Office Space

Alissa Ponchione • June 1, 2017

Photos: Coworking

With the gig economy growing, startups continuing to reign, and freelancers and consultants finding success in being their own bosses, office life—and the way people work—has evolved. Forget isolating cubicles, drab interiors, and bright fluorescent lights, designers have been challenged with creating open spaces that encourage collaborations, while carving out private zones, breakout areas, cafés, lounges, and even game rooms.

Take New York’s austere yet playful Spring Place. Designed by local firm Bluarch Architecture + Interiors, it acts as an artist’s enclave attracting the creative set, where design, art, fashion, and music meet. Meanwhile, for the Greenpoint, New York A/D/O design space (founded by MINI as part of the company’s own design practice) explores innovation in one of Brooklyn’s buzziest neighborhoods, with locally based nARCHITECTS leading the transformation of the one-story warehouse. In London, Tom Dixon’s Design Research Studio crafted the Interchange with 600 work stations and custom lighting installations throughout. Shanghai-based Lukstudio converted an abandoned building in Guangzhou into a modern, concrete café with office space.

Indeed, many of these spaces have taken cues from the recent onslaught of communal hotel lobbies and “bridge the gap between life and work in a way that is tasteful, mature, and breeds productivity,” says Parts and Labor Design cofounder Andrew Cohen. HKS is blending the two with h.Club LA, the first global extension of London’s Hospitality Club, which is set to open in 2018 within the Redbury Hollywood. The firm will overhaul the five-story hotel and aim to develop a space “to inspire other creatives where a synergy between minds, spirits, and imaginations can flourish and lead to new ways of perceiving our world,” explains Luciana Mazza, director of hospitality architecture for HKS’ London Studio.

Here’s a look at seven other coworking spaces that are redefining the way people work.

Blender Workspace
New York’s Parts and Labor wanted to “create a stimulating environment that is never stagnant or confining,” explains cofounder Jeremy Levitt of the upscale and fashion-forward Blender Workspace in New York’s NoMad neighborhood. “We focused on creating an aspirational brand of workspace that is timeless and elegant while also being edgy and unexpected,” says Cohen. Inside, a stylish reception area boasts comfortable lounge seating, mosaic tile, sculptural light fixtures, and original art pieces. The bright working area, which includes 32 custom desks, 36 proper offices (enclosed in glass and steel), and conference rooms peppered throughout, is flooded with natural light. In addition to doubling as an event space, a 2,500-square-foot café and lounge sits beyond the main work area with a large bar flanked by varied seating and midcentury-inspired lighting of walnut, brass, and handblown globes that “blend notions of hospitality and entertaining, while offering a casual alternative workspace,” says Cohen.

Pankhasari Retreat
Turin-based architect Michele Bonino and Carlo Ratti Associati are behind this Himalayan coworking and coliving sustainable hideaway. “Five or 10 years ago, we were chained to a desk. Today, we can use the outside as an extension to our offices, which is quite exciting,” explains Carlo Ratti. “The retreat has been created with this idea in mind.” Construction broke ground last August, and the site, located on a south-facing mountain slope “bound by a swift river and waterfalls” is near Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world. “The sacred black boulders that punctuate the site are incorporated into the design, which is split over three stacked volumes connected by a covered foot bridge,” he explains. Built with local materials, including stone, farmed teak, and Indian rosewood, the complex (which houses residential, business, sport, and farming facilities) hosts three or four people at a time, with a living space, studio, kitchen, and two bedrooms, while built-in furniture serves as a focal point.

Swiss designer Yves Behar, founder and principal of Fuseproject, partnered with longtime friend Amir Mortazavi of M-Projects, and Caspian Partners founder Steve Mohebi for Canopy in San Francisco. A timeless color palette offers “a sense of femininity to offset the dark features,” Mortazavi explains, while architectural details like black marble columns, chevron flooring, and warm lights are “reminiscent of a residential space or a boutique hotel rather than an office space,” adds Behar. Black and white touches mix with blond and brown wooden furniture, while unsaturated fuchsia tones are made more brilliant by a light-filled space. Fifteen desks with lockable storage, bookshelves, and dividers with soundproofing surround the center space, and glass offices create privacy for smaller teams, “while the horizontal glass construction is still beautifully proportioned and bespoke,” adds Behar.

