Last month WeWork opened their latest collaborative workspace, not far from Design Exchange’s first studio in London Fields, Hackney, East London. We went along to see their new creative hub, and asked Miguel McKelvey, Chief Creative Officer and Co-founder a few questions about why their concept is so successful worldwide.
We are regularly asked to visit new co-working spaces (which are trending in most of the major cities at the moment) so we weren’t really expecting anything hugely different. However after seeing this new space and chatting with the passionate WeWork team, it was clear there was something special and unique about their process, thinking and design that really shines through in the finished space.
WeWork was founded in 2010 by Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey in New York with the aim of creating a workspace environment focused around the idea of community and the belief that people will achieve more together than they could on their own.
How is technology changing your design process?
Technology has allowed us to focus our energy in the right places. We spend less time on the technical details because we use 3D scanning and modeling to quickly understand the buildings we’re going into, and then we use our kit-of-parts — all the components — to quickly do layout and test different organisational schemes. We can do the practical aspects very quickly, and then we can focus our time and energy on the layering of the interiors: colours, materials, lighting, furniture, art. We can put more time and energy into looking for the most impactful moments for expressive design. That allows us to create spaces with great energy that feel empowering and inspiring to our members.
Why are collaborations with local artists/designers important for a office space like WeWork?
The first thing is that we think of all of our projects as internal collaborations. We’ve hired extraordinary teams that do all parts of the project: architecture, design, graphics.
Our team has people from all over the world. Many have local knowledge of the markets we’re in and going into. Everything starts with an internal collaboration and sourcing that local knowledge: we allow our teams to express their thoughts, ideas, and perspectives on what the various projects can mean. Then we work with local artists to do installations, murals, signs and graphics, and other expressions inside and outside of the locations.
That’s exciting to us because not only does it reflect the local culture, it gives our team the chance to be exposed to new perspectives and ideas. Hopefully the combination of our teams and the local artists and makers creates the most compelling result for our members and gives them things to be proud of, things to talk about, things to share with their friends and other visitors.
If cost and time constraints did not apply to your next project – what process would you like the experiment with? and who would be your perfect collaborator?
I would say, without any constraints of time or technology, it would be exciting to do a mixed-use project that includes working and living and connective spaces of various kinds, from barber shops to bookstores. And then, connected directly to the building, there would be a Hyperloop that could get you out of the city and into the country in a matter of minutes. People could experience all the richness that you get from being in the city, but could at any moment get outside and feel a connection to nature, detach from stress, and connect to a peaceful tranquility. You could take your dog for a walk, eat some local produce, stay up late and stare at the stars, and be home in time to get to work early in the next morning.