Photo — Hampus Berndtson
SPACE10 and Spacon & X are pleased to unveil the redesign of SPACE10. The new office design focuses on wellbeing, sustainability and community.
Written by Tracey Ingram.
Three years ago, SPACE10 opened its doors in Copenhagen’s meatpacking district. Spread across three floors of an open-plan, protected building, we’ve been home to everything from a vertical farm to an open office space. But as we grew, so did our needs. That’s why we hired architecture studio Spacon & X to come up with a new typology for our office design that can adapt and transform as we do. Today, SPACE10 comprises a fabrication laboratory, tech studio, test kitchen, event space, gallery, and flexible meeting rooms—all within the same square metres with which we originally started out.
Our goals behind the redesign were two-fold. First of all, we wanted to open up our space and connect even further with our community. Secondly, it’s no secret that the concept of the ‘workplace’ has drastically changed; digital nomads, flextime and virtual offices are just a few of today’s expansions to the very definition of work. To stay relevant in an evolving working culture, SPACE10 needed to evolve alongside it, too.
Office Space, Be Gone?
The turning point for office culture was in 2014 when, according to a study by comScore, ‘the amount of time spent consuming digital media on mobile devices had overtaken desktop browsing. This on-the-go attitude… split into professional lives.’ It didn’t just spill, though; it poured. Strategy Analytics predicts that by 2022, 1.87 billion people will be mobile employees, comprising 42.5 per cent of the total global workforce. In line with such figures, many headquarters are slashing square metres and downsizing desk space. At SPACE10, on the other hand, we’re bucking the trend: we’re expanding. The need to accommodate 30 people in a workspace originally designed for ten led to the redesign of SPACE10, a complete rethink of the environment we’ve inhabited in Copenhagen for years.
The site is part of the Danish city’s meatpacking district, which, over the past ten to 15 years, has become a fertile hub. Restaurants, bars and clubs arrived first, followed by creative schools and studios as well as galleries. These sit alongside the butchers and culinary businesses that have defined the area since day one. SPACE10 inherited a former fish grocer, whose industrial bones—the area’s signature of sorts—formed the framework for Spacon & X’s intervention. And now, three years later, the Spacon & X team stepped back into the saddle for round two.
Creating the ‘Cubicle’ of Tomorrow
Spacon & X has walked alongside our research and design lab from the outset; they were our first collaborators. ‘Now that SPACE10 knows itself better, it’s clearer what works and what doesn’t,’ says Malene Hvidt, who founded Spacon & X together with Svend Jacob Pedersen and Nikoline Dyrup Carlsen. One unanimous downfall was the open-plan layout. ‘It was chaotic,’ says Kevin Curran, our Program Lead at SPACE10, ‘especially when the office space came to house three times its intended capacity. Moving away from open plan was the most important starting point.’
At SPACE10, we aren’t alone in our thinking. Open plan was once thought to foster sociability and collaboration among employees, but a new study indicates the opposite effects. People in open-plan offices apparently spend 73 per cent less time in face-to-face interactions, preferring to flick emails to colleagues from behind their screens. Another report, by the Asia-Pacific Journal of Health Management, found that partition-less environments cause conflict, high blood pressure and increased staff turnover. In a bid to inject the first floor with calmness and serenity, we’ve updated the idea of cubicles for the modern collaborative workplace. The result is a hybrid of flexible, on-demand workspaces that optimise different environments for varied activities and prioritise mental health amongst our team.
For starters, we’ve installed semi-open acoustic ‘cubes’ that encourage interaction between teams at different workstations while suggesting a barrier to guide spatial flow within the interior. We also have frames clad in sound-absorbing EchoJazz panels, which help to prevent noise pollution. And although a growing number of acoustic phone booths have entered the interior-products market, most are completely soundproof boxes—and are ‘often expensive but not aesthetically pleasing’, says Nikoline Dyrup Carlsen. Alongside Spacon & X, we were searching for a fine line—not necessarily noise cancelling, but something to discourage people from interrupting. ‘Based on our shared belief of what would be a good option for future offices, we developed a new, more versatile solution together with SPACE10,’ says Carlsen. The result is semi sound-proofed pods that enable us to find deep, undisturbed concentration if we’re seeking it.
As for panels in our office—which are crucial for divvying up space for meetings, private work or events—we now have flexible ones which can be moved and adjusted as we see fit. Made from recycled PET bottles, they’re one of the few new materials introduced into the space. Rather than taking the ‘easier route of removing everything and starting from scratch’, says Carlsen, ‘we believe that what we can keep, we should keep.’ Whatever wood could be retained, for example, was stained to lend the interior a new identity. The shift away from raw timber—a staple in our headquarters since the beginning—symbolises our transition from untreated materials towards what Curran calls ‘ something more mature’.
