Guests often dropped by with their laptops in the restaurant «Ferma Benua», owned by our client GC Best: they were working on projects or conducting negotiations, which caused a shortage of tables. Observing the situation, the owners decided to open a co-working space nearby, since offices of this type were gaining popularity in Russia, and in the park square there was a building that ideally suited the size and configuration. That’s how the network’s first co-working space Benua PAGE appeared. Its idea, location and design appealed to future residents so much that the seats were booked long before the project was handed over.
The success of Benua inspired GC Best to create its second and most beautiful co-working center Avenue PAGE, which is now the largest of its kind in St. Petersburg. The network is actively developing: as of summer 2020, 11 locations in St. Petersburg and other Russian cities are in development.
DESIGNIC studio team worked on the creation of PAGE network brand book and suggested the main interior solutions. In this case study, we talk about what we drew inspiration from, what challenges we encountered, and how we helped set up spaces addictive for our clients.
About the client and the first co-working
In October 2018, the representatives of the GC Best contacted us to set up a modern and functional co-working space.
In Russia, there is an opinion that only lone freelancers work in co-working spaces, and that it is difficult to attract companies there. To make sure this is not the case and co-working spaces can be very profitable, leaders of Best Group Andrey Lushnikov and Elena Plakhtiy together with the head of DESIGNIC studio Anya Sarkisyants went to London, a city with a perfectly developed co-working culture.
They wanted to observe how the world’s most famous co-working networks function, to understand their business model, and to evaluate their design. In a few days they managed to visit WeWork, FORA, Google Space, and TY. It has become apparent that there are three formats of co-working which rarely mix:
- themed by interest, such as sewing;
- for startupers with ready-made ideas, who can work for free and develop professionally (Google Space and others like it);
- for large companies (WeWork, FORA, etc.).
The pros for freelancers are simple: if they do not like to work at home, and renting an office is not feasible, a place in a co-working space becomes the best solution. Large companies also have reasons to prefer co-working to their own offices:
- it is a ready-made room with modern interior design, thought-out to the smallest detail, where they can move in and start working right away. They do not need to wait for the completion of repairs, delivery of furniture, etc;
- the administrators of the co-working space provide for the purchase of supplies, maintenance of office equipment, cleaning, security, and administrative issues;
- an established community.
The main function of co-working is to create a business community that gives a person or company the opportunity to promote and develop their product more quickly than standard schemes.
Therefore, in addition to comfortable workplaces, well-designed rooms for informal communication are essential, as they let residents share information, experiences and ideas in a friendly environment.
Greatly inspired by what they saw in London, while still on the trip the customer decided to create a co-working space! Benua PAGE turned out to be so highly anticipated and sought after because of its location and surroundings that almost all seats were booked out before the official opening.
Benua PAGE was an experimental project in which we tried to implement interesting solutions. This is how the chandelier with the author’s design and a lot of greenery appeared. The fireplace, which was already in the room, was the starting point for developing the idea of a community and «Friday nights.» There are areas in open space format, there are closed offices as well. One can buy a fixed seat or prefer a free season ticket and sit where it is free at the moment.
If we consider that the first location of the co-working space was experimental both for us and for the developer, numerous changes that appeared in the course of using the space seem natural. For example, there was a podium on the first floor for lectures, seminars, and presentations. In classic offices, the podium is always in demand among employees, but in the co-working space it was not as popular, so we dismantled it and built a workroom for several people, the seats in which were booked out on the very first day.
The layout of the co-working space must be thought out in detail, because a square meter with different functionality brings different profits to the owner: an office is more expensive than a podium.
From a separate office, residents enter the lounge area with a fireplace.
There are desks where they can work with laptops/phones (not assigned to specific people’s desks). In the background you can see the podium, which was intended for lectures, seminars, and presentations. Above, we explained why it was eventually dismantled.
