Wednesday, January 27, 2010

blankspaces coworking in los angelos

A new CoWorking venue in LA called BlankSpaces located in an old bow-truss roofed warehouse. A very cool setting for a workplace. No idea about how they stated up but the space is outfitted with pretty nice contract office furniture.

BlankSpaces

BlankSpaces

I have to say that I'm astounded by the launch rate of CoWorking spaces. I think I'm seeing 2 or 3 new spaces per day in my internet travels.

BlankSpaces

Blank Spaces on twitter

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

baltix sustainable furniture

Baltix is a furniture manufacturer in the twin cities that offers a wide range of sustainable material choices for their tables and work stations.

Baltix workstation

Tables are available in a variety of top shapes, and leg configurations.

Baltix table

Baltix table shapes

And tops are available in a wide range of materials that include recycled content and sustainable raw materials.

Baltix top materials

Baltix Sustainable Furniture

via Materials and Sources

Monday, January 25, 2010

converge - new coworking community in union, nj

converge_logo

Converge, touting itself as New Jersey's first CoWorking space, is set to open in March 2010 and is counting down the days. Apparently the modifications to the space they are renting are underway and they are offering introductory deals on memberships. If you are in the NJ side of New York City this may be a good option for you. They are sporting a wide range of social networking outlets to get their word out, but here are links to two places to connect to start. Looking forward to seeing photos of the completed space.

Converge web site placeholder

Converge on Facebook

Monday, January 18, 2010

united way michigan abandons fixed desks & offices

In an interesting article appearing in feep.com linked on twitter by SteelCase the work environment at The United Way of Southeastern Michigan is described in detail. They made a move from a 12 story small footprint building with dedicated offices and desks, to a 2 story facility with open cafe like desk environments and limited fixed desks for a narrow segment of their positions. This allowed them to greatly reduce the size of their office space, maintenance and utility costs. Hot Desking or Hoteling is the way this is often described, and it is facilitated by a telephone system that routes calls to wireless phones or individuals cell phones. An interesting execution of a non-territorial office environment.

Check it out: Detroit and the office of the future

Friday, January 15, 2010

workbar boston

WorkBar Boston is a a CoWorking space is a collaboration between the operator of the space, and two independent workers who subleased from their space's former occupant. When the suite was going vacant they approached the owner to vest in the idea of turning the space over into a CoWorking site - successfully. A great strategy I think some others may be able to use.

workbarboston

They are also integrating a gallery space as we've seen in some other CoWorking sites.

WorkBar in Mass. High Tech

WorkBar Boston

steelcase tests new collaboration furniture at university library

steelcase media:scape

At the Drexel University Library in Philadelphia there is a curious new table group in the central atrium. It is a prototype of a new collaborative furniture system that Steelcase is calling Media:Scape. The furniture is designed to promote collaborative work through the incorporation of visual display panels controlled by a central hub integral to the furniture. Users of the furniture are able to plug their laptops into the hub, use the displays to augment their work, as well as to present work on other displays connected to the hub.

This is an interesting concept, in that it is blurring the line between the furniture and the computer accessories that you could install on any office desk, or meeting desk. Steelcase is taking it on to themselves to say that "we as the furniture maker are in a better position to integrate these functions". The mounting and positioning of the video panels, and the management of their display via the hub can all be much more tightly integrated than if assembled out of 3rd party components.

But more significantly is a new type of furniture aimed at collaboration, but not just pulling our chairs together at a table - it also facilitates collaboration of our work tools - via the laptop and display integration. I think perhaps these are baby steps, and ultimately something that will be integrated more closely to us as workers. But for the current state of technology furniture is certainly the best place for this to happen and its interesting to see Steelcase jump on it.

steelcase media:scape

Which brings me to my final question: Is this the first of a generation of office furniture that will be a strong match for the workplace patterns of CoWorking?

Library provides new technology at The Triangle

Media:Scape info at Steelcase

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

coco coworking site in st. paul coming in jan 2010

A great promotional video for an upcoming CoWorking space in St. Paul Minnesota, in fact they were scheduled to open this week on 4Jan10. Their promotional video is very professional, very funny, and very informative about CoWorking as an idea. Well done!

