working and reaping the rewards (both individual and collective) that this delivers.
To achieve this, the designers took their cues from the natural world. Working with organic forms and materials, and combining them with extensive planting, they sought to create a biophilic environment. Their success is there for all to see. The use of natural materials like stone and timber deliver the space a warm spa-like ambience, while the facility’s fluid, curved forms and pathways result in an organic experience and, in so doing, encourage healthy movement.
For the flooring at Southern Cross Auckland, the designers chose Milliken-Ontera’s Whale Song, a collection of modular carpeting inspired by the sound patterns of whale communication and the environments in which they can be heard.
Otherworldly and complex – yet somehow also familiar – the sounds of whale communication strike a chord with human observers. They comfort us and remind us – with their sonic distortions, gradations, stretched sounds, unexpected upswings, and ethereal beauty – of the scope and diversity of life on earth. They open our eyes to the miracles of nature and alert us, as a species, to what we have to lose if we veer too far from the path of responsible global stewardship.
For centuries, poets, scientists, environmentalists, and artists have studied the sounds of these mammals of the deep; sought to categorize and understand them; and looked to them for inspiration.
This is exactly the tradition the Whale Song collection of carpet tiles belongs to. Its designers represent the sounds of whale communication visually. The echoes, hoots and loops of the Humpback and Beluga – sounds that are known to travel through water at speeds four times faster than anything that can be heard above the surface of the water – find new life as unexpected shapes on flooring surfaces.
The Whale Song collection includes four highly textured, loop and tip-sheared patterns, which are named after four whale species (Beluga, Humpback, Narwhal, and Orca respectively). For the Southern Cross project, the designers chose to use the Humpback pattern exclusively.
This stunning carpeting fits the biophilic ambience of the Southern Cross project perfectly. True to the brief and the organisation’s desire to encourage mobility amongst its employees, the designers use the carpeting to effectively invigorate the space.
There’s no heavy handedness in their approach. Rather, gentle persuasion is the order of the day. Various design cues have been used to intuitively guide behaviour and building usage without protocols, policies, and wayfinding. This is visible by using different colourways with accent of nature inspired colours within Whale Song with curved layouts to enhance the furnishings and the environment.
The Humpback design is arranged organically to create movement across the floorspace and to initiate intimate zoning areas for purpose-built spaces. Toying with scale, the design captures the underwater landscape with its mixture of pattern scales that ebb and flow, while at the same time, balancing positive and negative.
The Whale Song collection of carpet tiles stands as a reminder that each environment, whether inside or out, tells a story. Importantly, the commitment of the collection’s creator to sustainability doesn’t end with such biophilic inspiration. Milliken goes a step further, matching its ability to help create harmonious, cohesive interiors spaces with a demonstrated commitment to environmentally responsible procurement and manufacturing practices.
With its Whale Song collection, it has helped hit a harmonious, sustainable note for Southern Cross Auckland.
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