“Everything we do at WeWork should be done with intent and meaning for maximum impact,” said Adam Neumann, the recently ousted CEO and cofounder of WeWork, in a 2018 blog post. “This starts with every space for every member and scales to every building in every city. In 2018, we want to have an impact on the buildings we occupy. In 2019, it will be the neighborhoods WeWork is part of, and by 2020, the cities we live in.” This bombast was characteristic of the businessman known equally for his tequila-fueled screaming bouts and Kabbalah-enhanced executive meetings, whose oversized persona in many ways came to define the company. To meet the megalomaniacal goal of a WeWorld as well as the more quotidian needs of making flexible office spaces, the We Company amassed a large team of architects, designers, and technologists through both hiring and acquisitions. The company was itself cofounded by an architect, Miguel McKelvey, who WeWork’s former director of research claimed rather hyperbolically in a 2015 interview in Architect “built a lot of the original WeWorks with his bare hands.” McKelvey remains WeWork’s chief culture officer. This cultish blind faith is—or was—characteristic of WeWork acolytes. In the wake of a botched attempt to take the We Company public, exposés on Neumann’s excessive spending, unpredictable behavior, and self-dealing, and revelations that the company was more or less out of cash and has little prospect of turning a profit in the near future, confidence has flagged, even among true believers. Once valued at $47 billion, and after an infusion of cash from SoftBank which included an unprecedented $1.7 billion “golden parachute” for Neumann to leave his post, the We Company is now worth "just" $8 billion. WeGrow, the company’s foray into for-profit education led by the former CEO’s wife, Rebekah Paltrow Neumann (cousin to Gweneth Paltrow), will close at the end of the academic year. The fate of its other numerous side projects, such as Rise by We, a gym, and the housing initiative WeLive( which is currently under investigation in New York City for possibly illegally operating as a hotel) are uncertain. WeWork is also likely to divest from the high-profile conversion of the former Lord & Taylor building in midtown. But perhaps most distressingly, the company is expected to lay off as many as 4,000 people this fall, according to some estimates, with untold more to come. But even those plans have been hampered: the company can’t afford to pay severance. Suffice it to say, it doesn’t look like we’ll all be living in WeCities in 2020. With WeWork shedding its properties and staff and finding itself on less steady ground day by day, what does that mean for the company’s architects? Uncertainty reigns.“It’s been disheartening to find things out through media instead of the company itself,” said one WeWork employee to AN (the company declined to comment on whether those layoffs might include architects and other design employees). Designer Dror Benshetit, who was hired for WeWork’s “Future Cities Initiative” in partnership with Di-Ann Eisnor, formerly of Waze, has been sacked along with his team, according to current and former employees. Fashion designer Adam Kimmel, former chief creative officer, has just stepped down. Most of the architecture and technology higher-ups from Case, the design tech company that WeWork acquired in 2015, have departed in the past several months, including Federico Negro, WeWork's former head of design, and David Fano, former chief growth officer, who left in October. That said, architects inside the company who were willing to speak to The Architect’s Newspaper reported feeling relatively secure in their positions. Creating workspaces is WeWork’s core enterprise, and employees have noted that at conferences given by executives, the work of the architects at the We Company has been largely praised. However, the constant uncertainty and erratic nature of the business has driven many to leave the company in advance of any possible layoffs. Others are staying, some with the hope of cashing in on severance deals, not of keeping a job in the long term. “I find it sad that the person who made this business happen was an architect, but it was his business partner who ruined it,” lamented one WeWork employee, speaking of McKelvey and Neumann, respectively. Building WeWork Founded in 2010, WeWork’s design ambitions became clear in 2015 when the company acquired Case, a high-tech Building Information Modeling consultancy. This made sense: WeWork is more or less a real estate company masquerading as a Silicon Valley-style startup. It owns very little of the buildings it occupies, including the much-talked-about Dock 72 that just opened in the Brooklyn Navy Yards, which The New York Times reports is still largely empty. Instead, it leases spaces, then redesigns them and offers them up as flexible rentals to other businesses—from brand new startups to tech giants like Facebook and IBM to legacy publications like the Atlantic. The biggest news was, well, BIG. In 2018, WeWork named Bjarke Ingels its “chief architect,” an unprecedented move for a company like WeWork. But it spoke to its ostensible high-minded design goals. Ingels’s firm BIG did design the Manhattan WeGrow, as well as other projects. However, current and former employees who requested not to be named for fear of reprisal reported that most of Ingels’s actual architectural responsibilities had