A unique 3 story loft space, it looks to be a great facility.

CoCo CoWorking

CoCo CoWorking

CoCo CoWorking Community

envelop desk, ergonomic desk from herman miller

envelop desk

Herman Miller has introduced an interesting small sized computer desk that is a great home/small office desk, as well as easily mates with their other more complex cubicle and desk systems. The most compelling feature of the desk is its active top that allows you to slide the work surface towards you settling into a recess in its front surface.

envelop desk

This sliding mechanism is a new action in active desks. We've seen tops that tilt, and tops that raise and lower, but this one is unique in that it comes forward to meet you, at once sliding, and angling to put your arms in a comfortable keyboarding position. In fact I think that this is the first desk I've seen that attempts to accommodate the habitual slouch that we often find ourselves in - in combination with one of their sophisticated chairs and a foot rest they can actually turn this into a healthy posture for working - interesting! This sort of parallels a series of low elevation lounge capable task chairs we saw coming out of Japan late last year.

envelop desk

The desk is innovative, yet Herman Miller has pulled from the parts bin to an extend, using the legs and under-carriage from their Avive desk system for the legs of the Envelop. No problem with that - it will help the Envelop table live better in an office populated with Avive desks.

Envelop Desk by Herman Miller

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

abak desk system by herman miller

Abak 1

I really really like this flexible desk system called Abak by Herman Miller. It is not a rigid furniture system like something you build cubicles out of, but rather a flexible desk system which can let you work with a series of mobile tables, or in private cubicle like spaces using clamp on screens. But you can also build spine based systems from it, and by golly you can do Big Table Desking with it too.

Abak 2

What is clever about it is the desks are based on a ladder like spine which is tied together by the legs and supports the desktop. This spine allows for various top shapes as well as the mounting of screens and partitions, perpendicular surfaces, wire trays and other accessories. Really a brilliant system - so brilliant that I thought it was a brilliant idea when Vitra did it years and years ago with the Ad Hoc system! I'm not trying to throw water on Herman Miller's fire here - I really like what they are doing - but we have to acknowledge prior art whether or not patent and copyright is in order. I am sure it is all in order, because these guys are all pros at this making furniture thing. Abak 3 But any office desk system junkie (like myself) is going to recognize that a big part of what is happening here is very similar to Vitra's Ad Hoc. Now Herman Miller has other things happening beyond this similarity, and all fairness Ad Hoc was doing other things that this just won't do. Precedents are very important in design, and it does not make sense to pretend they do not exist. So hats off to Herman Miller for being bold enough to introduce a progressive desk system. Lets see if they can't do more with selling it than Vitra was able to do with Ad Hoc. Abak by Herman Miller

topdeq closes doors at close of 09

Topdeq logo

As we previously reported during Topdeq's clearance sale this summer, the online vendor of office furniture and accessories was closing. And close they have on December 31, 2009. From their web site:

A decision was made to close down Topdeq's US-based activities by December 31, 2009. All sales ceased as of November 11, 2009.

Topdeq.com

shipping container shaped cabinets

Container DS

These metal storage cabinets are made to look like tiny shipping containers making an intersection of two of my great interests - making buildings from shipping containers and office furniture! They are apparently for sale, but I have not gone to the length to translate the web site which is in German.

Container DS

They are stackable, and there are several different bases and castor options. Metal office furniture is a long standing product in the states, and in my mind this points a way towards those metal desks and file cabinets taking on a more interesting appearance. Rather than the boring flat sides we have come to expect in this commodity furniture, lets see some corrugated sides and interesting texture.

