The 60,000-sq-m space unfolds over eight floors and aims to encourage social interaction rather than a place to simply come and work in isolation. But outside of the obvious “collaboration stations” how are we designing spaces that actually make us want to get together?
July 27th, 2017
co-working, wework, hong kong, causeway, hot-desking, future of the workplace, mobile working
I can’t begin to tell you how many co-working spaces come across my desk. I’ve seen maybe every conceivable configuration and hot-desking strategy known to man, and just when I thought the typology had comfortably landed, it has taken yet another interesting shift.
Ask any freelancer (of any industry) what they hate most about their job and they’ll tell you it’s the isolation. “It’s really hard not having colleagues around you to bounce ideas off, or even just chat about The Bachelor with, you know?” I hear this so often, and yet the whole co-working/hot-desking concept has remained un-changed for quite some time… That is, until now.
In the last year alone, WeWork has launched two branches in Sydney, one in Melbourne, Singapore, Shanghai, Seoul, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Beijing, with New Zealand and Japan soon to follow. The most recent addition to the Asia-Pac family though, is WeWork Hong Kong.
Located at Tower 535 in Hong Kong’s popular Causeway Bay, the 60,000sqm space has been designed to specifically encourage and create encounters and collisions with your fellow users. WeWork approached NC Design & Architecture Ltd (NCDA) to deliver on this philosophy while maintaining the lush, high-design attitude that characterises every WeWork space (WeWork Weihai Lu Shanghai by Linehouse in particular, comes to mind here.)
While creating opportunities for chance-interactions and making the space aesthetically dreamy are very important, anchoring the space with a sense of local familiarity and culture is what really creates that sense of comfort and ownership. Taking inspiration from Hong Kong’s iconic transportation, NCDA defined each floor as an individual ‘neighbourhood’, creating a distinctive sense of place for each floor through different colour and material palettes, eclectic custom-design furnishings, and a collection of local-inspired wallpapers alongside inspirational bespoke artworks by Hong Kong-based creatives that include photographers, lighting artists and various illustrators. The purpose here, is to encourage members to explore the various thematic floors and discover collaborative opportunities with their fellow members.
Each of the communal spaces offers a forward-thinking yet nostalgic take on a local cultural theme, drawing typology from the iconic transit systems to the city’s quintessential streetscape. For example, a pantry inspired by the traditional street kiosks, curved bar counter with wooden overhang inspired by the Ferry terminal, custom-designed sofas are a nod to the Star Ferry’s signature seating, Bespoke lighting further evokes Hong Kong’s familiar street signage, trams and florescent lights. This decorative ‘hardware’ and its arrangement in the space is designed to encourage interpersonal connectivity through impromptu conversations, while also fostering a sense of community and collaborative culture that is unique to both WeWork and Hong Kong.
And when you really think about it, it’s not hard to see why. We are spending more time at work than ever, and professional culture – particularly within our region – is based largely on relationships. Having opportunities to connect with other potentially beneficial partners is invaluable and a luxury many freelancers just don’t have. You can make all the appointments and schedule as many meetings as you like – but there’s simply no substitute for bumping into someone at the printer, or joining in a conversation in the communal kitchen. It's when your proverbial ‘guard is down’ that the best ideas and opportunities present themselves, and that’s where this model presents an alluring proposition.
And even beyond that, not only does the social element of these spaces serve commercial gains, they also offer a bit of respite and casual interaction that get people through an otherwise isolated and lonely day. You might not have made any life-changing partnerships or business deals with other members, but hell – a bit of mindless chatter around the filtered-water cooler sure did make all the difference in your workplace wellbeing status.
So it makes sense then, that we as an industry have a huge responsibility in creating solutions for this commercial/social hybrid typology, and the work of NCDA for WeWork Hong Kong is a tremendous example of that. It’s a space that embraces local familiarity with Hong Kong’s unique characters and creativities, while setting a new standard for this new “Out of Office’ mobile culture, raising quality of life during and after work, and creating opportunities for members to connect, collaborate, brainstorm, or even just chill the hell out.
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