Heading up in the lift to the top floor of Bermuda’s latest trophy building, Point House, it is hard not to have high expectations, and the Convex Re Ltd (Convex) office space certainly doesn’t disappoint.
Occupying the entire sixth floor and the eastern end of the fifth floor is 13,900 square feet of work space designed not just for the more flexible way in which offices are now used, but also to embody inclusivity, diversity, visibility, openness and style. “There are no visible barriers,” says Darcy Robertson, design director at Commercial Interiors Group who was responsible for the entire interior design process.
In addition to Bermuda, Convex has office space in The Scalpel building in London, and Robertson’s brief from Lisa Robinson, head of HR at Convex, was to generate a recognisable Convex experience with first-class greeting areas which create an excellent first impression. In addition to this, Robertson was asked to reflect life at Convex which, he says, is modern, open, inspired and joyful.
As the lift doors open, it is immediately clear that Robertson has achieved his client’s brief. Before you even get a chance to notice the phenomenal, almost 360-degree City of Hamilton and harbour views to your left and right, you are distracted by a unique, custom-made, branded, LED light wall right in front of you. Oak-panelled, the wall encompasses 700 Perspex rods all of which are backlit by an LED light grid which is remotely programmed. On a usual day, it will display the Convex “wave” logo, but colours and patterns can change according to a theme. Pink for breast cancer awareness month, for example, or a heart for Valentine’s Day. At night, the glow can even be seen from the street far below. This bespoke fixture is the work of California-based, large-display LED manufacturing company Pangaea Technology.
Once you have managed to tear your eyes away from the lights, you are drawn into the spacious open-plan, flexible work space which has spectacular views through the floor-to-ceiling windows in every direction. There is room for 55 employees, but the existing layout is designed to move and shift to accommodate more work space should the need arise, and there has been a concerted decision to move away from being “too corporate,” creating a more relaxed, home-away-from-home feel. There are a variety of distinct “areas” designed to accommodate any which way employees choose to work and anything they or their clients may need.
The first area you are led to on both floors is the sleek, central coffee bar which provides entertaining and meeting space and includes all the latest beverage technology, an integrated wine fridge and hidden garbage disposal. As an indication of the attention Robertson has given to detail, there is a single, specialised tap which produces sparkling, cold and even hot water on demand, meaning staff can make their tea away from the coffee area. “You never like tea coming out from where coffee is made,” laughs Robertson.
The downside of open plan is a lack of privacy, so custom, acoustical phone booths have been installed which allow for private telephone conversations. Banquettes, recessed booths, bar-table seating and more informal “living room”-style seating arrangements have also been created and can be used for meetings or get togethers. The phone booths came from Hushoffice and the collaboration booths and banquettes from Orangebox, both of which are based in the US. There are also individual swivel chairs, which can be turned towards the outside view for a more comfortable, scenic workday or to help make that conference call a bit more enjoyable. “There are little collaboration areas,” continues Robertson. “Lovely views of the harbour. They can have informal meetings, come here for lunch, have a meeting with a client.” Employees can also enjoy city views from the fully stocked kitchen and enjoy their break on a large outdoor terrace when the weather allows. Early risers or late workers will be rewarded with dazzling sunrises and sunsets.
All the workstations are “free address” so employees can work from anywhere at any time and the office is completely wireless allowing them to move and work freely. “There are no computers on any desk. It’s a clean desk policy at the end of the night. It looks like the day they moved in,” he adds. To this end, staff lockers have been subtly incorporated into the office space, close to the workstations.
Flexible work space even extends to the state-of-the-art boardroom on the floor below. The large round boardroom table, which on its own is an award-worthy component, means everyone can be seen clearly during meetings and the size and shape can change for different purposes. The table is a custom-designed, configurable, white ash durable laminate, which is 16 foot in diameter at full size. It can be reduced to a 10-foot diameter table for smaller meetings, and when not in use the perimeter sections can be moved to other parts of the room and used for a catering setup. They can also be arranged into a classroom format for training purposes. Each section even has its own power outlet. The table was supplied by Furniture Flair but built by US furniture manufacturer Halcon, who were initially unconvinced that what Robertson wanted could actually be done. Thanks to his determination and creativity, however, they managed to produce a boardroom table the likes of which they had never produced before. “The furniture manufacturer said ‘no, it cannot be done,’” says Robertson, who wouldn’t take no for an answer and designed and drew it anyway. “It’s a big table,” he adds. “It was fun craning it up. It couldn’t fit in the elevator.
In keeping with the theme of employee wellness and inclusivity, the fifth floor is also home to a multi-faith room and a wellness room as well as two shower rooms, including one that has ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessibility. To complement an office layout that embodies openness and freedom, the fixtures, fittings, materials and flooring are all durable, have a natural, environmental theme to them and incorporate fun colours. The Convex turquoise pops up in some of the seating areas but isn’t too dominant and is offset with reds and different shades of blue and green. There are planters around the coffee bar as well as dotted around other areas of the office space, which add attractive natural greenery. The walls are slatted white oak panels, which not only creates warmth but also gives the office a residential feel. This is further reflected in some of the flooring and seating. The carpet tiles, for example, resemble the texture of weathered rock or a pebbled garden path. “There are three carpets of the same pattern,” explains Robertson. “It’s visual interest, texture and it also creates the pathways and gives you that organic, natural look. It’s not too corporate.
“Finishes that reflect nature add to increasing well-being by bringing the outside in,” he continues. “As designers, we know that [by] following nature’s example this space ignites our senses through light, colour, texture and detail.” Adding to the visual interest is the clever use of certain lighting and ceiling patterns. Circular ceiling features above the round coffee bars and again above the circular boardroom table are very effective at making these areas stand out from the rest of the space. Down the length of the corridors, however, the lighting is linear, further enhancing the flow. The lighting is LED throughout and in the phone booths, meeting rooms and other less-used rooms, they operate on sensors. This means the lights are only on when the room is in use. While open plan is the dominant theme, there are a number of enclosed meeting spaces; however, they are glass panelled so views, light and visibility are not obstructed. They are also completely soundproof.
As you would expect for a world-class reinsurance company, technology plays a huge part throughout the entire office space, and in addition to wireless Internet access, the latest AV technology, sourced by Sound Decision, is available in the collaboration spaces and meeting rooms, including LED TV screens, BlueJeans Video Conferencing and Apple TV.
When reflecting on the expert job Robertson and his team have done at Convex, The Bermudian’s panel of judges agree that the top floor was particularly impressive, especially the relaxed, open spaces and the fact the office didn’t feel too commercial. Additionally, they commend Robertson’s effort for getting Halcon to build the boardroom table exactly how he wanted it, and they particularly enjoyed the story about having to crane it into the office!
“Darcy is professional level,” they agree, adding that the custom finishes, office flow, furniture design and general attention to detail were “excellent.”