COVID-19 is calling large co-working spaces into question. Here are examples of small-format urban offices
Earlier on in the pandemic, we set out to explore what the virus would mean for the future of co-working. Many accounts suggested that providers may need to ditch large-format office developments in major metropoles for more intimate, flexible spaces catered toward workers in suburban environments – especially as an increasing number of urbanites consider moving outside of the city. Stijn Geeraets and Maarten van Gool of Belgian co-working brand Fosbury & Sons rightfully believe flexibility will be a key consideration for businesses faced with reshaping their workspace strategy during this time: ‘How comfortable can a company be by signing a long-term agreement if the world can change completely within one month? Today companies are forced to be flexible, fast and resilient, and they have the responsibility to make their real estate strategy answer to this current situation.’
So, now that many employees have more liberty than ever to decide where they want to work, there will likely be a flux of people looking to stay local. This puts neighbourhood co-working spots – ones that are small enough for workers to feel safe in, yet equipped enough to trump cafes and home offices – into the spotlight. But you don’t necessarily have to leave city limits to find them: three examples in Bilbao, London and Saint Petersburg make a case for smaller-format shared workspaces in the urban environment.
BILBAO: OSLO COWORK
Located in the revitalized Bilbao neighbourhood of Olabeaga, Oslo Cowork comprises 3-5 work areas, space for meetings and isolated work, kitchenette, bathroom and extended storage. BABELstudio designed the spot for concentrated working in a ‘calm, warm atmosphere’. The 39-m2 workspace, spread over two levels, takes advantage of the room’s height; a central free-standing volume provides access to the mezzanine and incorporates secondary uses. The main floor accommodates an extended bookshelf and working area, while the mezzanine hosts the meeting space and serves as a retreat for individuals looking for a quiet set-up. Handmade cement tiles in a blood-red hue, ash wood and brass details visually define Oslo Cowork, with several bespoke, multiuse foldaway tables created in collaboration with ProyectaVeta.
LONDON: ARC CLUB
Designed for locals looking to get away from the home space or cafes, London’s ARC Club is situated in Homerton, Hackney. Set in a street-level commercial property on the high street, the club’s goal is to ‘provide a new kind of community centre for a new kind of working world’. Because the co-working space targets solo workers ARC Club design director Caro Lundin opted for a ‘modular pod system to create a multitude of private spaces’, using durable, affordable materials and custom-built furniture to populate the interior. Different seating options – such as shared tables, a quiet zone and private booths – answer to different styles of working. ‘The challenge with ARC Club was to create a scalable solution,’ says Lundin. ‘Since affordability is at the heart of our offering, my approach had to be one that embraced the constraints of the space, while delivering something that was neither commercial nor boring.’
Read more here.
SAINT PETERSBURG: SMALL CO-WORKING SPACE
Architecture firm AMD transformed a former living space in Saint Petersburg into a small co-working space suited for 10 to 12 people. Lighting played a big role in the 100-m2 project: the team focused on rethinking natural and artificial lighting in the workspace realm, merging ample natural light in the main area with neutral white light in the meeting area. This space is located within a central transparent structure constructed from glass, wood and aluminium. Work tables are arranged along the perimeter of the room, and AMD developed a modular furniture system that allows for quick assembly and disassembly. ‘Our goal was to create a co-working space that looked like a library, not an office – to transform the space into a more psychologically comfortable place to work,’ explains a spokesperson for the practice.
Read our series on post-pandemic workspace design here.