Container DS

Container DS

via Been-Seen

and thank you Justin

Container DS

Monday, January 11, 2010

bobby table by cb2

bobbytable

CB2 makes this simple table with a hairpin leg that has a great mid-century modern vibe. There are cheaper tables out there, but not necessarily with such a cool retro look. It would make a great table desk, or a nice gangable conference table if you put two of them together.

bobbytablecatalogshots

Bobby Table at CB2

Thursday, January 7, 2010

654 croswell, new coworking community in east grand rapids, mi, a project of steelcase

The NPR radio piece on CoWorking yesterday mentioned a new CoWorking Cottage in East Grand Rapids, interestingly they claimed its establishment was assisted by Steelcase, one of the largest manufacturers of office furnishings and accessories in the US. I've been very interested in how the office furniture industry would respond to CoWorking, if it continues to grow at its current pace. This was the first I had heard of a manufacturer taking any interest. A little link clicking and I landed at the site of 654 Croswell. I phoned them and by the afternoon I'd spoken to two of the site managers there including Laaté Olukotun.

654 Croswell

The space started in October 2009, with its official launch in November - so its very new, as good as the doors just opening. It is located in the "Gaslight District" of East Grand Rapids, a small commercial district surrounded by residential neighborhoods where they are already drawing some of their active members from. They are in a freestanding cottage, which appears to have originally been a house, as are many of the other properties on their street. It is informative to note that when they choose the site for their space they had a zoning issue - office uses were not permitted on the ground floor level. This is a common zoning regulation in small business districts used to promote shops on the ground floor of commercial buildings. Do your due diligence when you look for a space so you are aware of this.

654 Croswell

Laaté explained that 654 was a project of the Steelcase Growth Initiatives department. This is essentially an research entity within the company that explores new developments in the workplace. They had been watching the emerging CoWorking culture and as its popularity was accelerating they felt the best way to understand the social factors behind the movement was to open and operate a CoWorking site. Amazing!

Curiously the term "CoWorking" is not really used on their web site to describe 654. When I questioned Laaté about this he explained that they felt that the term was actually confusing to people. CoWorking took an explanation while a comparison to well understood business models did not - for instance an analogy to a gym membership, or shared service that you use at your convenience. 654 Croswell also will have an active Gallery component showing rotating work from local artists, hence their slogan Art-Work-Life.

They have plans to join the CoWorking Visa program to allow their members to access other communities while traveling, and vice versa, and will get the space listed on the coworking wiki. Hopefully we'll see them posted to the CoWorking map as well. all to help establish themselves in the wider CoWorking community.

654 Croswell

As far as SteelCase is concerned the end result of this project is not known. The imperitive is for the company to get to know and understand the nature of coworking. Whether or not that results in or influences specific product, or can serve as a site to seed prototypes is all unkown at this point. The first step is getting to know coworking before they can determine how they address it through their product design. I'm very excited to see a manufacturer the size of Steelcase being so proactive, and validating the significance of CoWorking as a new workplace paradigm. I'm curious to see if other manufacturers watch from the sidelines or eventually engage in R&D around CoWorking themselves.

654 Croswell

654 Croswell on Facebook

654 Croswell

thoughts on design and coworking

A very good interview with Tony Bacigalupo, the owner/founder of New Work City, a New York City CoWorking community. I think the questions are good, and Tony's answers really capture the main ideas of CoWorking in a clear way. Some choice quotes:

I’ve found that when people say they want to work from home, they really mean they want to be able to choose where they work and in a circumstance that works best for them. What we’re moving towards, in terms of the workplace, is to be in a position where each person can choose where they work best.

This captures for me why design is important in coworking, even though CoWorking guru's first concern is community. This is the classic client of design services unable to state their problem without framing in terms of a solution. I don't want to work for somebody - my problem is I want to work from home. Is the issue that you want to work from home, or that you want to be independent? Some may be perfectly happy to work at home, but many will prefer a CoWorking environment that mixes the best of the social aspects of the workplace with independence.

A lot of coworking spaces are all over the world. Most of them have been started by those who do not have entrepreneurial ambitions from the coworking space, but more social ambitions that they want to cultivate in this community.

This is an important part of CoWorking that I think many who seek to start a space should tune into. A CoWorking space as a business entity will have social goals - social profit as its motivation, more so than monetary profit. Sure, every space needs to be in the black, save capital for improvements etc. But ultimately the purpose is to build community, and make social profits that everybody can share if they choose too. I think this is why an Office Suites type of business immediately does not feel like CoWorking - you can not obscure the difference in priorities.

