A global business with its roots planted firmly in the South Island city of Dunedin, New Zealand, Silver Fern Farms set out with a goal to enrich and energize their people and visitors.

Silver Fern Farms is New Zealand’s leading marketer, producer, and procurer of premium grass-fed meat with operations globally in China, the US, the UK, the Middle East, and personnel in Korea, and Japan. They are committed to being the world’s most successful and sustainable grass-fed red meat company.

With the pandemic forcing Silver Fern Farms to rethink their future of work, they came to Unispace with a simple desire; “create a workplace experience where our people feel more energized and enriched when they leave.”

Housed within a Category 2 heritage-listed building that was once Dunedin’s Central Post Office, the Silver Fern Farms hub needed to pay homage to the company’s rural roots in a fresh and dynamic way while supporting flexible, project-based work.

Unispace and Silver Fern Farms worked together to develop their post-Covid workplace strategy, prioritizing face-to-face collaboration. With a 0.7 desk sharing ratio, the layout incorporates ‘innovation’ and ‘discover’ zones, alongside dedicated long and short-term project rooms.

The ‘discover’ zone boasts a digital terrace, fostering connectivity between the Dunedin hub and Silver Fern Farms sites worldwide. Previously held off-site, the tasting kitchen provides a space for in-house product development, cooking demonstrations, and marketing activities, while also serving as the venue for Silver Fern Farms’ internal ‘MasterChef’ competition, broadcasted live to employees worldwide.

“We wanted a cutting-edge space that our design and innovation team could use to showcase and create products. Previously they did this off-site so it’s great to be able to bring this in-house and allow our people to see what’s going on.” said Julie Cooper, Organizational Development Manager at Silver Fern Farms.

As new meets old, the thoughtful layering of materials brings warmth and softness into the heritage base build. The architecture of the building façade is abstracted into forms within the interior fit-out, giving it new life. Reflecting Silver Fern Farms’ origins and value, the workplace incorporates nature, bringing the outside in. Internal planting fills the voids and moss green walls, a nod to their farmers, connect the brand to the space.

Unispace partnered with local craftspeople to restore some of the former glory of the Central Post Office. Wool fibers from Silver Fern Farms’ sheep farmers are used throughout the furniture upholstery. Flaking plaster is retained to respect history of the building and materials are inserted in their raw state, re-introducing historic materiality such as Georgian wired glass. The result is a seamless layering of brand throughout the design.

“The beautiful thing about the moss wall is that it is alive and changes over time depending on the humidity in the building.” said Anna Parbury, Associate Design, Unispace.

Unispace delivered the project in two stages with construction works restricted to business hours Monday-Saturday to avoid disruption to a hotelier occupying the upper floors of the building. Unispace project and site management teams managed this successfully, with phase two works completed 10 days early with zero complaints from the building tenants.

“The space is transforming the way we work together, and this is reflected in our engagement scores. There’s chatter around the Dunedin community about this iconic building and how it’s been repurposed in a way that is respectful of its heritage which is important to us.” explained Julie Cooper, Organizational Development Manager at Silver Fern Farms

The result is a global destination hub, a space that enhances the connection and collaboration of its people. The use of materials, detailing and finishes deepen the connection of the brand and its history to the space, integrating Silver Fern Farms’ DNA and values throughout.

Project: Silver Fern Farms
Location: Dunedin, New Zealand
Design Studio: Unispace
Photo Credit: David Straight
Website: unispace.com

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