Interior designer Darcy Robertson has once again designed an award-worthy new office for his client Aspen Bermuda Limited, proving both designer and client are a winning combination.
Claiming the overall commercial award in 2006 for their previous offices at the Maxwell Roberts Building, Aspen has won it again for their new office space on the eighth and ninth floors at 141 Front Street.
“Their lease was coming up for renewal at their current location and with several new buildings on the market, they wanted to see if they could consolidate on square footage and manage to achieve all the business units on one floor,” explains Robertson. “The offices at Maxwell Roberts were spread over three floors. Having staff all on the same floor would allow for greater communication and connection between departments.”
According to Robertson, the Bermuda office of this international company required the right combination of style and substance. Fortunately, Robertson had a great base with which to begin designing—floods of natural light and stunning, 360-degree views of Hamilton Harbour, South Shore and the City of Hamilton courtesy of floor-to-ceiling windows.
“With the glass curtain wall all around the ninth floor we definitely did not want to obstruct any views from all points on the floor,” says Robertson. “The client decided fairly early on that the plan would be mostly open with minimal enclosed offices.”
Aspen already had an extensive and impressive art collection featuring works by local and international artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Vik Muniz, Paul Villinski, Charles Zuill, Graeme Outerbridge, Sharon Wilson and Sheilagh Head, to name a few. The rest of the design simply had to enhance the two main features of glass and art.
To do so, Robertson used a fairly neutral palette throughout the space with pops of colour highlighting the different divisions of the company. “The colour palette reflected our original palette from 2005 but was refreshed and updated,” says Robertson. “Aspen was very happy with their existing office décor so we did not want to depart from that but we also did not want it to be a direct copy. Highlight colours specific to their two main business units were introduced. The crisp green—featured as accents in the workstations—and the coral-shaped light fixture at the stairs reflect their reinsurance division’s primary palette, while orange reflects their insurance division. Rust orange was incorporated subtly in the Shaw carpet tile and in the cushions on the outdoor terrace furniture.
“Black and white are also predominant throughout the office. White and black kitchen cabinets provide the neutral backdrop for the secondary palette that includes blue, green and purple in the custom banquette and Bertoia chairs in the staff lounge/lunchroom.”
The reception area on the ninth floor features a custom oval reception desk skinned with rich block mottled Makore veneer and Alabama white marble. The area also has spectacular views of Hamilton Harbour and South Shore.
“Transparency and lightness greet visitors in the ninth-floor reception area that is bathed in natural light,” explained the interior designer. “The custom reception desk reflects the gem from the Aspen corporate logo. This central hub acts as the main street for the office dividing insurance and reinsurance teams and directing staff and clients to the eighth-floor conference centre.”
Through the main work areas, low workstations by District by Teknion allow the light and view to extend into the interior, while offices and meeting rooms along the perimeter incorporate frameless glass. According to Robertson, a “linen” etching was applied by Signworx to offer some privacy while maintaining light penetration.
Connecting the boardroom, meeting and lunchroom space on the eighth floor with the main ninth-floor office area was no easy task. There was originally no connection between the floors—aside from the base building elevators—but the client needed an easy flow between the two.
“Due to the structural design of the building and location of the reception area, there were only a few locations where we could feasibly penetrate the slab to connect the eighth-floor conferencing and lounge area to the main ninth-floor office,” says Robertson. “Normally when an opening is cut, additional steel beams are incorporated to support and transfer the loads. With the adjacent eighth-floor tenant already occupying their space, we could not support the stair from below without disrupting their office. The decision was to suspend the stair from the tenth-floor slab. Everything had to be designed and engineered precisely to not allow any deflection of the floors as both the ninth and tenth floor would have frameless full-height glass partitions.”
While being an engineering feat, the custom maple, steel and glass staircase is also as beautiful as it is functional.
“Every project has its challenges and this was no exception,” says Robertson. “We had a very short construction window, but with detailed contractor meetings and client review meetings held weekly, we could anticipate any issues and adjust accordingly.”
Other functional design considerations in the 11,000-square-foot office included convenient, fully equipped coffee/beverage bars on either side of the ninth floor with a staff lounge and catering area on the eighth floor. Custom banquette seating and classic Bertoia chairs with vibrant purple cushions create a relaxed café vibe for staff members to enjoy at lunchtime.
Three unique “mediascape” video conferencing rooms break from the traditional meeting-room mould with lounge-height tables, comfortable acid-green sofas and white lounge chairs. Meanwhile, the multipurpose boardroom features an impressive, custom-designed maple table that can be separated into two parts or joined together depending on the configuration of the room—which can also be divided with a skyfold wall. With all necessary spaces so carefully considered and beautifully finished, our judges were bowled over by the project.
Functional, beautiful, contemporary yet timeless—Aspen’s new Bermuda office checked all the boxes in this design competition.
General Contractor—Paterson Contracting; Mechanical Contractor—BAC; Electrical Contractor—Universal Electric; Plumbing Contractor—BAC; Soft Furnishings—Furniture Flair; Outdoor Furniture—Island Trading; Furniture (meeting room chairs)—Windward Supplies; Furniture (meeting room tables/credenza)—Diversified Services; HVAC—BAC; Drywall—Paterson; Flooring (Carpet)—Furniture Flair; Millwork—Ironwood Specialties; Paint/Painting—Abbott Decorating; Audio Visual—Sight N Sound; Cabling—Switchworx; Workstations/Office Suites (Teknion)—Furniture Flair; Signage—Signworx; Windows/Doors—Ironwood Specialties (wood) & Convoy (glass doors, office fronts); Lighting (specialty)—Luminart; Wall Coverings—Abbott Decorating; Tiling (lobby–installation)—Eminence; Tile Supply (lobby/lunchroom)—Pembroke Tile & Stone