I want to bring this back to my interest in design and CoWorking. The message I take away from this is that CoWorking is not an end in itself, but a tool for independents to use in helping them get their work done. Its about the design of the workplace - not the physical place, but the social place. Designing the best social tool to get your work done. If you can accept that idea, and I think anybody that believes in CoWorking will, then it is not such a leap to acknowledge that the design of the physical CoWorking environment can also make a significant contribution to the success of that tool.

Many of these spaces started out in coffee shops or cafes, and there is a sentiment that the community is what mattered. Desks and chairs don't matter - we got our work done at cafe tables before. But you are really selling your community short if you discount this entire dimension of your most important work tool. You no more want to bring the cafe tables to your new space than you want to put up the typical corporate cubicles. The answer is not something that can be plucked from the sky. You have to observe and recognize the nature of the social interaction in your CoWorking community and think about how to facilitate the most beneficial conditions and behaviors. I know the can-do attitude of most people that have started spaces and the ease with which you can fill a space with commodity furniture from Ikea. But I'm telling you that you will be better served ultimately by an insightful designer trained in how to make spaces that respond to the activities of their users, and a broad knowledge of the wide range of tools - meaning furniture and accessories - avaialble in the market.

End of pitch to Design Your CoWorking!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

wall street journal tests coworking

In an article appearing the WSJ's Cranky Consumer column four CoWorking sites in four cities were tested, and reviewed. This was not just a review of the amenities and policies of each site, but a dipping a toe into the waters of CoWorking. An orientation for those who don't know what this CoWorking thing is all about. Its very interesting to see mainstream media investigating this and reporting about what CoWorking is to the broader public.

A couple of interesting points in the article that I want to point out. They mention the CoWorking Visa program which allows members of participating CoWorking sites to use each other's facilities while traveling. A great benefit for any independent worker whose work may involve travel to other cities. I also was very interested in some of the activity described at the CoWorking site Souk in Portland Oregon. The author describes their open office space being outfitted with mobile tables which they are encouraged to move about to suit their activity. This seems to me to have great potential to be a facilitator for a wide range of activities that might go on in a common space. More over it reinforces my assertion that Community may come first, but appropriate tools make the CoWorking space work better for the whole community.

Office (and Beanbag) Sharing Among Strangers at WSJ

coworking in the mainstream media

NPR broadcast a story today about CoWorking on their Morning Edition program, outlining the concept and what brings people together to work in this fashion. Overall it was amazing to hear the idea of CoWorking being spread in this medium. I thought the piece could have used more emphasis on the idea of community driving the movement, but they did touch on the history briefly, even mentioning the idea of Jellies, although not by name.

An aside during the story was the mention of a CoWorking site organized and run by Steelcase. This was news to me and I can only think that they would see it as a test platform for CoWorking specific products. As much as the CoWorking culture says "its all about community" I know that any work place benefits from good tools, appropriate tools, and appropriate office furniture can benefit CoWorking as much as wifi. Its very significant that an office furnishing power house like Steelcase would be taking a closer look at CoWorking. We'll try to learn more about this.

Read or Listen to the NPR piece

Sunday, January 3, 2010

denizen desking from coalesse

Denizen_Desking_Main_01

Coalesse is a new Steelcase brand combining the best product of their Vecta, Metro, and Brayton lines along with specfic new Coalesse product. We are really glad to see this because while Steelcase is generally conservative they have often fostered interesting progressive products through their smaller brands like Vecta and Metro - some of their product which we have featured here. It would be nice to see them give these brands a boost.

Which brings us to the Denizen desking system - actually a series of casework based desk/wall units, and clever freestanding components and tables.

Denizen_Desking_Main_D02

They prefix Denizen with the term Live/Work and you can clearly see how it would be possible to integrate these handsome pieces into a home office setting - directly in your living spaces. They are also suitable for a private office where I think the interesting geometry is a welcome relief from the stereo type wood desk and fox-hunt scene aesthetic.

Denizen_Desking_enlarge_03

Denizen at Coalesse

Denizen at the Steelcase store

Denizen_Desking_enlarge_02

and check out the other interesting desk systems at coalesse

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