Amsterdam’s Alphabet Building is a prime example of Beta Space in action.
The idea of sharing office space has been around for over a decade, but only in the past few years has that idea evolved from employees simply sharing contiguous physical space into something much more exciting: coworking. Coworking’s simple tagline: “Working alone sucks so come and join the coworking revolution” says it all, as do the metrics associated with coworking environments: According to Global Enterprise, an economic think tank based in Brussels, about 87 percent of coworkers start new projects with others they meet in their space. Other statistics from the Global Coworking Study shared by DeskMag, a magazine about new type of work places, indicate that 86 percent of coworkers have increased their business network; 57 percent work in teams more often.
Coworking spaces favor the startup, but what if you’re a larger firm looking to capitalize on the coworking revolution in your own organization? At Gensler, we’re taking the concept of coworking a step further, applying it to private companies. The result is Beta Space, which I believe is the next evolution in office design. Beta Space takes the social and informal nature of a coworking layout, as well as its flexibility and bare bones approach to building out a space, and applies it to a corporate setting. Rather than approaching an office from a facilities perspective—putting X amount of desks here and Y amount of conference rooms there—Beta Space focuses on what can enhance the immediacy of interaction amongst employees. It allows occupants to modify the space as they need and want to. Allowing workers to tweak a layout in a way that enhances opportunities for social interaction among employees will keep them interacting on a weekly, daily, and hourly level.
The design industry has long used the term plug-and-play to describe flexible work spaces. Beta Space supersizes this concept by creating a highly flexible workspace that fosters more immediacy of interaction. It is what I call accelerated serendipity amongst occupants. I have clients who envision their ideal space similar to the very coworking spaces we are designing for entrepreneurs, like the 1871 coworking and incubating space Gensler is currently building in Chicago and opening this May. These clients are looking for a workspace that is flexible for now and years into the future, highly “hackable” by the employees themselves, and above all laid out to encourage accelerated serendipity. Beta Space is what they are asking for.
Beta space also opens up interesting opportunities for real estate developers. It allows them to create new models of leasable, cost effective, quick turn-around work space properties that deliver significant value to companies. Case in point: Amsterdam’s Alphabet Building (pictured above). The office block is intended for small to mid-size creative agencies that often are challenged by the costs associated with taking on traditional office space, such as long lease terms, space improvements, etc. The Alphabet Building appeals to these firms by providing space designed to be up and running quickly, and likewise broken down fast, to be ready for the next tenant. It is fully ‘hackable’ and very flexible in nature.
Given the growing popularity of coworking, it’s safe to say that large companies and even developers are going to be taking cues from how coworkers approach and use their space. Coworking was the seed, and Beta Space is the logical evolutionary leap for the office environment of the future.
Carlos Martinez is a hybrid architect, designer, innovation seeker, and strategist. He passionately advocates for the strategic importance of great design and is constantly seeking to create memorable spaces that honor their roots, delight users, and elevate expectations. And while he considers himself to be an eternal student of the power of design, he is also an instructor, serving as adjunct professor of design at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Send Carlos your ideas and questions at email@example.com