been delegated to Michel Rojkind, the architect who serves as WeWork’s senior vice president of architecture (Rojkind could not be reached for comment). “It wasn’t anything more than a marketing thing,” said one former WeWork employee of Ingels’s appointment. Ingels reportedly receives no salary, having opted instead for compensation in equity alone, a regrettable move in light of recent events. (Representatives for Bjarke Ingels and BIG declined to comment for this story.) It wasn’t just notable names—WeWork hired architects, lighting designers, project managers, and other design professionals by the dozen. “There was a lot of hand-wringing early on about how many architects were leaving the industry to work at WeWork, and there was a fear that WeWork was sucking up the best architectural minds,” recalled one former employee. The company also formed another architectural spinoff, Powered by We, which brought its know-how for designing workspaces to external corporate clients, like the Swiss bank UBS. Insiders report the division has yet to turn a profit. But despite all the present-day disorder and uncertainty, many employees are happy to stay. “I don’t want to work at a normal architecture office,” said one architect who spoke on condition of anonymity. “ As tumultuous and crazy as the year has been for the whole company, I think it’s a good thing that they disrupted architecture practice; it’s an industry that needs some disruption.” “At an architecture office you’re not encouraged to try other projects or make it better; it’s just, ‘This is the system, this is how we do it,’” the employee added. But WeWork lets architects ask, “How do we make things better rather than just following traditions?”—something they didn’t feel able to do in traditional architecture offices. WeWork’s ability to “disrupt” architecture is due not just to some vaulted startup ethos nor its ability to pay higher salaries. Another meaningful difference is who the designers work for; WeWork is its own client. While it may work with architects of record and contractors, for the most part, WeWork’s architectural labor supply chain is vertically integrated. Everyone from the lighting designer to the architectural software engineers are on staff. There is also a hope that former WeWork architects might bring this new perspective with them when they return to the industry and that the industry might respond, for example, by putting technology on the same level as other aspects of design. “Architects have a lot to offer, but it’s time to take risks. We need to learn to want more for ourselves and for the industry.” Buildings = Data Beyond all the hype surrounding the company, at least one of its divisions was living up to the Silicon Valley unicorn moniker that investors had ascribed to it. A former WeWork employee described the architectural software arm of the company as “One of the more technically advanced offices in the entire AEC [Architecture, Engineering, and Construction] sphere.” The employee went on to say, “We’ve got a pretty intelligent system around BIM, around data, around workflow and processes.” These developments happened relatively behind the scenes, though hardly secretly. WeWork regularly published blog posts about its use of 3-D laser scanning, machine learning, and data collection. This architectural brain power, along with easy access to new BIM and parametric technology, did, in fact, give WeWork an edge in its core business: designing office spaces. It’s as a design practice that WeWork could truly be understood as an innovator. To be clear, it isn’t in the often-mimicked design aesthetic of its office spaces—with its exposed brick, neon signs, midcentury modern knockoffs, and formaldehyde-expelling phone booths. What is new is how WeWork has been able to design with tremendous efficiency at scale in part thanks to its voraciously collected user data. Similar to the way social media companies harvest untold amounts of data on their billions of users, WeWork was swimming in data on the workers occupying its office spaces around the world. In February, some WeWork employees had begun wearing shirts that said, “Buildings equal data.” The largest office leaseholder in New York City was using data to shape everything from what buildings to rent to how to lay them out. Through a variety of tools, WeWork was harvesting its tenants data the way Facebook exploits its users—as unwitting sources for generating new, targeted services to generate even more revenue. WeWork embedded sensors in conference rooms and phone booths, tracked “user behavior” on its app, and tested out computer vision and location beacon systems. “Imagine a conference room that can tell you how it feels, that understands what the inhabitants might be feeling,” said a company blog post that asked, “What would the Google Analytics of buildings look like?” Last year, WeWork used virtual reality headsets and EEG brainwave monitors to see how people responded to different “vibes.” For example, “Spaces with more natural light and brighter finishes are associated with significantly higher levels of focus and interest.” While WeWork wanted to collect users' general emotional response—one test subject described wearing the headset as “empowering”—its central interest, of course, was creating environments ideal for work. Of course, WeWork, along with tech companies and creative firms, has created a new sort of standard which other companies want. “A lot of corporate America works in environments that are stifling and boring,” said one Powered by We employee. “Retaining and hiring young staff has been hard for them. [Powered by We] is a way of changing a workplace by changing the interiors.” With this data, WeWork claims it was not only able to make the design and building management process more efficient and targeted, but also able to introduce new custom automation into its design of its mass-produced office spaces. They are often created from a sort of kits of parts—which included pre-determined selections of wallpaper, kitchen fittings, furnishings, etc.