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Coworking Spaces

The evolution of coworking spaces

Betahaus - the open workspace

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Today over 100,000 people are working in coworking spaces, that’s more than in the offices of Apple, Google or Facebook. Yet, coworking spaces work more decentralized and align their rooms to the wishes of their members - and not vice versa, since most users pay for their own place to work. Therefore coworking spaces are more subject to constant changes than offices found in most large companies. A steady increase in coworkers leads to the creation of more (and bigger) coworking spaces. But how do we see these work stations in the future? We spoke with architect Kim Wang, who focuses on coworking spaces that you should look out for.

Imagine you could design your own workspace. What is the best way to set it up, so it is best for sharing with other people? What are the rooms that will connect the members with one another? How would you arrange them so that they can continue to develop along their own requirements? How will you respond to different members, especially when more and more people want to use the space? And now imagine that there is a platform with a wide audience, which will reward your ideas with prizes.

A few days ago the Coworking Challenge on Jovoto started. The competition is like a coworking space. You can focus on your individual ideas or come together to form a team. The success of your designs are not decided by the managers of the competition, but by people who would potentially use these spaces in the future. A jury will present and will also give out three other special awards.

On this aforementioned jury sits Kim Wang, an architect working with numerous coworking spaces in Berlin, including Raumstation and betahaus. Today, almost all floors in Berlin's largest coworking spaces bear his signature.

The Evolution of a coworking space

Two weeks before its official opening, Kim Wang designed the coffeehouse of betahaus in collaboration with the co-founders. During the initial phase it was quite chaotic, but "it's over now and in calmer waters". The time restrictions haven't changed but "they are now running in an orderly fashion, particularly in regards to infrastructural connections”.

"There happen to be more components that are very clear economic factors. First it was the dedicated and flexible work desks and small islands." Later, he developed the new event space and start-up offices that opened up to new target groups.

Open space vs. private offices

But to what extent does it challenge the open space concept of coworking spaces? “We wanted to keep everything open, yet offer more possibilities to retreat. For bigger companies we even need secluded rooms”. This is why betahaus decided to expand last year, opening up a new floor and offering soundproof closed company rooms, with more privacy. You can access these rooms through the open communal workspace that also brought a lot of action to this floor during an accelerator program that was located there earlier this year. In addition to all of this, each company room has windows facing the inside.

“One part of the room was developed due to inherent necessities. On the one side we have ideas and wishes, on the other side we have our budget. With growing financial possibilities, we are able to improve the room structure within the space, and include more ‘islands’ for groups as well as the option to withdraw.”

The open space and structure is an ideal that betahaus prefers, which can work well in a certain setting. Yet, as soon as you broaden your range, the needs of coworkers broaden exponentially. “For companies with 15 employees, we built a mini-coworking world that is secluded from the residual space.“

In the bigger budget there’s also room for better acoustics, stated Kim. “We can have a lot more people working in the open space, when there are panels on the walls filtering out the noise and echoes.”

“But you have to put yourself in other people’s shoes, there are always different types: those who prefer a quiet environment and those who don't care about the noise surrounding them at all. Here, at Betahaus, they can pick what they prefer.

How to rejoin separated members

The interaction between happens partly due to the space’s layout. "It is intended that members enter Betahaus through the open café. Soon we will add a reception on the first floor, because the café and reception in one concept is not working that well. In the near future, the member area will start behind the reception for a more steady and direct service and a filtered café for permanent users.

Trial & Error

Not all the expansion plans worked according to the initial ideas. The process of trial and error is a part of the steady advancement of a coworking space. “We built our arena, an event area, right next to the team offices. Otherwise the structural situation would have lead to walls without any windows. This however caused events taking place in the arena to be a major disturbance for the adjoining offices, thus restricting the use of the space.

The team-offices are located around a big open table. The offices themselves were working well, but the cost-benefit ratio of that floor did lead us to question the layout. Now we only do events on that floor, putting it to a more economic use. The construction of team offices will be reused and are enhancing another floor in return.

▶ Page 2: Outline for designing coworking spaces & more info on the Coworking Challenge

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