DE­SIGN­ING FOR EVO­LU­TION

Con­stantly evolv­ing work­places pose con­stant de­sign chal­lenges for co-work­ing spa­ces. Here’s how Gen­er­a­tor has dealt with them across its many dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions.

Idealog - - SECTION -

Walk through Brit­o­mart Place, Gen­er­a­tor’s lat­est ser­viced of­fice and co-work­ing space, and you’ll be struck by the chic de­sign; desks and of­fices per­fectly placed, con­ve­nient break­out spa­ces, board­rooms and bar ar­eas and, of course, a stun­ning view of the har­bour to match.

But the fact is that you’re view­ing this on a vir­tual re­al­ity head­set from the com­fort of Gen­er­a­tor’s orig­i­nal re­cep­tion lounge, one block away, in Stan­beth House, a well-loved rab­bit war­ren of cowork­ing in­dus­try.

The jux­ta­po­si­tion of the two spa­ces speaks vol­umes about work­place de­sign and where the co-work­ing in­dus­try has come in seven years.

When Ryan Wil­son founded Gen­er­a­tor at Stan­beth, #cowork­ing wasn’t even a word (in fact it wasn’t even a con­cept!) and a world away from the multi-bil­lion dol­lar in­dus­try it now en­com­passes.

“When we cre­ated the first Gen­er­a­tor space, Brit­o­mart was still a col­lec­tion of di­lap­i­dated build­ings des­per­ate for re­newal. Re­de­vel­op­ment had just be­gun. Our res­i­dents pretty much had to wear hard hats while the build­ing was be­ing re­stored.

“We ‘de­signed’ the space by sim­ply draw­ing desk spa­ces on A4 pa­per and giv­ing it to an ar­chi­tect – with lots of point­ing and arm wav­ing as the main plan­ning tools. But the space had good bones and the build­ing had a soul and that helped make the workspace suc­cess­ful and we got our start!” Wil­son says.

Now, with four main workspaces (soon to be five) en­com­pass­ing the char­ac­ter­ful orig­i­nal Stan­beth space, the wacky, over­the-top Ex­cel­sior House, classy her­itage restora­tion Ma­son Bros. and in­dus­trial chic of 12 Mad­den Street – plus seven years hon­ing their skills – the Gen­er­a­tor team knows more about what busi­nesses need

to work than the people who in­habit them.

“One of the first things we dis­cov­ered at Gen­er­a­tor was the re­la­tion­ship between workspaces, the event spa­ces and what we call the ‘col­li­sion spa­ces’ – those com­mon ar­eas where friend­ships are made, busi­ness con­tacts are dis­cov­ered and busi­ness ad­vice is freely given. Without that ad­di­tional in­put of en­ergy from the events and the col­li­sions oc­cur­ring, these co-work­ing build­ings would just be lines of desks. There is a science to this and we’re learn­ing more about that for­mula ev­ery day.”

Gen­er­a­tor gen­eral man­ager, Francesca Blom­field, one of the orig­i­nal staff mem­bers of the busi­ness, now spends a large amount of her time with in­te­rior de­sign­ers and ar­chi­tects, fur­ni­ture spec­i­fiers and land­lords to plan spa­ces, mod­ify for­mats and re­shape to suit ex­pand­ing busi­nesses.

“The de­sign of a co-work­ing busi­ness needs to cover so many bases,” says Blom­field. “When a busi­ness first joins us, they might need a desk or four, they might like open-plan for a while to get the feel­ing of the en­ergy of Gen­er­a­tor – then within a year they’re want­ing an en­closed of­fice for 12 with their own ded­i­cated in­fra­struc­ture.

“So, Gen­er­a­tor spa­ces need to al­low them to scale up (or down) al­most in­fin­itely (some busi­nesses in Gen­er­a­tor have gone from four to 40 desks), with all the im­pli­ca­tions that has on the other busi­nesses, use of space, and the all-im­por­tant air-con­di­tion­ing sys­tems, plus IT, baris­tas, bike racks, toi­lets and ev­ery­thing else sup­port­ing that area.”

She says their job is to be as mal­leable as pos­si­ble while still en­sur­ing that the as-close-to-ideal in­fra­struc­ture works, no mat­ter what.

“That means on­site IT team, on­site events team, on­site bar man­agers and a small army of concierges work­ing fran­ticly ev­ery day to en­sure ev­ery­thing that can be done, is.”

Now, work­ing with ar­chi­tects and de­sign teams such as Jas­max and CPRW Fisher Lim­ited, Blom­field is con­stantly look­ing for im­prove­ment in the for­mats and ser­vices, while at­tempt­ing to keep that es­sen­tial ser­vice layer work­ing for the mem­bers.

“Gen­er­a­tor has an essence that needs to im­bue ev­ery new venue we cre­ate, over­laid with the char­ac­ter of that par­tic­u­lar space and the busi­nesses that we think it will ap­peal to. Our new Gen­er­a­tor, Brit­o­mart Place is unashamedly su­per-pre­mium, with sur­faces and ma­te­ri­als that re­flect that, but still, some­how it will have that Gen­er­a­tor feel, pro­vided by the sub­tleties of the de­sign, the place­ment of com­mon ar­eas and quiet spa­ces and the staff cul­ture.

“We have the ad­van­tage of be­ing able to view the project in 3D via VR, some­thing we couldn’t do in the past, but there is a large dol­lop of work­place de­sign ex­pe­ri­ence that we use to get to our fi­nal de­sign – full of the knowl­edge that much of it could well be changed within a year of its cre­ation,” Blom­field says.

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