Will the gig economy force a retail-workplace fusion?
When it comes to materials, younger practices don’t have the advantage of more established studios with centralized offices, which have spent decades assembling samples for their libraries. And that’s assuming these fledgling firms even have a home base. Although architects and engineers within the construction industry have been late adopters of the gig economy, the assumption is that freelancing will eventually take hold in the design scene, too. For example, Ramzi Jreidini – the CEO of Handiss, a freelancing platform for the architecture and engineering industry – predicts that the gig economy will open up ‘new talent pools and international workforces into construction for the first time . . . serving an industry that desperately needs new workers on the ground’.
Since freelancers often operate from co-working spaces, it was only time before a supplier in the design-project chain would see a gap in the market in need of filling. Boonthavorn, one of the best-known building-material retailers in Thailand, has created a material library-cum-co-working space in Bangkok to ‘assist young designers who cannot access material libraries in an office’.
The goal is clear from the branding. Called Workspace, the project is an open office from which designers can actually work. ‘They can set up meetings with suppliers and clients with real materials at hand,’ says a spokesperson for Onion, the studio behind the three-storey interior. In addition to this core goal, the secondary aim was to showcase practical solutions that reflect the locality: affordable building materials that can easily be applied in Thailand rather than innovative products that are too expensive to import.
Onion divided the space into different areas, each with its own system for displaying materials. In the main zone – which includes co-working spaces, a café and outdoor terrace – architectural material samples are presented within modular shelving cubes. Here, designers can see and touch the materials – and read the details concerning their manufacturer. The seating area, on the other hand, is surrounded by suspended samples of carpets, curtains and wallpaper, while the walls of the laminates display room are covered from floor to ceiling in A5 samples so that ‘all of them can be seen in one glance’.
Read about more workspaces here.