The Work Project takes a multi-sensory approach to serviced offices and co-working spaces. Tamsin Bradshaw speaks to the minds behind the design and the business model.
Junny Lee had a problem. His problem was a universal one, shared by individuals, startups and corporations alike: space.
“Nine out of 10 businesses I speak to say they are burdened by office woes. I share their frustration. I have been moving offices every year, trying to throw cubicles and desks together, squeezing teams into spaces that don’t fit them. It’s a completely counter-productive exercise,” says Lee.
Believing the office should be “a tool, not a burden,” Lee conceived Office 2.0, a.k.a. The Work Project, which launched in Hong Kong in October 2016. “It’s the ultimate workspace experience for today’s Knowledge Worker – from transparent and instant online bookings to using scent, music, taste and social interactions, we aim to help them drive productivity for doing better work.”
The nature of the space itself is of course vital, too, and this is where Bean Buro came in. Established in 2013 by Lorène Faure and Kenny Kinugasa-Tsui, the architecture and design studio came on board to create the multi-sensory serviced office and co-working space Lee was looking for.
It seems fate had a hand in bringing Bean Buro and Lee together in the first place. “Junny found Bean Buro by reading about our previous projects,” says Kinugasa-Tsui. “It was pure coincidence that he turned out to be my boarding school mate whom I had not seen for years – we only recognised each other when we went for an intro meeting!”
That intro meeting was certainly serendipitous, because The Work Project is a workspace unlike any other in Hong Kong. Located in Causeway Bay’s Midtown, this 33,000-square-foot space exudes a sense of peace and calm that is no doubt conducive to the productivity and wellbeing Lee hoped to achieve for his clients.
On the first of The Work Project’s four floors is a co-working space, complete with canopied meeting rooms, common work areas and areas in which to converse and collaborate. It’s also a space in which events can and will happen, from wine tastings to music performances and much more.
“We have a really pastel palette going on here, with different hues of blue and green. It’s not pretentious, and it’s not really masculine,” says Kinugasa-Tsui of this floor. Adding to the warm, homey feel the colour scheme creates is a green wall, conceived by the creator of the original vertical garden, Patrick Blanc.
“Our main common area, consisting of The Stage and The Garden, has been a big hit. This sculptural amphitheater with its garden backdrop is something truly unique to Hong Kong,” says Lee.
Meanwhile, the meeting rooms bring drama to the space: Bean Buro raised them off the ground, creating contrast with the other elements of the common area, which benefit from 4.5-metre-high ceilings.
“For these sculptural meeting rooms, we looked into the history of Causeway Bay,” says Kinugasa-Tsui. “It used to be on the waterfront before all the land reclamation happened, and it used to be where you’d fish and gather under these beautiful canopies.”
Bean Buro used those canopies as inspiration for the roofs of each of the meeting rooms, creating a sense of privacy, a natural acoustic barrier – enhanced by fabric on the underside of the meeting room ceilings – and encouraging people to gather in these spaces.
Also on this floor are Bean Buro’s signature Bean Tables, which curve and flow in a way that is designed to encourage communication by breaking up boundaries. Muuto’s Under the Bell lights hang above some of the tables, also helping to create a subtle sense of enclosure should workers wish to have discussions under them, while helping to limit sound transference. The green wall also scatters sound in the same way.
Here, natural light filters through the floor-to-ceiling windows to flow freely through the whole space. On the other three floors, however, light proved a bigger challenge. There, the floor area is divided into multiple private offices that can hold between two and 12 people, and those furthest away from the windows do not have direct access to any natural light. To solve this, Bean Buro used glass partitions. “On top, they’re transparent, and in the middle, they’re translucent,” explains Kinugasa-Tsui.
Pastel tones of blue, green and grey help add warmth to the private offices, as do the cork boards that allow people to pin ideas and checklists on the walls, while helping soften sounds.
“The challenge was to create really functional flexibility while still being very humanistic, especially for these three floors where you have these grids of cellular offices. They could get quite dull and post-office-like,” says Kinugasa-Tsui.
The private offices are anything but dull, especially once they have been personalised by the ad agencies, tech companies and law firms that are quickly beginning to rent space at The Work Project. And no wonder: The Work Project brings a new sense of luxury to the traditional co-working space; one that is attracting the 30-somethings and the big businesses whose constantly changing work needs are driving them into serviced offices.
And this is only the beginning for The Work Project. “Junny’s looking into other sites around Hong Kong,” says Kinugasa-Tsui, “And possibly one in Singapore.”
The Work Project