—inside the many buildings the company has leased, or less frequently, owned. WeWork had also developed custom software to help the company’s designers automate desk arrangements throughout their spaces. More desks means more money, after all. Recently, in the Avery Review, philosopher Mathew Stewart referred to WeWork’s space layout algorithm as “One tool in the now endless surge of automated BIM options that aims to make the bureaucratic processes of architecture more efficient, calculable and less labor-intensive.” He added, “This produces a mystified process that hides the social and political character of design decisions. The contemporary production of architecture is a complex global web of supply chains, logistics, labor, and legal and political infrastructures.” Some former WeWork employees disputed this characterization. In a company blog, former senior researcher Andrew Heumann said that they just want to get rid of the “tasks that are the most tedious and repetitious.” However, design at WeWork was arguably a relatively simple problem, one in which automation could easily be introduced without tremendous technological innovation. Offices may be different shapes, but at the end of the day, they’re relatively consistent spaces. One Powered by We architect suggested that “WeWork Classic” architects weren’t “challenged.” “I would assume their job is quite boring,” the employee said. “It’s just based on efficiencies.” Multiple things can be true at once. While WeWork likely overstates its technical prowess in order to boost its legitimacy as a “startup,” and while other companies also use data collection to inform design, building, and usage in their offices, its proprietary BIM tools and automation technologies may have unforeseen, significant impacts on how architects design, especially as more and more well-qualified architects, designers, and tech professionals exit WeWork to create their own startups or work at other companies or traditional firms. If expanded beyond the simple constraints of aesthetically-unified office design, new automation tools could free up designers to do more interesting, innovative things beyond building mechanics and interior layouts. Or, as so often happens under a capitalist logic consumed with “optimization” above all else, they may just cause a flattening of design difference, ushering a new Algorithmic Realism in architecture. Perhaps WeWork will take over the world after all. At least there’s happy hour.
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The 16-story, 675,000-square-foot Dock 72, the S9 Architecture-designed addition to the Brooklyn Navy Yard has officially opened after construction began back in 2016 and the zig-zagging complex topped out in 2017. WeWork, the once fast-growing co-working company that reportedly may run out of cash as soon as next month, will anchor the building by taking over 220,000 square feet of office space. The coworking company will employ its signature open-plan office designs and, and tapped the local Fogarty Finger Architecture and Interiors to design the building's slew of community amenities—such as a health center, basketball court, juice bar, and a roof deck. In addition, the firm commissioned four artists to create murals throughout. With a stacked massing that references boat hulls, Dock 72 is part of the largest edition to the Navy Yard since World War 2 and the first ground-up office development in Brooklyn in 30 years. The Class-A office project is also expected to help the Navy Yard add 10,000 additional jobs by 2021, according to the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation, Boston Properties, Rudin Development, and WeWork. The focus of the Navy Yard development has been on tech, and the partners in the building are hoping to invite a variety of startups, software developers, and hardware manufacturers to the Navy Yard. The building features 14-foot windows with a stepped, staircase-reminiscent pattern across the facade meant to express the internal circulation to onlookers outside. It was also designed above the predicted 100-year floodplain—especially important given Dock 72's waterside location—and has various energy-saving features, such as efficient insulation and HVAC systems, which the owners and developers claim will reduce its energy costs by as much as 14% compared to LEED baseline. In addition, Dock 72 features its own app which will allow tenants to order food, reserve their spot for amenities, and enter the building. Dock 72 is part of a $1 billion expansion to the Navy Yard which includes various design and manufacturing businesses, film and TV studios, grocery shops, and a new ferry stop. The Navy Yard also announced a $2.5 billion expansion master plan to spruce up transit access and street-level functionality for pedestrians and cyclists.
