When Hong Kong–based architecture and interior design studio Bean Buro began work on Bizhouse, a tower of serviced apartments for working professionals, they had no idea that the work-from-home lifestyle was about to become the new global standard in response to a pandemic.
"Across the world and in Hong Kong, we have witnessed a rise in city professionals wishing to work from home," says cofounder Kenny Kinugasa-Tsui. "This subject is even more relevant now as many people have to do that because of the coronavirus pandemic—only to realize their homes are not adequately equipped."
"To see that its pertinence is even more powerful than we expected is gratifying, though we obviously hope for this difficult time to pass for everyone," says cofounder Lorène Faure.
Hysan Development, a prominent property developer in Hong Kong, approached Bean Buro after observing the rise of the live/work trend, noting the lack of residential rentals that are both conducive to working and collaborating by day and peaceful at night.
Bean Buro converted a mid-20th century tenement building (or tong lau) in Causeway Bay, keeping the shell and altering nonstructural walls to create 12 apartments and a rooftop terrace over four stories. The three types of units are about 172 square feet, 232 square feet, and 360 square feet, respectively.
Bizhouse, completed in January 2020, is not a co-living project in the traditional sense, as tenants enjoy their own kitchens and bathrooms in serviced apartments infused with thoughtful and flexible home office elements.
"We feel Bizhouse is more relevant for city professionals or start-ups that require a higher level of flexibility and would benefit greatly from having a space where they can live and work comfortably and productively while being in the heart of a convenient neighborhood in the city," explains Faure.
The considerations extend to the common areas. Bean Buro created a polished lobby with ambient lighting and signage reflecting each tenant’s business identity.
Tenants can leave messages for visiting colleagues, deliverymen, and each other on the apartments doors’ writable surfaces. Even the stools positioned along the corridors can be rented for larger meetings.
The apartment interiors feature a refreshing palette of white walls, soft hues, timber textures, and black accents that become a haven from the bustling neighborhood of Causeway Bay. In the bathrooms and kitchens, small-scale white ceramic tiles provide subtle texture, while rounded edges in the mirrors, light fixtures, and joinery handles contribute to a sense of ease and relaxation.
The apartments’ adaptability is their main attraction. The open plan caters to various programs, from work discussions to yoga sessions. In the largest apartment plan, foldable doors enable simultaneous activities to take place at one time.
During the day, a Murphy bed can be folded up and kept discreet behind warm timber panels, maximizing the floor area. Window counters double as work desk and bar counter, and extendable, moveable tables can be configured for solo work, meetings, or dining. The sofa can be wheeled into a wardrobe when not in use, or easily moved for flexible arrangements.
"We definitely did borrow ideas from other typologies, because the work environment aspect of Bizhouse’s design is based on our expertise in designing for workspaces. The work setting is very appropriately equipped with audio-visual technology, TV screens, and work-friendly ergonomic furniture," says Kinugasa-Tsui.
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Wellness was a main consideration, as the apartments’ dual-functionality means that most tenants will spend a lot of time in them—and even more so during the pandemic. "It really is about designing with as much daylight as possible to ensure the working environment is comfortable [and effective] during the day while at night, the lighting creates a cozy, relaxed atmosphere [for winding down]," says Faure.
Beyond responding to the work-from-home trend, Bizhouse’s adaptability and space efficiency is also highly relevant in Hong Kong due to the city’s density and competitive property prices.
"We are finding a new meaning in designing for [living and working spaces] where the purpose of work is not a secondary consideration in a living space, but a primary driver for working in a residential environment," says Kinugasa-Tsui. So far, the reception has been encouraging, with many creators and start-ups taking up tenancy as predicted.
More by Bean Buro:
Design team: Lorène Faure, Kenny Kinugasa-Tsui, Kirk Kwok, Linda Sze-To
Builder: Hing Cheong Engineering (HK) Limited
Mechanical and Electrical Engineer
Authorised Person: Fruit Design & Build Ltd
Quantity Surveyor: Hysan Development Company Limited
Photography: Courtesy of Bean Buro
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