Wow, check out the Alex Wang HQ by Wonder Group

Built for use as a workshop and warehouse in around 1950 and latterly home to a hair salon, the CBD Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland premises of financial advisor and broker Alex Wang and his team were special from the start, but just look what Wonder Group creative director Buster Caldwell and co have done with them. Buster says it wasn’t entirely deliberate, yet somehow Alex’s warmth, quiet intelligence and cool but casual and bubbly character became very much infused into the update. 

ABOVE Buster explains that Wonder Group was influenced by Japanese and Nordic aesthetics on this project: “Our cabinetry detailing borrows form language from Japanese sashimono techniques, which is also seen in the shelving, tables and desks. In a more subtle manner, the reductive use of volume establishes a homely environment that’s enhanced by the lack of typical workspace fixtures.”

Buster, what elements of the existing building were you able to retain? Space planning was a little complicated on this project, as we were fighting to retain the open, arched aspect of the building, while also needing to box out enclosed volumes for amenities and private spaces. Restoration was a strong focus too. The structure had rusted over time, so the support lattice within the walls had to be replaced with new steel. Most of the flooring is original, but some sections had been damaged by previous fit-outs; rather than matching them with new timber, we filled in the holes with tinted cement.
The ’90s tiles in the entryway were removed to expose the existing construction, and the original brick elements were bagged with dolomite plaster to ensure longevity, as the clay was beginning to crumble after years of use. A large lintel that supports the bricks has been uncovered and takes centre stage in the kitchen, where it supports Alex’s impressive wine collection. 

ABOVE Given this is first and foremost a workplace, when it came to lighting, functionality was paramount. Surface-mounted can lights in finishes that match the plaster and recessed LED channels throughout the cabinetry and detailing provide the practical, while the decorative pieces include wall sconces, the Melt pendants by Tom Dixon from ECC pictured in the kitchen shot further up this page and the Gervasoni lights by Paola Navone from ECC seen below.

It’s definitely a luxury look… The bespoke handles on the front door offer a firm handshake on arrival and set the scene for what’s found within. Natural light filters through the front windows, highlighting the colours and textures of the carefully curated materials. The design is pared back to allow Alex’s collection of art and sculptures to inject personality into the environment.
The inclusion of a spiral staircase is a nod to quality and quirk, offering a special moment for clients and guests who are invited to the meeting space upstairs. The upstairs room itself provides a change of pace from the light-filled studio into a more intimate cocoon with a sense of privacy appropriate for confidential financial discussions. 

What angle did you take with regards to colour? Given the Alex Wang team themselves offer so much colour and energy, we didn’t want the environment to compete. As a result, muted chalky dolomite walls fill the main volume, deepening to a rich carmine red on the upper landing. Tobacco timber is the only material that’s used to contrast, with other finishes selected to fit in rather than stand out. 

It’s a killer combo with the texture you’ve used… Plaster wraps most of the interior surfaces. It’s a great medium as the surface texture, colour depth and physical build are three very dynamic parameters to play with. Once installed, it catches the light in many different ways, behaving unexpectedly across both hours and seasons. 

What else makes this workplace different from that of the average financial advice firm? Everything about it! Alex put his team atmosphere and customer experience at the forefront of the brief, and somewhere in there is where the difference stems from. There are desks, there are chairs, but other than that, it’s worlds apart.

Words Philippa Prentice
Photography Jono Parker

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