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Most coworking spaces are open to all types of workers – graphic designers work alongside academic researchers, computer programmers and publicists. Yet some coworking spaces have found advantages in focusing on a theme, hosting a cluster of independent workers in one particular field.
By Carsten Foertsch - Tuesday, 13 July 2010

In the hip New York borough of Brooklyn, several small firms of architects and urban planners joined together to create Metropolitan Exchange, or MEx. Housed across 6500 square feet of loft space, MEx is both a workstation and a cultural center. It regularly hosts seminars, dinners and film nights. Spokesman Michael Piper said clustering architects together had advantages in “synergy.”

As well as sharing knowledge and inspiration, the independent workers offered each other casual critique: “You can’t help but to look at your neighbor’s monitor, and as designers we can’t help but to comment. This sort of unsolicited discussion sometimes brings the best critique,” Piper said.

Working with others in a similar field often creates more work for the individual, due to the advantages of quick collaboration: “Hiring people can take time. If one of us has an immediate need for help on a project, say to finish a last minute deadline, then there are always experienced people close by. We share contacts and resources related to our business. What makes this unique is the personal reference that gains access to a source that might otherwise be hard to come by.”

Across the river in Manhattan, a group of writers work in tranquil silence in the comfortable offices of Paragraph. The silence is the main drawcard for this cluster coworking space designed specifically for writers: “Writers crave quiet, so if we were to open it up to others, that inevitably means talking, file cabinet drawers opening, and a general noisy atmosphere,” Paragraph co-founder Lila Cecil said.

Noise of any kind is forbidden in the workspace, which consists of desks partitioned to block sight lines, a further guard against intrusion. However writers are welcome to talk and network around the fireplace and in the café area. Paragraph has little trouble filling its membership list. The service is over-subscribed and has a waiting list.

Like at MEx, the members of Paragraph often gain work simply by attending. The space operates regular round-table meetings with publishers, at which many of the members have landed deals. As a concept, Paragraph mirrors The Writer’s Room, another writer’s workspace established in Manhattan in 1978. There is now a Writer’s Rooms in Boston, while San Francisco is home to The Writer’s Grotto. In Berlin, a similar concept exists exclusively for journalists called Die Journalistenetage (etage means floor or level in German).


By Joel Alas

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