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What we're reading this week

WeWork launches fund for UK start-ups amid plans to double its London presence

Shared offices company WeWork will almost double its space in London this year, as it launches a £1.2m award scheme to back UK start-ups.

Speaking ahead of today’s launch of the European part of the awards, founder Adam Neumann defended the pace of expansion of the New York-based business, insisting there was still high demand from both large and small companies.

WeWork is launching an award scheme for companies at three stages: those in “incubation” stage with a specific project needing research and development funding; those wanting to launch an existing business; and companies who want to scale up their activities.

They will be asked to pitch to a panel of judges at an event in London in September, before moving on to global finals in New York later this year.

The firm is awarding £16m globally, of which £1.2m will be allocated to UK businesses, and winners will receive prizes of between £36,000 and £360,000. The first event in Washington DC at the end of last month attracted more than 1,000 applicants.

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WELL building certification – An architectural aid for human health

Architecture continually evolves to meet societal demands. Recently, a global effort to tackle climate change, and to achieve optimum energy efficiency in buildings, has brought standards such as BREEAM and LEED to the fore. However, as scientific analysis and awareness of human mental health has increased, architects are once again required to place humans at the centre of the design process. This growing trend has led to the development of WELL Building Certification – considered the world’s first certification focused exclusively on human health and wellbeing.

The standards behind WELL have been the result of seven years of research involving scientists, doctors, and architects. Similar to LEED, WELL Certification is awarded at three levels: Silver, Gold and Platinum. However, whereas BREEAM and LEED standards focus on the relationship between buildings and the environment, WELL Certification recognizes the relationship between buildings and occupants. WELL addresses seven concepts related to human health in the built environment – air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and the mind. A WELL Certified space, therefore, is one which is deemed to improve the nutrition, fitness, mood, sleep patterns, and performance of its occupants.

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Around the World in 80 Architecture Offices

Photographs that peer into the places where people work always feel oddly satisfying—they fulfill our voyeuristic curiosity about others’ spaces without having to leave our own. That goes double for the offices of architects and designers: Where can you find more interesting spaces than with those who make a living designing them?

The London-based photographer Marc Goodwin has been visiting the offices of architects all over the world, documenting his finds for the rest of us curious interlopers. His ongoing series, which he’s been working on for about a year, has taken him to China, the Nordic region, and most recently to Paris to scope out the digs of leading architecture firms. Goodwin was looking for differences in office design across regions—from the Beijing offices of MAD Architects to the Renzo Piano Building Workshop in Paris—and the various ways local character can seep into workspaces.

The verdict? “I wish I had a short answer for that,” says Goodwin. “I’m still trying to work all out in my head.” Many of the offices he shot in London—which included Foster + Partners and the London offices of Zaha Hadid Associates—felt more corporate than the other countries he visited. The Nordic offices were as beautiful, organized, and as minimalist as you might expect. The spaces were most unexpected were in Beijing—”I was taken by surprise by the beauty of some of the Chinese offices; they were quite exceptional,” he says—and Paris, where the offices felt more eclectic and personal.

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Macro Sea turns abandoned Brooklyn warehouse into New Lab co-working space

New York developer Macro Sea has turned a warehouse at Brooklyn’s Navy Yard into a workspace for tech entrepreneurs, using the building’s “cathedral-like” steel trusswork to inform new elements.

New Lab is located in Building 128 of the Brooklyn Navy Yard – a former shipbuilding complex between the Dumbo and Williamsburg neighbourhoods that is undergoing extensive regeneration.

Macro Sea worked with Marvel Architects to transform the disused shell into a space for designers and entrepreneurs working in the fields of emerging technologies like robotics, artificial intelligence and connected devices.

“As developers and designers of the space, we were very attracted to this particular community, which is simultaneously at the top of its intellectual and technological game, while looking into the abyss as entrepreneurs,” said Macro Sea founder and New Lab cofounder David Belt. “We wanted to build for them.”

Facilities include offices, private studios and lofts, as well as shared amenity spaces like lounges, communal worktables, advanced prototyping shops and meeting areas.

The noisier and more private spaces are located in the building’s wings, while communal areas sit closer to the central axis.

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Rapt Studio designs office space to allow HBO to “reimagine entertainment”

Entertainment powerhouse HBO uses this office space in Seattle, designed by California firm Rapt Studio, to develop and test its digital and interactive products.

HBO – the TV network behind shows such as Game of Thrones, Sex and the City, and The Sopranos – has seen a rapid uptake of its on-demand services like HBO GO and HBO NOW over the past few years.

The company’s software engineering division, HBO Digital Products, has grown dramatically in response, so leased the top three floors of a new mid-rise building known as Hill7.

