The Architecture of Productivity

7 coworking spaces built for knowledge-sharing and networking

by Isabella Bolognese
9 Love 6277 Visits



Creativity, community, shared values, shared spaces. Coworking spaces offer a ‘third way’ of navigating the professional world, where particularly designers, architects, writers, artists, and other ‘creative’ professionals can operate without the isolation of working from home. They can think, connect and create however which way they want, outside the boundaries of traditional working practices. The sort of thing I imagine Rodolfo from La Bohème would have lived for.


Since its organic birth in the 2000s from the tech-prolific world of the San Francisco area, ‘coworking’ has seen a steady rise, particularly after the global economic crisis. As a sort of Sartrian anguish set in, and what Italian designer Silvio Lorusso calls the ‘entreprecariat’ emerged, a desire to detach from traditional hierarchical business models brought about the need for new spaces that adapted to these uses.


The Nest - Ph. © Jacek Kolodziejski, Tomasz Korzewski, Szymon Roginski


Knowledge sharing and network building required the idea of an open source economy to translate into a physical space. So coworking spaces share a preference for open-plan offices, with smaller, often partially closed-off meeting hubs, creativity nooks furnished with more lounge-like seating: laid back environments that get the creative juices flowing.


Some of the more extravagant projects include gyms and swimming pools, bars, ping pong tables, and creches for the little ones. Spaces where activity and relaxation, focus and meetings can happen interchangeably and without dissipating the so longed-for sense of community.


Below we have selected 7 coworking spaces from around the world that cater to different work styles and the needs of freelance professionals.



1. Rope Wave OfficeUsual Studio (Hong Kong)

Ph. © Tim Wu


An efficient use of space and materials defines the Rope Wave Office in Shanghai by Usual Studio. Covering just 160sqm, the layout is designed to maximize the productive adaptation of all available areas. A small nook under the staricase, for example, was transformed into a reading and exhibition space.


The striking rope work drives the design concept creating dynamic waves that embrace the space to partition and bring together different areas and functions. Wood and metal elements accentuate the natural essence of the composition, while providing a practical and attractive solution to the client's restricted budget.


2. The WaterdogKlaarchitectuur (Sint-Truiden, Belgium)

Ph. © Toon Grobet


The greatest challenge with The Waterdog project was preserving the intense character of the historic chapel being repurposed as a shared office space.


The deep respect for the building’s rich history led the Klaarchitektuur designers to erect an entirely new construction within the main chapel. The clean modern style of the stacked office spaces in the communal chapel create a beautiful inimitable contrast of old and new, weathered and pristine, curved and straight lines.


One of the most striking effects of this approach is the sense that, walking into the space, the user can read a story, etched into the fabric of the building, following its rise, fall, and rebirth.


3. The Work ProjectBean Buro (Hong Kong)

Ph. © Bean Buro


Tying together calmer hues for quiet spaces and rowdier tonalities for spaces with more dynamic energy is a wooden and cork fil beige in Hong Kong’s coworking The Work Project.


Reassuring plant elements culminate in a vertical garden designed by Patrick Blanc featuring diverse plant species emerging through the meeting room walls.


The design concept for these sculptural meeting rooms was driven by the poetic interpretations of the history of the waterfront district, and the dynamic atmosphere of the fishing community which once gathered under boating canopies.


4. Oficinas Guateque, Estudio Atemporal (Mexico City, Mexico)

Ph. © Luis Gallardo / LGM Estudio


Located in the Anáhuac neighborhood of Mexico City, this bright and airy communal office was designed in a building that years ago served as a light factory.


Thanks to its minimalistic design, the few elements introduced to break up and organize the spaces (iron frameworks and mezzanine), the structure of the original building becomes the office's protagonist; concrete columns and exposed cinder block walls contrast with the furniture that was specially designed for each space.


Ping pong tables featuring bright yellow boards that match other elements in the space serve as dividers directing the itinerary between offices, as well as providing distraction and relaxation for the busy users of the Oficinas.



5. Uncommon Co-Working, Tania Adir, Uncommon (London, UK)

Ph. © Uncommon


Taking a full sensory approach to coworking design, Tania Adir envisaged communal spaces that ensured visuals, textures, sounds, even smells revolved around the needs of the office user. Every detail was fine-tuned to improve productivity while supporting wellbeing in London’s Uncommon Fullham location.


Uncommon worked with ‘sense experts’ to select the music to match workers' moods, with calm sounds in the quiet rooms and motivational music in the ‘creative corners’. It also boasts ‘ergonomic furniture’, such as the bespoke Wing tables and Not chairs, which increase comfort and promote a positive body position to enhance the working experience.


6. UNOVA CO-WORKING SPACELi Xiang - X+Living (Shenzen, China)

Ph. © Shao Feng, Zhou Yuqiang, Hu Yijie


Shenzen’s Unova puts the Quirk into Cowork. Anamorphic design, tromp l’oeil effects, vibrant, plush interiors interspersed with functional pop art all merge to provide offices for both young creatives and established companies in search of temporary space with a strong character.


While dedicated conference rooms and private office spaces retain functional layouts and furniture to suit the task at hand, X+Living studio highlighted the need for work/life balance by constellating the space with elements such as workout machines and a ball pool.


Playful touches like Van Gogh’s receding hairline and Mona Lisa’s hands indicating men’s and women’s restrooms contribute to making this a unique and inspiring work environment.


7. The NestG5 Architekci and Beza Projekt (Warsaw, Poland)

Ph. © Jacek Kolodziejski, Tomasz Korzewski, Szymon Roginski


A road-splitting construction by studio Group5 Architekci houses the holistic coworking space in Warsaw’s The Nest. Bathed in natural light thanks to the structure's glass casing, the rich teal tones of the elegant yet cozy interiors are the result of Beza Interiors’ careful study of the project’s spaces and its target audience.


In contrast with the very graphic and angular architecture of the building, and based on the design brief delivered by Futu design agency, we decided to create our own language of colors, patterns, textures and materials that would be very organic and vivid’, the designers stated.


The marbling textures designed by Kasia Korzeniecka were turned into a wallpaper design that ripples through the building hugging its pillars for a dynamic wave that guides the senses.

The Nest delves deeper than many into the coworking lifestyle, incorporating a child-friendly area on the second floor to cater to the independent worker’s daycare needs.



Cover photo: Unova Coworking by X+Living, © Shao Feng, Zhou Yuqiang, Hu Yijie

    Rope Wave Office / Lin Jingrui / Usual Studio 5

    Rope Wave Office / Lin Jingrui / Usual Studio

    Shanghai / China / 2016

    The Waterdog 145

    The Waterdog

    Sint-Truiden / Belgium / 2016

    The Work Project 92

    The Work Project

    Hong Kong Island / Hong Kong / 2016

    Oficinas Guateque 43

    Oficinas Guateque

    Mexico City / Mexico / 2016

    Uncommon Co-Working 69

    Uncommon Co-Working

    London / United Kingdom / 2017



    Shenzhen / China / 2018

    The Nest 31

    The Nest

    Warsaw / Poland / 2018