330 Park Street Collective
Looking to craft a space that encourages innovative thinking, Melbourne firm Hip V. Hype’s 330 Park Street Collective in North Carlton is a haven for fellow creative firms. Broken up into two interconnected units, architecture and product design firm Archier occupies the West Wing, which doubles as a workspace and showroom for the company’s bespoke furniture and lighting, while the wood-paneled East Wing is home to furniture company Inkster, featuring its lighting pieces and other handcrafted products.
Concrete flooring, timber surfaces of American and Tasmanian oak, and South Australian limestone with white and black powdercoated steel details unify both spaces. An outdoor area from Simone Bliss Landscape Architecture softens the existing materials through the use of river pebbles and native trees. Timber doors open onto Park Street and enable “a more fluid interaction between members of the space and passersby,” says Hip V. Hype founder Liam Wallis. “These large lift and slide doors blur the boundary between the streetscape and studio, dissolving the threshold between public and private,” and weaving the space into the neighborhood, adds Elise Teperman, the Collective’s office manager.

Walthamstow Central Parade
To transform a 1960s London office building into a multidisciplinary hub (with coworking spaces, meeting rooms, a bakery and café, retail, and studio units for up to 50 independent creative businesses), local firm Gort Scott stripped back the linings of the outdated space to craft a spacious and robust hall. “This exposed the generous proportions and naturally lit spaces of the 1960s building, creating a mostly open plan,” says cofounder Fiona Scott. Bespoke furniture and a ceiling grid suspended above from an exposed concrete soffit “ties the building’s fabric intrinsically to the bespoke fitted and loose furniture within,” she notes. Midcentury pieces reference the building’s heritage, decorative tile on the exterior hint at the interior inside, and Today Bread café (open to the public) anchors the area, defining its convivial character.

WeWork Weihai Lu
Local firm Linehouse consulted with WeWork’s internal design team to transform a former opium factory in Shanghai into the bold WeWork Weihai Lu. The goal, says Ashley Couch, WeWork’s global director of interior design, is “to find ways to bring the building to life, let it be what it is, and show off the way it was constructed rather than hiding it behind finishes and heavy-handed intervention. We took a playful approach that was whimsical yet polished for this grand location.” A green steel staircase weaves through the large central atrium, joining all three levels with railings “clad in triangular pieces of oak wood, with one side painted in hues of blue,” says Linehouse cofounder Briar Hickling. “The colors alternate as you travel up the stair, creating a gradient of tones and shifting views from wood to blue.”

Inspired by a grand hotel with the entrance acting as a concierge and the bar as a grand public space, the design stimulates the senses from top to bottom. A diagonally striped blue, green, pink, and gray floor offers visual interest, while a lighting installation made of pink and gray cabling with circular bronze rings traverses the space, connecting exposed brick walls. The pastel color palette is layered with elements of gold, deep blue, and green, with geometric bathroom tile and large-scale poppy wallpaper, a nod to the space’s former use, painted over by hand in gold and green.

The Wing
For female professionals looking to create a space—or room—of their own, New York’s women-only the Wing is a feminist wonderland, with blush colors mixing with blue, gray, and caramel tones and brass accents. Inspired by the Flatiron location (previously known as the Ladies’ Mile), local designer Chiara de Rege of CdR & Co. worked alongside founders Audrey Gelman and Lauren Kassan to craft a place that is sweet and feminine but also warm and engaging. (The duo is taking the concept on the road: locations in DC, SoHo, and Brooklyn were recently announced.) “What was so empowering about this [project] is you’re thinking for women and how women will use this space,” she says. Pink sofas, bright yellow-tufted chairs, and terrazzo tables branded with ‘Ws’ punctuate handsome pieces like leather club chairs. “It’s softening the midcentury look but holding onto that sharpness,” she explains. Bookshelves contain books arranged by color—all by female authors—and beyond various work zones and a café sits a salon for members to primp (complete with custom toilet wallpaper of busy working women), a gym locker room, and a shower area. “As a woman,” de Rege adds, “there is something really nice about being in this space and spending the day.”

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