Co-working spaces aren’t that new, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be innovative. Frances Marcellin speaks to CL3, the architects behind the Gaysorn II office development in Bangkok, Thailand, to find out what its “work, live, play, grow” concept means in reality.
Since co-working was introduced in 2005, independent workers’ passion for sharing common, productive spaces has driven the concept into the mainstream market. Now especially popular with the Millennial generation, who battle with spiralling rents and office costs, the success of purpose-built co-working spaces by companies such as WeWork, has led to the development of co-living schemes, such as WeLive and the The Collective, which offers hotel-style apartments as well as range of on-site services, including shared work facilities.
Although co-working spaces were traditionally a place for freelancers, big businesses, tech companies and startups have boosted demand. So much so that US commercial property company CBRE reports that the desire for “collaboration and mobility” in our technology-orientated sharing economy will leave traditional workplaces in the minority by 2030.
Asia’s sharing economy is big business
Evidence that this trend is set to continue is compelling. A PriceWaterHouse Cooper study shows that the work/life balance is important to 95% of Millennial respondents, and, according to Startup Grind, 46% of the Millennial generation are interested in starting a business and already account for $1.3 trillion in annual consumer spending.
Despite political and social upheavals over the last 12 months, which Deloitte’s Millennial Survey for 2017 says has slowed ambitions, the co-working trend continues to grow, especially in China where “sharing economy” revenues are strongly increasing. A report from iiMedia Research states that revenues for 2017 will be $915 billion, up 44% on 2016.
While Beijing is currently the sixth biggest startup hub in the world, Singapore and Hong Kong also have firmly-established startup ecosystems. Bangkok, however, with a fast-developing tech scene, is being tipped by many as the new Silicon Valley. A rapidly-growing hub for startups, the Thai government is rolling out a $570 million fund for young tech firms and plans to finance around 2,500 startups.
Gaysorn Tower: A work, live, play, grow lifestyle concept
Work space that is designed for startups, on a site that also offers wellness facilities and retail services, is the driving force behind Gaysorn Property’s new $85 million (3 billion baht) Gaysorn Tower project in Ratchaprasong, Bangkok. Unlike other office blocks in the area, Gaysorn Tower is a modern office building that is part of retail complex, Gaysorn Village. Overall this 60,000sqm area includes 4,000 retail and lifestyle shops, and 600 restaurants and cafes.
The company’s aim is to fuse lifestyle, retail, arts, food and wellness services together to create a “work, live, play, grow” lifestyle concept. The goal is to produce a “holistic environment for work, live and play balance” that “will help business to grow”.
Gaysorn Tower is a 30-storey property with a total area of 63,000sqm. It includes 20,000sqm of rented office space and 5,000sqm of retail space. It also dedicates 5,500sqm square metres to the Gaysorn Urban Retreat (health and wellness centres) and 3,000sqm to the Gaysorn Urban Resort on the 19th and 20th floor. This features the verdant “sky garden”, a conference room, a 200-people function room (a 300sqm glass “crystal box” with 6m-high ceilings), meeting spaces and pods, a business centre, lounges and private daily-use private). It expects to house 3,000 office workers each day and attract around 30,000 people into Gaysorn Village.
The design and architecture firm behind Gaysorn Tower, Hong Kong-based CL3, wanted to build upon the creative energy in the centre of Bangkok and “create synergy not segregation”.
“Most of the office buildings in the area have a cold, corporate look – even the ones that in a commercial complex tend to have a separate entrance cutting the office off from the retail part,” said William Lim, Founder and Managing Director of CL3. “We wanted to create an inspirational working environment for productivity and life-work balance.”
Startup scene booming in Bangkok
Lim explains that they started the design process by questioning why anyone would choose Gaysorn Tower when there are so many grade A office towers in Bangkok. He didn’t believe that they needed to design an office building that caters to everyone, so when they started imagining their tenants they decided to focus on the area that is booming in Bangkok: start-up creative businesses.
“We then filled in the elements of amenity that would enhance their operations, like a networking club, with shared business facilities, such as a larger conference room, an extra day office for rent, a place to entertain clients, and so on,” explained Lim. “The lifestyle of this imaginary client started to drive our design.”
In order to achieve the “work, live, play, grow” concept for workers, the CL3 team used their experience from hotel design. “Instead of a cold corporate look, we want to create a warm, casual and tasteful atmosphere for the young, sophisticated business entrepreneur,” said Lim.
“We used warm, local artisanal Thai craftsmanship as the overall design theme,” he added. “The office lobby is more like a hotel reception: finished in Thai teakwood and crafted lantern-like lamps, it sets a tone to attract young, creative tenants. The artisanal touch is also extended to the retail mall as well as the Gaysorn Urban Resort and the common area of the office tower.”
Ways of creating the modern, dynamic working environment CL3 envisioned for workers includes offices that will use state-of-the-art technology, and have full-glass panels, which flood the space with natural light and provide panoramic views across the city.
Read the rest of the article in Design & Build Review magazine.