A Narrative through Design: The New Zealand Merino Story

Michael Harris

The New Zealand Merino Company (NZM) are pioneers within the New Zealand wool industry. After having to move due to the 2011 earthquakes, NZM wanted to relocate back to Christchurch’s CBD.


Gaze Commercial entered the story after NZM were told what they wanted to do wasn't possible within the required timeframe. Having years of experience with such projects, Gaze was more than happy to take on the challenge and develop the design that NZM’s creative team had envisioned.


Conveying a Story through Design

NZM wanted a space that they could be proud of, that heroed wool, and truly reflected their vision – ‘making your world a better place’. Being a place frequented by brand partners and growers, it was important that this was also a welcoming space for staff and clients. It was imperative to the company that natural materials, such as wool, were incorporated, wherever possible, to promote wellbeing and reduce NZM’s carbon footprint.


As innovators, NZM were determined to challenge what we know typical corporate design to be. They wanted to create a fresh feel and experience that was inspiring. The result is a space that portrays the company’s narrative through its design. One that depicts NZM’s innovative roots and celebrates their values, culture and history.


Entrance & Foyer

The final design connects two distinctive spaces, both representing NZM’s business areas. On one side sits the main office for employees and on the other, is an area for brand partners, clients and visitors to feel at home.


Upon exiting the elevator, a lush moss backdrop, representing the top view of a Papatūānuku, instantly catches your attention. The backdrop is harmoniously intersected by a set of screens that showcase the company’s brand partners and the farms where their wool is sourced from.


Main Office

To the right sits a reception that displays some of the innovative uses for wool. Handcrafted woollen rugs line the wall and are mounted to the reception desk, making it irresistible to touch when walking past. Representing the rivers of Te Waipounamu, a stream of blue light snakes past the reception, through a walkway that features symbolistic artefacts of the company’s origins and history. This corridor then opens into a large spacious office that is bathed with natural lighting and lined with soft woollen carpet.


Punctuated throughout this intimate office are breakout areas, in addition to a private balcony that overlooks the hustle and bustle of Victoria Street. Three ‘thinkering rooms’ also feature as designated areas fo rquiet work, deep thinking and collaboration. The office then flows into thekitchen, which features a large communal table made from reclaimed wood from a station that supplies NZM, Bluff Station in Marlborough.


Studio ZQ

Alternatively, upon entering the foyer, visitors may catch a sneak peek of Studio ZQ on their left-hand side. Named after ZQ, the leading ethical wool fibre developed by NZM, this studio is the design and innovation driver for NZM’s business development. Designed as an open, flexible and experimental space, Studio ZQ helps to foster creativity, collaboration and innovation within the broader community and primary sector.


Beside Studio ZQ is the location of NZM’s Growers Lounge; a dedicated space specifically for their grower community to call home. Panelled with rustic floorboards and reclaimed wood, salvaged from the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes, this space is a showcase for brand partner products and apparel. Lastly, a wooden structure, nicknamed ‘The Colosseum’, sits past the Growers Lounge as a presentation space accommodating over 60 people. Positioned as a place for kōrero, ‘The Colosseum’ is a mutually shared space for NZM’s various stakeholders.


NZM’s new workplace harmoniously connects nature, technology and innovation. This space has been intricately designed to showcase wool and emulate NZM’s history and core values, through its layout and use of natural materials. Wanting a place for various stakeholders to feel comfortable, Gaze Commercial transformed 1730m2 of empty space into NZM’s new home. The team is ecstatic that they now have a space that truly reflects their brand and the values they hold.