An Interface Interview with Devin Vermeulen, Creative Director, Wework.com
What We Are: We imagined WeWork as the home for entrepreneurs, a community filled with fascinating members collaborating, learning and growing together. We hope you see it that way too. Our goal is to empower you to do what you love while we handle the rest.
Our spaces are currently in London, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, New York City and Washington DC.
We choose our buildings based on a mix of city, neighborhood, architectural character and proximity to public transportation. We currently have 16 buildings in 6 cities with more on the way.
We’re hearing about rapid change within work environments to accommodate new and better ways of working.
Q: For example, spaces that can be setup and reconfigured readily or quickly, areas that adapt to diverse technology requirements, general business interactions – what’s your perspective?
A: Here are our thoughts about Space Planning & Design.
Flexibility: “One important way to best utilize space is maximizing flexibility – examples include a conference room table that converts to a ping pong table or a billiards table, or a common area with reconfigurable furniture.
It’s important for us to create spaces that not only accommodate uses we foresee, but also ones that we can’t yet predict.”
Privacy/Transparency: “A common complaint about open work areas is they tends to breed distraction and interruption, in addition to a lack of privacy when dealing with proprietary information.
It’s important to create zones for focus in a gradient – have a large open collaborative space centered around noise, interaction, inspiration and a buzz of activity followed by a traditional open workspace and smaller private spaces.”
Second Home: “We call WeWork the home for entrepreneurs, and our use of the word home is no coincidence.
We embrace a tenet of design in which spaces feel very much like home – if you’re as comfortable at work (as at home) you won’t find the need to leave to achieve mental balance and physical energy.”
We’re thinking about three necessities that are examples of a changing world specific to space planning and functionality.
Q: What comes to mind when you think about Resilience, Adaptability and Evolution?
A: We can relate to each topic, individually.
Resilience: “One of the issues we’ve run into as we continue to grow is the resilience of materials, furniture and really everything that goes into our spaces.
We’ve found contract furniture doesn’t really offer the residential feeling we seek so we turned to residential vendors. While those products don’t wear well over time. it’s great to see companies like Interface offering a wide array of colors, patterns and styles that can achieve a residential feeling in commercial quality materials.”
Adaptability: “We have the freedom to innovate and revolutionize workspaces and offices.
Without a specific user group we design many different types, methods and styles of what it means to work. We also constantly observe and interact with our members. When we find an unanticipated event, activity or work style we take it on as a design challenge to adapt and change functionality without sacrificing anything in the future.”
Evolution: “We also work in our own spaces once they’re complete.
Being forced to live within your design(s) allows a benefit to fine tune and elevate functionality as we grow. By studying traffic patterns for morning coffee, use of our phone booths and more we’re constantly looking for ways to evolve and perfect our design as much as possible.”
We’re seeking research studies or data points that speak to human and business needs.
Q: Where do they intersect, and are there any key influences and solutions?
A: Many things come to mind…
“We love Gensler’s Workplace Survey Results—a great amount of information about trends, comments and useful feedback for office/work space design.
This informed our common amenity spaces to create a hub of activity for work interactions plus a buzz of energy—very infectious and inspiring.
We’ve also found most small companies enjoy being around a variety of different businesses as much as those who are similar. There’s an inspiring energy that arises from diversity—doing things that are totally different.”
We’re also observing Business Environments that Stimulate Thinking and Creative Work.
Q: Share your thoughts about these ingredients?
A: Versatility is our best ally.
“As noted above, the best source for creativity is diversity, interactions and working amongst individuals that offer unique perspectives and problem solving.”
Do you feel Sustainability plays a part in Workplace Balance via Materials, Energy & Actual Use?
Q: Do you have examples to share?
“Sustainability impacts everything we experience as humans on this planet – at work and at home. Creating waste isn’t a natural order of life – as a species we need to establish goals to recycle and replace what we use in order for future generations to thrive.”
The WeWork Spaces on your web site feel very universal and timeless, not tied to or derived from any single culture.
Q: Will your eventual Global Expansion include the same?
A: Thank you for the compliment…
“Yes, we’d like to think so – we don’t seek to create anything that’s easily dated or pinned to a specific era in time. Within our spaces architectural elements shine through including structural and mechanical components. We balance this with design, style, color while maintaining the integrity and use within a space. When balanced, we call this the best of everything.”