Why NZ’s best office view is screened from staff stations in new $5m RocketWerkz HQ fitout

Techno punk music blasts into the all-black void into an unsettling space at the top of the new $1 billion PwC Tower.

Strips of green neon LED tubes zig-zag across the floor, walls and ceiling of ‘outer space’ and stepping in here is almost as unnerving as riding New Zealand’s fastest lift (8m travelled per second).

Smoky black glass doors part quietly in the centre to allow entry to a curved cream ‘airlock’, redolent of 2001 A Space Odyssey.

‘Airlock’ opens into a much brighter unmanned reception space station with a 3m x 1m screen showing hi-tech game scenes made by the business whose offices you’ve just entered.

A ‘town hall’ or meeting space follows and it’s into the full ‘space station’ and only then does the view emerge – east to Customs St towers, Britomart and the waterfront.

Welcome to the new $5m state-of-the-art-designer fit-out by Unispace for video gaming business RocketWerkz, which on Monday shifted from Albert St’s West Plaza onto levels 38 and 39 of the Commercial Bay tower.

“It’s like a space station,” explains Prada shirt-wearing chief executive Dean Hall of the theming. “We’re not like lawyers or accountants so the space had to be designed for us. Going to other lobbies in this building- theirs sucked compared to ours.”

He leading on towards level 38’s northern view and it is only then the shocking screens emerge: grey, metal, about 1.8m high running a few metres back from almost the entire length of the floor-to-ceiling glass windows, largely obliterating New Zealand’s newest and most spectacular office view from staff workstations.

“We call this the gallery,” Hall says, showing the corridor-style area between the staff hub and those spectacular windows. Couches will be placed in that gallery for view-hogs.

Then he addresses the elephant in the room.

“I know it seems weird putting screens in but if you look at other floors in this building, tenants have their blinds pulled because it’s just too bright,” Hall explains of the clash of light and the much darker area the video experts need to do their work. “The metal screens separate workspace from the window so we don’t need to pull blinds down.”

“We’re trying to turn all the main lights out and just have LEDs and it will look quite different then.”

Around 60 staff are now working from that central collaborative engine-room hub: concept, animation, art, creative and programming specialists, some ex-Weta Workshop, others ex-World of Warcraft, many toiling on the new game, Icarus “like Bear Grills in space”, says chief operating officer Stephen Knightly.

Unispace worked with Hall and Knightly on the fitout of levels 39 and 39 of the waterfront tower.

The company has banned staff from bringing friends or family in yet, although an open day is planned for a select vew later this month. Nor can staff eat at their desks “because we have a canteen with the vest view in the word”, Knightly says.

Hall says the highly security-conscious business “is careful” about what staff plug into their work computers. Couriers deliver tech gear and packages to the tower’s mail centre, not level 38.

“This has to be the highest recording studio in New Zealand – no, Australasia,” he says, showing off another feature on level 38 alongside his office which looks across to the Viaduct area where he lives.

Then it’s up a two-flight set of stairs to a “secret floor” on part of level 39 where a smaller mezzanine-style area on the western corner could take more offices. Hall pulls back cupboard doors to show off a fully fitted kitchen”because I don’t like eating food I haven’t cooked myself”.

Although Covid delayed the shift by about four months, staff packed last week and were given a fully-paid holiday on Friday “we called it RockertWerkz day” to enable a smooth move.

“Our job is to think five years ahead,” Halls say of the vision for the offices and how the work translates into the unusual fitout.

Hall and Knightly thanked Unispace lead designer Harry Rowntree, Precinct Properties’ asset manager Peter Bowden and Bayleys staff for their involvement in the leasing, design and fitout.

But they wouldn’t say how much rent is for the initial six-year term “but it’s highly competitive”, Hall said of the lease which comes with only two car parking spaces.

But Hall is not yet finished: he wants to rip ceiling panels from the engine room hub to expose services and says once the drycleaners have returned his Prada suit, he’ll wear that to show changes to the new offices.

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