WeWork and parent corporation The We Company frequently tout their ambitions about changing the world for the better, but until this point, they haven’t disclosed many material markers to indicate their impact on neighborhoods. That’s all changed with the release of WeWork's first Global Impact Report, which tracks the company’s impact on the global, local, and neighborhood levels. The report comes on the heels of news that WeWork had confidentially filed the preliminary paperwork for a public offering in December of last year. Ahead of an IPO, bolstering the company’s claims that it positively benefits the neighborhoods surrounding its coworking spaces might help put investors at ease—as the New York Times reported, the company’s revenue in 2018 doubled to $1.8 billion, while its losses doubled as well, to $1.9 billion. The study, conducted with research firm HR&A Advisors, pulls back the curtain on many of the company’s operations. For instance, the report highlights the fact that over one-third of WeWork’s members are Global Fortune 500 companies. They also reported that 90 percent of employees in a U.S.-based WeWork office have bachelor’s degrees or higher, compared to the national average of 39 percent. On a local scale, the company touted its ability to draw workers to the neighborhoods around its coworking spaces. Seven-out-of-ten WeWork members had reportedly never worked in said neighborhoods before moving into a WeWork space, and one-in-ten moved closer to their WeWork. The figures also reveal that WeWork is an urban conglomerator of “innovation economy” workers, defined as those in industries that “are a combination of 58 high-value and high-growth industries such as technology, creative, professional services, and advanced manufacturing.” In the U.S., 83 percent of employees operating out of a WeWork are in the innovation economy, compared to the 15 percent national average. Worldwide, 76 percent of WeWork members are in the innovation economy. The report also paints a rosy portrait of how WeWork “pumps” the local economy. WeWork claims that for every member, it creates an additional .7 local jobs in the U.S., and 1.2 local jobs globally. For its 400,000 WeWork members, the company estimates there are another 280,000 “multiplier” jobs created by WeWork members. The company closed out its Global Impact Report by laying out how retrofitting older buildings in dense cities reduces their carbon footprint and detailing the benefits of their various offshoot projects. Education, the Flatiron School, a coding camp, and their initiatives to bring veterans into the workforce are all explored. If The We Company plans on keeping its pledge to expand to banking, neighborhood planning, and whatever else it might be interested in, then this may become the first in a series of “progress reports.”
Mexican architect Michel Rojkind, founder of Rojkind Arquitectos, has been hired as the senior vice president of architecture at WeWork’s parent corporation, The We Company. His first project? Overseeing the design and construction of a ground-up, 200,000-square-foot coworking building in Bentonville, Arkansas, with the company’s chief architect, Bjarke Ingels. Moving forward, Rojkind will be involved with all ground-up projects at the company. The We Company and WeWork have expanded rapidly in the last few years and acquired the help of a number of high-profile architects and designers in the process; just two weeks ago, the company announced that it had hired Dror Benshetrit for its future cities initiative. WeWork founders Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey have never been shy about their ambition to expand into smart cities, schools, gyms, full neighborhoods, banking, and more. The Arkansas development, The We Company’s first project in the state, will provide space for up to 3,200 employees as well as retail and communal areas. No design details have been released as of yet, but Rojkind Arquitectos is known for its impressive and playful, but still monumental, facades, so it remains to be seen whether Rojkind’s first project for The We Company will keep to that aesthetic. "The We Company will provide to the project its fully integrated platform including core and shell design," The We Company said in a statement, "construction, and management expertise to service small and medium-sized businesses as well as to tap the area's large enterprise community."