Designer Ingo Maurer’s original Zettel’z chandeliers, made of Japanese paper, stainless steel, and heat-resistant satin glass, underscore the PAGE co-working space. They have 80 blank sheets on which you can depict your story or write a message.
The meeting room in the Benua PAGE is equipped with everything you need for a video conference or Skype meeting. Residents can reserve it in advance by contacting the administrator.
While we were working on the Benua co-working space, a new building was being built on Aptekarsky Embankment, which soon became Avenue PAGE.
Organization of the second co-working space: How another successful business space was born
The owners initially planned to build an apartment complex, but still opted for the co-working space. Several factors influenced the change of plans:
- in Russia, co-working spaces were gaining in popularity. This meant that such workspaces would be increasingly in demand and the chance should not be missed;
- the audience welcomed the first project with great enthusiasm;
- excellent location. The new building is located in the business center of St. Petersburg — Petrogradsky district with a view of the embankment, which tenants really like.
During the work on the first co-working space, the team was formed from representatives of the MTL management company, DESIGNIC studio and GC BEST development company. Each of them evaluated proposals for the layout and ratio of different types of workplaces, which resulted in an optimal design project in terms of profitability: 80% of its area was occupied by offices and meeting rooms, and 20% was allocated for open space and hot desking, as well as various common areas. We applied these results to the second object.
The client’s request was: «To create a modern workspace that will attract young and creative companies.» It wasn’t just about profit, they needed a place that people would fall in love with at first sight. That is why we paid so much attention to its interior design and especially to the decoration, as it clearly shows that the co-working space belongs to the PAGE network.
The building, concept selection and renovation
After approving the deadline and budget, we inspected the facility: a spacious clean room with concrete walls and no finishing. We could already start working with it.
The concept was quickly decided, because when working on the first project we spent a lot of time on the development of recognizable network features and created a brand book. There we described the basic principles of interior design, equipment of co-working areas (private offices, open space, meeting rooms, lounge areas, coffee points, etc.), the use of basic and accent colors in decoration and furniture, as well as decorative items and elements that are found in all co-working spaces of the PAGE network. The main features of the future co-working space were:
- Thoughtful layout and design. We managed to balance the number of offices for small, medium and large companies and successfully diversify them.
- Informal social areas available to all residents: coffee points, cafes, lounge areas. There are attraction points all over the co-working space that help us form art objects. Books and book pages are the hallmark of the brand.
In Avenue, we hung books everywhere and put a lot of shelves and racks for bookcrossing. There are quotations written on the glass partitions and portraits of writers on the walls painted by Pig Snout Gallery artists.
An example of a «network» interior element is a neon lamp in the form of a girl reading a book with pages flying out of it.
Work on the interior of the co-working space began on the first floor — the main transit floor and one of the central gathering places for residents. We had to arrange it to be comfortable not only for conferences and discussions, but also for working with a laptop in any seat.
On the first floor of the co-working space there are free rooms and several common areas where residents can get together.
It was important to design the first floor of the co-working space in a way that would wow from the doorstep. To this end, we placed an installation of books taken from the personal library of Andrei Lushnikov, head of the GC Best. Old volumes got a second life, and the place got a special style of the PAGE network.
This installation solves two problems. Firstly, books are an element associated with PAGE (the ability to give books a second life). Secondly, this approach shows residents that there are no gray, boring walls here. PAGE is a place for creative people.
On the first floor, we placed phone booths where residents can retreat for concentrated work, calls, or relaxation.
On the first floor is a cafe. Since this is the place where all the residents of the co-working gather, it was important to create a networking atmosphere here. Regular tables are not suitable for this purpose, because in this case, everyone will sit separately. We found a solution: we put a long bar table with an unusual shape and hung decorative lights with the words BLA-BLA, hinting at a «time and place to talk».
The cafe on the first floor.