“They recognised this as an opportunity to develop a high-performance workspace that would support their main objectives — reimagining and reengineering entertainment,” said Rapt Studio, which was tasked with designing the interiors.

The firm previously completed offices for tech companies Eventbrite, Adobe and Ancestry.

 

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Office Design Grows Up

The coolest workspaces of 2016 don’t have a foosball table in sight!

In the past, all it took to have a cool office was a foosball table, a beer tap, and a few couches. Today companies are looking for ways to boost creativity, spark innovation, and motivate employees. Additionally, tech companies (which have carried the brunt of those foosball stereotypes) are thinking of their workspaces as physical representations of their brand—and as tech matures so too do its offices. In 2016, office design grew up and put on a tie. But the best examples we saw still maintained some punk soul. Here are our picks for the coolest workspaces of the year.

A Web Publisher Finds A New Home In An Old-School Printing Press
Squarespace’s sophisticated new office in the West Village feels like a work of modern art, thanks to its sculptural architectural detailing, like a wood-clad staircase and steel facade. But it’s not about good looks. The designers wanted to create a space that could house all 320 of its NYC employees under one roof. Before this they were spread across six floors in four buildings. Now there’s ample room for quiet work and collaboration, plus a pretty sweet roof deck.

Pinterest’s New HQ Mirrors The Platform’s Evolution
For its new San Francisco headquarters, Pinterest collaborated with local architecture firm Iwamoto Scott. The space—which occupies a former John Deere factory—is an exercise in subtlety. “At the time, Pinterest was undergoing a significant redesign of the website itself, moving to a more streamlined, pared-down aesthetic,” architect Lisa Iwamoto told Co.Design. “It was a cultural shift for the company, moving away from what people had been more used to—the content, the DIY, craftsy feel of Pinterest to the platform of Pinterest. That was something that the architecture was also trying to achieve.”

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Is London still the best place to build a start-up?

The shine may be wearing off Shoreditch, as entrepreneurs pick other places in the UK to base their start-ups.

Fewer new start-ups are being founded in Shoreditch’s start-up scene, Silicon Roundabout, with 2015 stats showing that the number of new companies fell by a third (15,620 to 10,280) on the previous year, citing high rents as one reason for the drop.

“Rising rents in the Silicon Roundabout area are causing many start-ups to choose other neighbouring areas of central London, such as City Road, as their first base,” says Colin Jones, a partner at UHY Hacker Young, who conducted the research.

“By attracting larger firms into the area, rents increase, available space decreases, and smaller start-ups that were initially attracted to the area are forced out into neighbouring areas. That is exactly why we have seen the tech start-ups heading away from Old Street to the City Road area.”

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Why we need to rethink the way we work

American architect Clive Wilkinson has been responsible for some of the most creative office spaces on the planet and has become recognised as a global leader in workplace design.

With a thoroughly modern approach to the way we work, his firm has created spaces for Google, Twentieth Century Fox Digital and countless other business leaders using everything from hanging pod chairs to bean bags and breakfast bars.

He says office spaces are becoming more like home, and vice versa, all the time.

“Offices are becoming more like homes as lifestyle becomes increasingly important and companies compete for talent … Our world is now ideas driven and our environment needs to be energetic, inspiring and even provocative. Employers also want people to stay longer at work and making the space awesome certainly helps.”

 

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Designing Attractive Workplaces

What do we find most attractive about a new job offer? How important is the physical workplace in that decision-making process? A recent Australian study, undertaken by Hassell Architects and Empirica Research, dug up some intriguing stories about the role of workplace culture, people and design in the decisions we make about where we will spend ours days.

In this recent pilot study, 1000 un-primed survey participants were presented with a series of hypothetical job offers and were asked which job they would prefer. Despite what appears in the cloud of open comments above(fig.01), almost half of respondents (45%) placed salary as the most influential factor in their decision to take a job or not. (fig.02)But that is not the whole story.

According to the survey, 32% of respondents found workplace culture to be a primary influence on their decision. For 16%, a significant proportion of the sample, their decision was most influenced by physical workplace conditions (fig.02). Interestingly, work technologies were the least attractive factor (around 7%).

Put simply, when combined, workplace facilities and culture can exceed the lure of money.

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London to lose a third of creative workspace

London is set to lose 3,500 creative workspaces by 2020 according to mayor Boris Johnson, who is asking planners and developers to prioritise culture as well as housing.

“As London continues to grow and prosper, there is a critical need to build more homes for Londoners, but this should not be at the expense of our culture and distinctiveness, which are hugely important for our economy,” said Johnson.

His office has published a 40-page A-Z of planning and culture, which offers steps that can be taken to protect and support culture as new developments spring up across the city.

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