13 Inspiring Coworking Spaces

Kiss the cube goodbye; these collective offices add flair to the freelance life.

If you’re reading this article at your lackluster desk, pining for a more inspiring place to do your job, you’re not alone. Dwell found a dozen shared work environments that not only offer the promise of more flexibility and collaboration, but also provide inspiring examples of office design.

CoCo (Minneapolis, United States)

A 20,000 square-foot hub for entrepreneurship and enterprise in downtown Minneapolis, CoCo gives new energy to a potent symbol of the old economy. It's a renovated grain exchange and trading floor, down to the Twitter messages and music playlists flashing across the repurposed trading board. Co-founder Kyle Coolbroth said the then-vacant space’s palladian windows and classic Doric columns spoke to him at first glance, so he and his colleagues purchased it and engineered an environment for collaboration, with interaction zones and a coffee bar situated to encourage serendipitous interaction when workers aren’t focused or hunkered down or meeting in private campsites set up on the open floor. The renovation by MacDonald & Mack Architects won a heritage award from the AIA Minneapolis chapter.

While the rapid expansion of the coworking boom of the last few years is cooling down, seven out of ten coworking facilitators report that they don’t have the space to keep up with demand, according to Deskmag’s 2014 Coworking Forecast. With the gradual transformation of the American workforce into a corp of flexible freelancers—the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that by 2020, roughly 40% of American workers, or 65 million people, will be self-employed —these types of spaces may become more the norm than the exception.

Grind (Chicago, United States)

This Chicago workspace shed the drop ceilings and depressing decorations of its former life as a title insurance company to blossom into a coworking hotspot. Benjamin Dyett, co-founder of Grind, which also runs similar spaces in New York, says his team wanted to create a "frictionless workspace" and built an array of desks and conference rooms to accommodate different work styles, all buffered by a sound attenuation system that improves focus. A 22-foot-high ceiling, massive windows and an internal mezzanine provide an airy, open environment, while custom light fixtures from Brooklyn’s MESH Architecture and a chandelier/art installation by RND, made of old phone receivers and staplers recovered from the office’s previous incarnation, provide visual inspiration when minds wander.

Green Spaces (Denver, United States)

This solar-powered coworking space in Denver's arts district is literally a breath of fresh air, and not just because the plethora of reclaimed wood planters between desks freshens the environment. With plans to expand and add a rooftop garden, the dog-friendly space offers a healthy environment to mitigate the screen’s ever-present glow.

Link (Austin, United States)

Coworking guru Liz Elam, who founded Link as well as the League of Extraordinary Coworking Spaces, designed this collaboration hub with focus and results in mind. While the shared area of the office (pictured above) exudes color and energy, and is rearranged every week to inject a bit of randomness, other workspaces remain subdued. Desks are perpendicular to the windows to reduce glare, walls are kept white, and Elam made sure different work styles were respected. Half the space features low ceilings and white noise for introverts, while a louder, more open section is tailored to extroverts.

Hubud (Bali, Indonesia)

Some might say they’re ruining paradise by installing high-speed internet. But if you can manage work-life balance, the all-bamboo interior of Hubud in Bali might be the perfect place for a work vacation or extended sabbatical. Built with sustainable materials, such as ironwood, the office boasts an airy environment with views of a rice field and volcano that most start-ups can’t beat.

Urban Station (Buenos Aires, Argentina)

One branch of a string of similar workstations and spaces across Latin America, this office/coffee shop in the Palermo Soho neighborhood rents out desks near one of the city’s creative centers. Architects at Total Tool BA created a flexible space with separate meeting spaces and numerous outlets and plugs spread out amidst the ground floor. There are even branded yellow bicycles parked outside, another ploy to attract today’s mobile worker. According to founder Juan Pablo Russo, Urban Station was designed to stimulate creativity with a rich color palette, a mash-up of furniture styles, and a wall mural featuring an artist's interpretation of the brand slogan "think outside the cage."

Laptop (Paris, France)

Pauline Thomas, the founder of this creative homeroom in the Jourdain quarter, purposely bucked the sleek and sci-fi trend in favor of keeping the character and vintage charm of this former print shop. Flashes of blue, green, yellow, and red, along with work from local artists, contrast the dark, tailor-made desks from carpenter David Martin. "I wanted a serene and cozy place that gives people the mental space to find inspiration," she says.

Mutinere (Paris, France)

"Free Together," the rallying cry of this hip Parisian space, is fitting considering the meaning its founders attach to coworking as a solution to radical shifts in the economy. Science played a massive role in the design, specifically a Harvard Review article positing that proximity, privacy, and permission were the core values any space meant to incubate innovation should follow. Library-like alcoves encourage focus and practically hush those entering, while the open central space, with a massive skylight, begs to be filled with conversation and collaboration. Co-founder Antoine van den Broek says the space was co-created with users, using a lot of recycled materials to send the message that "you can do it differently."

Makers (Seattle, United States)

A setting for ex-Microsoft employees and contractors in the Seattle area, Makers sets a social tone with an open space adorned with high ceilings, brick walls, and cement floors. The refurbished interior of this historic building boasts numerous upcycled features, such as desks made from an old middle school gym floor and sliding doors crafted from bleacher boards, that add up to a relaxed, open environment.

NeueHouse (New York, United States)

Housed within a renovated industrial space, NeueHouse incorporates touches from hospitality design to bring a clubbier edge to coworking. According to architect David Rockwell, he wanted to create a space that encouraged unlikely encounters. One of the centerpieces is a pier zone on the ground floor anchored in Spanish steps. Serving as a resting place during the day and amphitheater seating for events during the evening, it provides a crossroads for entrepreneurs to network and meet.

Raumstation (Berlin, Germany)

Freelancers may need to call ground control during a stay at Raumstation, a sleek space known for its quiet, privacy-minded layout. The four-floor brick building even boasts a sound-isolation room for private calls.

Studioverket (Stockholm, Sweden)

This former strip club got a hip renovation by designers Per & Toki, featuring air bubble-patterned concrete walls and hanging gardens. The dark and shady entrance now leads to a light-infused workspace and music studio.

WeWork (Global)

Spread out around the U.S. in major cities like New York and Seattle, and with locations in the works in Tel Aviv, London, and beyond, WeWork seems to have figured out the secret to happy coworking. No two sites look the same, but all feature a refined industrial aesthetic and references to their buildings' past lives (one of which, in Washington D.C., is a former Wonder Bread Factory). Plus, the spaces are designed with (productive) play in mind—ping pong tables and beer on tap give reason to mix and mingle between conference calls.


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