Club Workspace is the fast-growing network of business clubs located across London, offering co-working facilities for businesses that do not yet (or may never) require a conventional office.
For a monthly membership fee Workspace provides a working environment with business grade Wi-Fi, additional access to high-spec meeting rooms, which are bookable on an ad-hoc basis, and plenty more additional features. With their unique look and feel, members can tailor their package to suit their business.
Workspace currently has 17 co-working business clubs based at exclusive London postcodes. All are designed for both collaborative and mobile working and have a diverse events calendar to allow members to engage with like-minded entrepreneurs, freelancers and professionals.
Set in the heart of Southwark, The Print Rooms is the latest Workspace facility and has been developed to offer the perfect office atmosphere for companies looking to grow within a stylish and business-oriented working environment. With its vibrant culture, fantastic facilities and great transport links to the rest of the city, it’s little surprise to us that, on our arrival, the ground floor café space is alive with (largely) young professionals.
Few people can be more delighted to see this than the space’s designers – Frost Architects’ Dan Frost and Simon Mellor, who lead us through the buzz of the café and up to the relative serenity of a breakout space overlooking the ground floor facilities.
From our elevated perch we can see that it is not just the café that is full of life – the second half of the ground floor features the Club Workspace zone, which comprises cool touchdown working space, and which is clearly just as popular for the members.
We’re also joined by two representatives from Workspace, who are happy to tell us exactly who is enjoying the facilities below us and why. ‘This is for small and medium enterprises, new growth companies and creative people, so having a space like this is imperative,’ we’re told. ‘We want people to speak with one another – people who might not normally talk with one another – this helps them to grow. This is actually key to everything we do. We don’t just want to have someone sat there behind a desk. You don’t get the same feel and tenants won’t actively want to be here.’
‘This is a community of like-minded people,’ Dan agrees. ‘This isn’t just a nice idea – it genuinely works. People here do mix with other businesses and that leads to cross-pollination. I think initially there may be some skepticism as to whether a space like this really works – but it does! You do need a space like this to achieve that though.’
Dan’s right. The look and feel of the space is vital when it comes to encouraging people to actively mix, interact and collaborate. ‘The guys at Frost Architects have a long association with Workspace – they know us and they know what we want to achieve.
‘Originally we weren’t going to have the Club Workspace here, but we brought it in towards the end of the project – and it was seamlessly put in. Because they are so used to working with us now, they know that something could come out of leftfield at any time.’
‘Getting that mix of linking the spaces but also providing privacy and separation to create working areas can be quite tricky,’ Dan explains. ‘You have to look at the space, the furniture, the screens, the lighting…all those things. The lighting here is a key part of the scheme. There is also a desire for Workspace to not be corporate – and that comes from where it started and its traditions of taking industrial buildings and transforming them with simple fit-outs. Now there is a proven aesthetic and a design intent to maintain that industrial feel, but everything is a little bit higher spec.’
We’re told that one of Workspace’s mantras is ‘Location, location, technology’ and whilst we were already aware of the company’s smart location strategy (think Clerkenwell, Islington, Dulwich, Southwark – not West End) it is only now that we are fully aware of the impact of the technology. Top grade connectivity is coupled with full access to vital business utilities here.
‘We have to back everything up with good technology – and we keep control of that. We don’t have the madness of a network of different suppliers – and we make sure the standard is very good. This also means that, when things go wrong, this is our issue to sort – not our members’.
‘This has been vital in the growth of Workspace. Our client profile has changed dramatically over the past five years from quite an industrial portfolio, to creative industries such as architects, web developers and game developers.’
What The Print Rooms gets absolutely spot on is that it offers that seamless bridge between education and the scary, big corporate world. This is not by accident. ‘One of our major clients is a university developer,’ Simon reveals. ‘We recently developed a teaching space for them – and that had a completely different feel from the regular classroom environment. It was a little bit like this – much more relaxed, with a high level bar and screens. It looks and feels more like an airport lounge than an educational environment.’
There is, of course, a whole world of these small creative businesses right above our heads, in the private workspaces that fill the upper floors at The Print Rooms. Our hosts tell us that they have been pleasantly surprised to find that the greatest initial take-up was not for the smaller units, as they had originally expected, but for the larger ones.
Heading up to the top of the building, we’re very kindly given access to one such duplex unit, which is currently home to Panaseer, a London-based cyber security start-up. The bright, open space features large glazing on both sides and while Frost Architects have clearly delivered a high spec finish here, it has also (very intentionally) been designed as a blank canvas for clients to create their own working home. Panaseer has added a rustic table and high backed sofa for the lower floor and more traditional desk-based work setting for the upper level.
Simon tells us that there were a number of challenges when it came to construction and access to the building – not least the fact that the adjacent railway severely restricted how the team could work and what plant equipment could be used. Not that you’d know it by the results. It would be totally amiss of us not to mention the finishes used throughout the corridors here. Fantastic large-scale abstract artworks break up the cool dark grey walls – as do the brilliant yellow door details and ‘floor mats’ that delineate each of the individual offices. Grey and yellow worked for the Haçienda – and they work just as well here!
Heading back down to communal ground floor, we are presented with an alternative view across the space, and in particular a view across the varied and eye-catching suspended lighting that (literally) lights up the space. A cool mesh wall spans the café area, whilst the finishes throughout are more edgy, modern south London bar/restaurant than corporate environment. It’s little wonder, despite the fact that lunchtime past some time ago, that so many members are continuing to enjoy their surroundings.