Studio Dror announced yesterday that its founder Dror Benshetrit will be joining The We Company, the parent company of coworking startup WeWork. Benshetrit said in an email that he would be joining the company "as co-founder of its future cities initiative." Quartz reported that The We Company's smart cities initiative will be led by former Google executive Di-Ann Eisnor and will "help address problems spurred by globalization, urbanization, and climate change." According to Dror, the two will "build a team of engineers, architects, data scientists, and biologists who will work to fuse nature, design, technology, and community in our cities in order to measurably improve the lives of citizens." The We Company encompasses a handful of companies, including WeWork, WeLive, a co-living company, and WeGrow, an education arm. Studio Dror was founded 17 years ago and is known for a variety of work, including furniture, interiors, and speculative architecture projects.
Following a $2 billion infusion of cash from Japanese investors SoftBank earlier today, WeWork has announced that it would be rebranding as We Company to better reflect its lofty ambitions. Much in the same way that Alphabet is the umbrella corporation that contains Google alongside more experimental divisions like Sidewalk Labs, The We Company will contain WeWork, WeLive (the company’s co-living division), WeGrow (its school concept), and any future initiatives. The move will allow The We Company to continue growing past their core office rental and management role, and into neighborhood planning and other facets of everyday life (with Bjarke Ingels at the helm on the design side). That also includes a financial institution CEO Adam Neumann has teased as “WeBank.” As Fast Company noted, SoftBank had originally been slated to inject up to $20 billion into WeWork, which would have placed the company’s valuation at $50 billion. Thanks to a stock market soaking that dropped SoftBank’s share price by 20 percent in December 2018, and intervention from the conglomerate’s investors, only $2 billion was invested and much of it will come in the form of buying out other shareholders. The rebranding to The We Company will officially be announced at the WeWork Global Summit later this week. According to Fast Company, WeWork is planning on a growth tear for 2019 that includes hiring an additional 1,000 planners and expanding its educational and residential projects. The diversification of WeWork’s dealings is likely both an attempt to broaden its vision as well as a safeguard against a possible economic downturn. It’s been argued in the pages of the New York Times that WeWork’s middleman landlord business model only works in a booming economy, and the coworking company lost $1.22 billion in 2018. Time will tell whether the rebranding will allow the company to branch out and weather a recession, but the immediate blowback from the news over whether the plan was viable was swift.
Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has finished work on their first elementary school for coworking giant WeWork, continuing the company’s journey into education (and eventually neighborhood planning). WeGrow, what BIG describes as a “10,000-square-foot learning universe," resides inside of WeWork’s Manhattan headquarters in Chelsea and serves three- to nine-year-old children. What started out with a test class of only seven students has expanded into a full-fledged school, and WeGrow is already taking applications for the 2019 academic year. From the newly-released final images of the space, it appears that BIG pulled back from the more industrial look proposed in the renderings revealed last November. The completed WeGrow space is full of soft, biomorphic forms with rounded edges, and clad in soft materials, usually felt. Instead of miming traditional classrooms, BIG has broken the school’s programming up into what it’s termed a “learning landscape.” That includes four open classrooms, workshop and community spaces, an art studio, music room, and several play areas across a mostly-open floor plate. “Children realize they have agency when design is less prescriptive and more intuitive,” wrote Bjarke Ingels in a statement. “We don't have to tell kids how to use the space and every interpretation of how they use the space is good.” To that end, much of the space has been designed to accommodate the whims and needs of young children. Most of the partitions are made from three tiers of shelving, each adjusted to the arm height of the three age groups of students. Those low-lying shelves have the added benefit of letting in natural light and allowing teachers to keep track of all of their students across the floor. Various activity spaces across the school encourage students to explore and play in different environments that evoke the outdoors. Felt clouds mounted on the ceiling are lit by special bulbs from Ketra that change color and intensity based on the time of day and the blob-like plywood enclosures provide students with elevated vantage points and private nooks. Each of the school’s “learning stations” features furniture scaled to fit both adults and children, and a teacher-parent-student lobby incorporates seating meant to accommodate all ages. That includes an enormous felt “brain puzzle” seating system that can be taken apart and rearranged as needed, or just for fun. According to WeWork’s CEO Adam Neumann, the ultimate goal is to have a WeGrow integrated in every WeWork. That would certainly tie into the company’s ambitious goal of offering services at every stage of a customer’s life.