At the same time we were thinking about the interior of the underground floor. We wanted to make there a fitness room for the residents, we developed a layout concept and design. But neither we nor the client had any interest in the idea of placing a fitness room on this floor, despite the fact that many network co-working spaces offer the opportunity to work out as a standard option. Later we decided to increase the number of communication and networking areas by exactly the area of this floor. We decided to turn it into meeting rooms. All the meeting rooms were divided into «volumes» and signed with the names of the writers.
By doing this, we were able to support the PAGE concept.
The underground floor is also multifunctional: there is a coffee point and a «bulletin board» on which you can post information, advertisements, announcements of events or simply wish a good day to all the residents of the co-working space. The centerpiece here is the tree, which we used to make up for the lack of natural light and create a pleasant atmosphere conducive to socializing.
From the underground floor you can not see the streets of St. Petersburg. To make up for this and liven up the area, we put a tree in the middle of the office and made the space as light as possible.
Going forward with the design, we decided to do two types of floors, differing in the color of the carpeting and bay windows. In accordance with the brand book we chose brick and green. From the street you can see the color difference of the floors: during the day the bay windows seem to be colored glass, shining in the sunlight, and in the evening, when it gets dark, more contrasting green and brick bay windows, arranged in a staggered order, create an atmosphere of coziness.
This is how the colorful bay windows look from the outside.
The even numbered floors have green flooring, the odd numbered — brick flooring.
Colorful bay windows helped not only to accentuate the extra coziness in the open space, but also to make the workplaces even more spectacular.
The same colors were used in the meeting rooms. To not overload the room, we put the colored elements under the ceiling.
In the meeting rooms, the recognizable element of PAGE was a dotted line, reminiscent of the page break line in a notepad.
It was important to maintain the versatility of the room. To do this, we chose simple materials and used solutions that would add a «zest» but not overload the room.
We got an interesting combination: the usual loft, but with white ceilings.
In open space, it was important to consider comfort and ergonomics, to create a comfortable and versatile space for all residents: from small startups and freelancers, to large companies.
While designing the co-working space, at the same time we were selecting furniture and materials. And here it was important to maintain a balance — the interior of the co-working space should be concise and conducive to work, but at the same time not appear primitive.
The peculiarities of choosing materials and furniture
For the Avenue PAGE co-working, we used durable and sturdy materials.
For each type of workplace (offices, open space, free seats) we selected chairs according to several criteria. For a long sedentary work on the computer — ergonomic models with anatomically shaped seats that support the back. Areas where people come with laptops for short stays are equipped with armchairs and sofas.
Rest areas are divided into two groups — some can only be used for relaxation, others — also for work. We made sure that the interior of the co-working space was comfortable: we thought about wall design, landscaping (both pendant and floor), used noise-absorbing curtains, installations, bookcases, paintings, and art objects. This is what creates an atmosphere of creativity and modernity.
One of the rest areas. Next to the built-in upholstered sofas, there are outlets for gadgets and tables to put your laptop on.
A lot of attention in the design of the co-working space was given to lighting. For each zone, we selected appropriate fixtures and calculated the lighting in accordance with the standards, taking into account the objectives of the room.
To create a special atmosphere, we added decorative fixtures, lamps and light installations.
What influenced the success of the co-working space
As a result, we have a comfortable and functional place to work, develop and communicate, that residents really appreciate. In our opinion, the PAGE network of co-working spaces has proven to be so popular for three reasons:
- The layout and design of both co-working spaces are carefully thought out. We managed to balance the number of rooms for small, medium and large companies and successfully diversify them. As a result, every resident can find a perfect place in the PAGE co-working. In addition, we filled the interior of the co-working space with interesting details: books, living plants, installations, and art objects that create a particular atmosphere.
- Ergonomic furniture for work. Not every co-working space is well thought out: somewhere the layout suffers, somewhere there are problems with the furniture. We started from the fact that the co-working room is a place where people run away from uncomfortable offices, so we chose not just stylish but also ergonomic furniture, so that everyone could adjust the chair to his or her body parameters and work in comfort.
- Great location. Avenue PAGE is located in the business center of St. Petersburg, with a great view of the embankment.