Coworking has been a popular part of the workplace design landscape for well over a decade now and many UK iterations of this flexible working concept continue to innovative in terms of design and service offer.
By Helen Parton
Although serviced offices had been around since the late 1980s, it was really the financial crash of 2008 that kickstarted the concept of coworking that we currently know, with its mix of contemporary-styled common areas, hotdesking set ups and private offices. Operators were able to capitalise on landlords offering cheaper rents and an army of newly empowered entrepreneurs wanting somewhere other than the spare room to work out of, saw the sector boom.
Originally designed by Charles William Long in the 1920s, LABS’ Victoria House is now a contemporary coworking space.
© Ståle Eriksen
Fast forward to 2021 and it is a crowded coworking market. Factor in Covid-19 and it’s clear only those able to innovate that will survive. LABS is one such operator with a clutch of London locations to its name. One of these is Victoria House, a Grade II Listed building in Bloomsbury Square. Here architecture studio Hutchinson & Partners has taken the original elegance of this 1920s neoclassical design and enhanced the building's 150,000 sq. ft with modern meeting rooms, kitchens and breakout areas. The interior design harnesses a muted material palette featuring terrazzo, bronze and brass. Plus, just in time for summer, there is also a roof terrace with views over London’s West End.
25 EP is a workspace that combines contemporary features, art installations and dynamic lighting.
© 25 EP
One of the cuter consequences of the pandemic has been the influx of lockdown, with the BBC reporting that over 3 million households have bought a pet during the pandemic. Fortunately coworking space 25 EP has that covered as it is dog friendly. Located in London’s Belgravia district, it mixes the look and feel of a private members club and the service of a luxury hotel with a fully functioning workplace. 25 EP opts for a colour palette of rich, dark paintwork, statement wallpaper and vintage carpets. The set up includes hot desks, permanent desks and private offices accommodating from 2 to 50 people.
Liberty House draws on the history and retail aesthetic of the department store from which it gets its name.
© The Office Group
While 25 EP clearly took many of its cues from the hospitality sector, architects SODA Studio was inspired by an iconic retailer Liberty, famous for its prints worldwide. Liberty House, part of The Office Group collection of coworking spaces, is physically connected to the well-known department store and has strong design links too. Soda used the Liberty logo to generate a pattern used on worktops and panelling while doors and reception desks have a scalloped texture, replicating the fabrics and textiles sold next door. This project also takes the drive towards making green business choices seriously with original elements such as stair treads, balustrading and herringbone floorboards retained and sourcing sustainable products such as Durat worktops made from repurposed plastic a priority.
A former Pizza Express restaurant has been transformed into a coworking space in Leeds.
Heading north from London to Leeds, a new coworking unit in Park House is addressing another pressing property concern: redeploying space in the wake of Covid. Spacemade, which is an operational partner for landlords looking to provide bespoke flexible workspace to its customers, transformed a former restaurant into a desirable workspace that reassures a post-pandemic workforce. To this end, There are ‘Zoom rooms’, contactless entry and exit points plus sanitisation stations within this stylishly appointed interior.
Just as coworking began in earnest in the aftermath of a recession, so architects and designers are addressing 2021’s significant societal challenges in the next generation of flexible working spaces.