Global co-working (and education, and fitness, and budding neighborhood planning) company WeWork first announced that it would be taking over London’s protected Grade II* Number One Poultry building back in November of last year. Now the company has finished its move into James Stirling’s postmodern icon and released photos of the interior conversion. Completed in 1997, five years after Stirling’s death, One Poultry is the youngest building in the UK to win Grade II* protection—despite its regular appearance on lists of London’s worst buildings. Stirling’s scheme, with its triangular massing, alternating bands of yellow and pink limestone, embankments of undulating columns, lavishly decorated spandrels, and prominent prow (complete with a telescoping clock tower) famously beat out a glassy 18-story tower from Mies van der Rohe after public outcry was raised over the latter’s inappropriateness for the area. The realized One Poultry also opens in the middle to a triangular interior courtyard splashed with cyan, magenta, and yellow. London’s BuckleyGrayYeoman had originally been tapped to renovate and convert the 110,000-square-foot One Poultry into office space. The renderings released at the time presented an upscale, if staid, vision of the interiors, complete with herringbone floors and open benching. WeWork’s internal design team took over instead and built out office spaces that unmistakably stay true to the co-working company’s in-house aesthetic, while also referencing the building’s colorful exterior. “We took advantage of this beautifully designed James Stirling building,” said Andy Heath, the director of WeWork’s European and Australian design department, “harnessing the natural light that pours into the space, and made sure every part—even the prows of the building—were thoughtfully designed to foster collaboration, productivity, and our home-from-home feeling. “Bold colours and homely furnishing can be seen throughout the building, where the scheme was inspired by the postmodernist era of design so thoughtfully conceived by Stirling. The artwork—created by our own in-house Arts & Graphics team—resembles workers wandering the nearby streets, bringing the vibe of Bank into the space.” WeWork opted to use puffy furniture and primary colors in the common areas, not dissimilar to the aesthetic of the all-women work club The Wing (in which WeWork invested during its latest funding round). The outdoor plaza has been turned into a common area for WeWork members and outfitted with new furniture, and the even the area behind the building’s clock on the fourth floor has been turned into a lounge that frames a view of the adjacent Bank junction. One Poultry is WeWork’s 28th location in London and is expecting to house up to 2,300 members. Retail stores are located in the building’s ground floor and basement-level spaces, and WeWork occupies the building’s remaining five floors and has installed a roof garden, restaurant, and wellness lounge.
With a quarter million members in 283 buildings across 75 different cities (and another 183 locations in the pipeline), WeWork is on an expansion tear that’s grown to include retail, education, and maybe even full neighborhoods somewhere down the line. With the company’s first ground-up building, Dock 72, nearly complete in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, AN spoke with the designers and researchers who are making WeWork’s growth possible and tried to divine where the company is going next. In a conversation on the future of data and workplace design at the William Vale Hotel in Williamsburg, Devin Vermeulen, creative director, and Daniel Davis, director of fundamental research, discussed how WeWork is “refining the future of the open office.” Most architecture firms design offices as one-off projects and rarely collect feedback once the spaces are occupied, but because WeWork both designs and manages their co-working spaces, the company can collect post-occupancy data. Through the collection of data via user feedback and integrated sensors, the company has created a massive pool of information from which to build its design guidelines. Planning a floor layout within the constraints of existing buildings can prove challenging, and WeWork is constantly tweaking and updating its offices based on tenant feedback. Every WeWork location outputs a massive amount of what Davis calls “data exhaust,” the information collected as a byproduct of tenants going about their day. Davis points out that data is just a proxy for user interaction, and the feedback collected through WeWork’s room booking app or surveys is just one metric of how their occupants feel. The design of each location changes accordingly based on a user’s needs. Underutilized conference rooms can either be reconfigured to make them more appealing—cramped rooms can be reorganized, and dark rooms can be lit differently—or repurposed into different uses entirely. There’s no reason that a lesser-used conference room can’t be turned into a lounge if it draws tenants. Feedback is aggregated and forms the core of WeWork’s design guidelines worldwide. The key to translating those guidelines across 22 countries is that, as the senior vice president and head of design at WeWork, Federico Negro, describes, only 90 percent of the guidelines are used across all offices. The remaining ten percent varies to adapt to