Flexible by Day, Flexible by Year
Resident ‘outside’ specialists often join our team in house. Since we tend to work fluidly and dynamically with such collaborators, a permanent spatial solution simply isn’t the answer. And since our lab’s activities cover everything from food to digital fabrication to augmented reality, the SPACE10 office is unlikely to fulfill the same function on an hourly or weekly basis. The new SPACE10 is designed not to last but to adapt—now and in the future. Not an interior you outgrow, but one that grows with you. ‘SPACE10 has architects working on site,’ says Svend Jacob Pedersen. ‘They should be able to reshape the space whenever they like.’
As a result, interior elements have multiple uses and are easy to assemble and disassemble. Workstations are arranged within strong steel frames, but the structures can be optimised for various activities. If a team needs a week of intense focus, for instance, they can attach more panelling to the framework. Offering privacy and sound absorption, this system also allows people to customise their workspace. To prevent the need for an overhaul should we increase our staff at a later date, future-proofing the space was also a consideration. ‘We made an expansion plan along with the design,’ says Pedersen. ‘This means we can include an additional nine desks without losing common space—a scheme that SPACE10 can roll out over the next few years.’
We Still Need Physical Workspaces
The project gave our team and Spacon & X the opportunity to not only reconsider and optimise the spatial layout, but to reassess the role of a physical office in today’s digitally oriented world. Not travelling to a bricks-and-mortar workplace saves time, which, after all, is a luxury today. But we believe that when the entire world is at risk of becoming a workplace, it’s even more important to have a physical hub—somewhere that ties people to a common goal and represents an organisation’s core beliefs.
It’s a sentiment that Curran feels very strongly about. As the one heading the redesign of SPACE10, he ensured that, despite all practical needs, the opportunities of a physical space never fell short during the redesign. ‘Even if we can work from anywhere, that doesn’t mean we necessarily should. The physical workspace fosters personal relationships, cross-pollination and a sense of community—all of which are crucial for boosting happiness, creativity and wellbeing. At the end of the day, innovation is a creative exercise—or, in other words, a matter of shifting perspectives. For us, that doesn’t happen on Slack or through email threads; rather, we see it happening when people meet and interact. The physical workspace ensures that a bio-engineer, a chef and an architect share a coffee or a beer, and bring different perspectives to the table.’
This might also explain the rapid rise in co-working spaces. As Steve King writes in ‘Why Offices Are Still Important in a Digital Age’: ‘[Co-working environments] are places where people aggregate, share knowledge and pool talents.’ He believes that their role as social spaces increases the likelihood that members will be happier and more successful. ‘Humans are by nature social creatures. Because of this, we will continue to cluster.’
Alongside inviting specialists for residencies, we host a myriad of public events such as project launches, hackathons, summits and Friday bars in house. This constant flow of knowledge and people is reflected in a space that expresses our values, vision, culture and approach: open, collaborative, experiential and welcoming. With cafés and the cosiness of home as alternatives, workspaces need to become destinations. That doesn’t mean filling a place with enough perks to ensure people stay; it should be a place people want to stay. We hope that our office fosters personal encounters, cross-pollination and a sense of community—all of which we believe are crucial for boosting innovation, wellbeing and morale.
The Porous Office
Devoid of permanent interior walls, the ground floor is even more flexible than the work areas above. It also serves another purpose: it’s our new public face. To offer the community a more holistic impression of what SPACE10 does, a street-level exhibition space will present our own work as well as projects by others who share our mission. And since we’re aware that our portfolio of experiments and projects could feel inaccessible to some, we’ve included an experimental food space. Co-run with local food and beverage business Depanneur, it’s a space where our team can work informally while our community swings by to have a taste of the latest results from our test kitchen. ‘We work on a lot of niche things,’ says Curran. ‘Food is broad and understandable.’ Together, these new initiatives are part of our goal to open our doors to the larger community on a daily basis and share knowledge, not simply protect it. In turn, these initiatives give us a platform for instant feedback from the people beyond our walls.
Work in Progress
Spacon & X’s design solutions are the result of a bigger discussion: how to construct offices in the future? How to optimise an extremely regulated space? ‘Within this small project,’ says Carlsen, ‘we can see glimpses of how to shape the future of workspaces. This is just the start.’ Hvidt adds that Spacon & X will continue to find possible solutions to these pressing questions. As for SPACE10, it’s something we’ll continue doing, too: searching for the answers to how we will live in the future—including within our own workspaces.