Laws of design

The new Walkers law firm building on Elgin Avenue is nothing if not a striking sight.
 

Designed by Woods Bagot and built by McAlpine, the unexpected angles, both inside and outside, are perhaps the most distinctive visual feature of the innovative design.

For the casual observer looking at the exterior, it can be hard to tell whether the walls are straight or whether it is an optical illusion.

The same style is carried throughout the interior of the building. There is little symmetry and few right angles to be found anywhere in the design from the structural beams and the four-sided, but by-no-means-square central atrium to the shape of the desks and the angles of floor tiles to walls. 

Much of it is functional as the shaved corners on the exterior provide greater resistance to hurricane-force winds, because no single wall will bear the full force of the gusts.

But it is about more than functionality, with the whole design embodying the Walkers brand and reflecting the corporate culture.

“Innovation has always been one of the firm’s defining characteristics,” says Antonia Hardy, managing partner.

“It was important for us to have a building that reflected our core values in addition to working well with the environment of the Cayman Islands.”

This innovative approach is carried throughout the entire building, and the lattice motif visible on the exterior walls is repeated in the frosting on glass partitions and the patterns on the boardroom table. 

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The Walkers’ colours – black, grey and blue – are also carried throughout the interior colour scheme.

It is not only the lines and angles that make the design progressive, however. A variety of techniques and technologies have also been incorporated to reduce its environmental impact.

The sunlight that filters down through the atrium, for example, means that natural light reaches all seven storeys, reducing reliance on electrical lights; the hot water system is solar heated; lighting is motion activated, switching off lights when an area is vacant; and offices are individually thermostatically controlled, reverting to an eco-setting when empty.

While a significant amount of real estate is “lost” to the atrium, the design has the effect of creating a sense of connection in a building that houses several hundred employees.

“The building was designed to promote an open and collaborative environment for our employees, as well as to do everything that we can to preserve Cayman’s natural resources,” explains global managing partner, Ingrid Pierce.

Individuals on different floors can see one another across the building thanks to the atrium, and a cafe on the ground floor provides a neutral space for employees to gather, or for informal meetings to be conducted.

Tea rooms on each storey provide an additional space to take a break and socialise with colleagues. The flat rooftop, with panoramic views across the island, is another gathering area where special events can be hosted.

The openness of the design is intended to break down psychological barriers and foster a sense of connectivity among employees.

Building new offices from scratch also meant that the cutting edge technology could be incorporated.

“In addition to the environmental side, technology was also employed to help encourage greater productivity, through collaboration and greater communication,” explains Antonia.

“Such mechanisms include high speed data cabling, large plasma screens in every meeting room and 120-inch drop down screen in the 84-seat auditorium.”

The new Walkers building reflects the firm’s growth over recent decades and, from a sustainable, social and technological standpoint, is well positioned to carry them safely into the future. 
 

 

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