local markets. When WeWork expands into a new city or state, it hires local architects to adapt its traditional model. This might mean a long communal table in Scandinavian offices as everyone gathers to eat lunch together, or larger meeting rooms in China, where one-on-one meetings are eschewed for team gatherings. The local architectural team is vertically integrated with the maintenance staff and utilizes feedback on trash routes, the ease of changing light bulbs, and other practical considerations when creating a layout. As hyped as the bromance between Bjarke Ingels and WeWork cofounder Adam Neumann has been, the Danish architect won’t be contributing much to the company’s day-to-day architecture work; the first “chief architect” will be focusing his attention on marquee projects like the WeGrow pilot school. The ultimate goal of the collaboration is to help WeWork expand into neighborhood planning, something outside of their current design scope. WeWork’s furniture and lighting solutions may appear similar to what's used in other spaces, but everything at WeWork is designed and fabricated by in-house teams. The resultant pieces are tested in WeWork offices, tweaked, and rolled out as kits-of-parts for designers to mix and match as they see fit. On a recent visit to WeWork’s New York City headquarters in Chelsea, the sixth-floor lounge had recently been revamped with plants, technicolor couches, and custom lighting fixtures. The airy palette might have seemed novel to those familiar with the company’s darker coworking spaces of five years ago, but as WeWork grows and matures its aesthetic, what works in the headquarters will ultimately trickle down to its older locations. Negro describes the process as rolling out design like “software updates." Circulation has been given special emphasis in the company’s design considerations, according to Davis. While his team’s algorithmically-generated desk layouts may optimize the number of seats in a WeWork office, guiding people to navigate those spaces in a certain way helps encourage face-to-face interactions. The most obvious intervention is the staircase; at the Chelsea location, the stairs have been relocated to the center of the floor and connect to floating “sky lobbies." Each floor is anchored by its stair, and circulation flows around it out of necessity. That circulation can help guide and divide the energy of the floor, keeping raucous lounge get-togethers distinct from the more subdued private call booths or conference rooms. The company is continuing to expand into both new industries and client groups. During the time of writing this story the company announced that it would be jumping into the real estate brokerage game with WeWork Space Services. Enterprise clients like IBM now compose 25 percent of WeWork’s tenants and represent a new design challenge for the company, but having core information from its prior tenants is helping the design team navigate the transition, said Negro. As open offices continue to evolve, architects and interior designers have tweaked layouts and materials to optimize worker comfort and balance privacy concerns. Will the increasing availability of data help designers refine their solutions in the same way WeWork has done?
As major changes and speculation over what’s next hover around the Brooklyn Navy Yard, S9 Architecture’s Dock 72 office tower is nearing completion. The stepped, 16-story building is currently receiving its facade, and co-working company WeWork has already laid claim to 220,000 square feet of office space. With so much ground-up space to work with, the company (and developers Boston Properties and Rudin Development) has tapped local firm Fogarty Finger to design the amenity spaces for their new digs Fogarty Finger took cues from residential and hospitality design to impart a softness throughout, which, given their track record in designing high-end office spaces, is why the studio was chosen for the job. From the renderings, it seems the interiors are a step up from WeWork’s typical glass-and-reclaimed-wood look, usually handled by their in-house design team (Bjarke Ingels had no role in the project, either). Dock 72 is the first ground-up office building to be built in Brooklyn in nearly 30 years, and given the building’s Class A ratings (the highest office standard) and waterfront views, Fogarty Finger was responsible for designing 35,000 square feet of high-end amenities. Two bar-and-lounges, one on the ground floor, the other adjacent to the 16th floor’s conference center, a 600-foot-long, 30-foot-wide lobby that runs the length of the building, a juice bar, spa, gym, café, and a market. The interiors lean heavily on an industrial aesthetic (concrete floors, black steel columns), with strategic splashes of warm wood paneling along the ceiling and a white oak trim in the furniture. In keeping with the Navy Yard's effort to bolster New York City's manufacturing base, local manufacturers from the yard were invited to curate the public areas. As founding partner Robert Finger describes it, Dock 72 is only the latest project to escalate the included amenities as developers try to capture Class A office space tenants; high-value tech employees in this case. Once the next phase of the Navy Yard’s expansion is complete, Dock 72 will link up with a suite of planned waterfront amenities surrounding the office core.
