The idea of introducing a coffee shop into a bookshop isn’t new, most of us love the idea of sipping a latte over a bestseller.
In a world where consumers perceive chains and homogeny on the high street negatively, we long for an independent, local shop that promises a personal touch. This perception of homogeny doesn’t begin and end in retail and leisure sectors alone, the aesthetic of working environments and models are also changing. There is a shift also in how people see their place of work.
New audience equals new workspaces
A sense of purposeful design has come to buildings around the world with the introduction of collaborative working spaces. Co-working environments respond to our innermost need for a sense of community, with layouts and areas specifically tailored towards encouraging conversation or privacy as needed, rather than a traditional day-to-day desk or cubicle approach. These agile co-working spaces require little, if any, long-term commitment from businesses or professionals. They capture the imagination of the entrepreneur, and open up new avenues of business opportunities by providing beautiful facilities where the costs are shared and achievable for many.
At Conran Design Group we have researched, been inspired by, and visited some fantastic examples of collaborative spaces around the world. These are hopefully the future of a long line of structures and repurposed buildings which offer multiple facilities, unusual aesthetics and clever uses of space. The Bond Collective in New York, for example, offers warehouse space with a luxe ambience. Sleek and modern staircases contrast the battered concrete columns for an urban office flooded with light. An inspiring place to call home each day – and home is what co-working environments offer. The space offers comfort and familiarity but is aspirational too.
Makers of Barcelona (a co-working space) established itself three years ago as an ‘eco-system of innovation’. They collaborate with businesses in an open plan space, and enjoy the sponsorship of Heineken. Its users can move to a new desk every day, use the meeting spaces, and indulge in barista-made coffee in their cafe. The dynamic space has a real sense of place by retaining the shell of the building and being respectful of the fabric of the building and its locality. There are some unusual and some might say, borderline gimmicky, additions: slides instead of stairs, giant taxidermy and beauty salons. But, as with any project, we can’t judge creative output without understanding the brief, the user, the strategy and the rationale.
Another favourite co-working hub is BetaHaus in Berlin. It offers an environment which is as responsive and well designed as it is forward thinking. Open plan offices periodically receive a great deal of press attention, often expressing concerns about the benefits of a collaborative office space and the investment in these new environments. There have been studies undertaken that raise questions around individuals’ productivity when exposed to the noise and distraction of an open plan working space. Equally, there have been some interesting studies which look at how happy we are in our working environments, and it would seem that privacy plays a role in our day-to-day satisfaction levels at work. We’ve found that these types of co-working hubs offer the best of what we all want from a working space – flexible, engaging spaces with opportunities for privacy, mutual innovation and a decent beverage. This directly responds to the need for personalisation by respecting the needs of the individual while harnessing the power of a collective.
The growing need to provide agile working spaces, commercialise buildings and respond to the expectations of a new audience is now a reality of city living. We'll be tracking its progress and watching, with excitement, how entrepreneurs are using different design-led approaches to meet the demands of this new workforce.