In Manhattan, there are two things we keep seeing everywhere: WeWork and Bjarke Ingels. From its signature coworking office spaces to an elementary school, WeWork cofounder Adam Neumann seems intent on infiltrating every aspect of people’s lives. According to WeWork’s blog, the plan “starts with every space for every member and scales to every building in every city.” Danish architect Bjarke Ingels is also cropping up around NYC (quite literally as the BIG U will encircle downtown Manhattan) as well as VIA 57 West, Two World Trade, 40th Precinct Police Station, the Spiral at Hudson Yards, and the Eleventh. With all of this in mind, it seems inevitable that the two would team up for dual domination: WeWork has hired Ingels as its first “chief architect.” Ingels will continue to lead his offices out of Copenhagen and London as he creates more WeWork spaces. “WeWork was founded at the exact same time as when I had arrived to New York. In that short amount of time – the blink of an eye at the time scale of architecture–they have accomplished incredible things and they are committed to continuing their trajectory to places we can only imagine. WeWork’s commitment to community and culturally driven development is perfectly aligned with our active, social and environmental agendas. As WeWork takes on larger and more holistic urban and architectural challenges, I am very excited to contribute with my insights and ideas to extend their community-oriented vision to ground-up buildings and urban neighborhoods,” Ingels said in a statement. His first task will be to transform the former Lord & Taylor building into WeWork’s new headquarters. He is also working on the aforementioned school, WeGrow. As Fast Company reported, Neumann and Ingels have a shared, confident vision:
“I [Neumann] said, ‘Give me your favorite building.’ “He [Ingels] said, ‘I don’t have one favorite building because of the design-by-committee situation. I get one or three amazing original ideas that I’ve been working on for a decade in a building, but there were seven other ideas that were not exactly mine.’ “I said, ‘I want all your best ideas in one building.’ “He said, ‘If someone actually allowed me to do it, I could design the perfect office building or perfect residential building.’ “I said, ‘Perfect, that’s a big word.’ “He said, ‘No one’s ever given me a shot.'”Sounds like the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
Co-working company WeWork has added London’s iconic Number One Poultry to its growing roster of historically significant buildings, and will reportedly convert all 110,000-square feet of the postmodern landmark into creative office space. Clad in alternating bands of pink and yellow limestone and most recognizable for its periscope-shaped tower above the main entrance, One Poultry has been a distinctive part of London’s urban fabric since its completion in 1997. Completed five years after the death of its architect, James Stirling, the building has gone from being an object of public scorn to being designated as a historical structure worthy of preservation. Earlier this year the building became the youngest ever to win Grade II* historical preservation status, even as the Financial Times reports that it was “voted as the fifth-worst building in London by Time Out in 2005.” The site itself has a contentious history, as Stirling’s playful scheme famously beat out a modernist tower proposed by Mies van der Rohe after public opposition scuttled Rohe's 18-story glass and bronze building. One Poultry is currently undergoing an interior and lobby renovation by London-based BuckleyGrayYeoman Architects in an attempt to attract new tenants. The re-situated office space seems like a natural fit for WeWork, as BuckleyGrayYeoman has managed to fit a more conventional design into Stirling’s bulging and unequal volumes by opening up the floors and exposing the concrete columns and trusses. The new plan also calls for an underground bicycle storage center, a new 4,000-square foot double-height lobby, a reception area, and a locker room. A grand staircase that had been closed off will also be reopened as a separate entrance for private members. WeWork has been on an aggressive expansion lately in both the architectural and business worlds. Earlier this month it was revealed that the company had launched WeGrow, an education-based offshoot, and had hired the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) to design their flagship school. This week alone has seen WeWork readying itself for a foray into retail, as well as a $32 million investment in the women-only co-working group Wing. As the company continues to grow, it will be worth keeping an eye on what other notable buildings it acquires in the future.