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BIG IDEA In the world of start-ups, entrepreneurs and freelancers, co-working spaces have long been the go-to choice replacing the traditional offices. Everyone from giant corporations to oneman shows is opting for a pay-as-you-go office contracts, where memberships can vary from a monthly hot-desking rate to fixed fee for a private office. Co-working office is characterized by the flexibility in setting up the working space on the users’ own. In this regards, the open-plan is a common choice for this type of office. This plan is, however, claimed to impose adverse impacts on worker productivity and employee satisfaction due to the lack of privacy in the workplace. The idea for solving this issue is to create a workplace organized as a “small village” with three key elements: PRIVATE SPACE the “residential area” where each home is separated from each other SHARED SPACE the “public area” for socializing and group working

WALKWAY a system of streets adjoining the different areas on which the workers can freely assemble, interact and move about as a physically relaxing activity 2

From left to right Figure 1. Scriptorium Figure 2. The Johnson Wax building Figure 3. Action Office, 1970

The first office started from the Middle Age as a scriptorium in monasteries in which monks had to stand up for total concentration and isolation (Figure 1). Since the 13th century, when the intellectual production of religious began to move amongst that of science and commerce, the Uffizi Alazzo by the Medici in 1581 was considered as a prototype of workspace in which the process of administration, archives and a state court came together in the same building. In the late 19th century, with the emergence of the first commercial offices in the industrial cities, the Johnson Wax building designed by Frank Lloyd Right in 1939 (Figure 2) was a typical design of that time, emphasizing on the strong hierarchy or a paternalistic : employees all work in a largely shared area in the same level while the managers would sit in their private offices in the upper level. This was a completely enclosed space with artificial lighting. During the 60s, along with the economic explosion and the development of computer business, Robert Propst designed “Action Office� for Herman Miller with a huge desk with varying heights, space for making phone calls, vertical filling system and partitions (Figure 3). This was so-called the cubicle office which created the sense of individual for the first time in the workplace. This system was quickly spread out and applied to all of the offices across the world in many decades.

The transformation of the office through times

Since 2000, the pressure to be creative and innovative had become an obsession for IT companies. Office design was utilized as a supportive tool to enhance the creativity and pleasure for the worker in an informal way. By this means, office design was simplified to a flexible space with any surface where the workers can put their laptop on . Consequently, open floor plan space was quickly seen as a representative example of a creative workspace. The disappearance of physical barriers, however, is reported as the main reason causing the distraction of the employees by external factors. Moreover, the negative sense of competition between staffs and hostile working environment tends to increase in an opened space (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Open plan office 3

Openess Collaboration




Figure 5. The five core coworking values. (Haworth 2016)

In the 21st century, the enormous influence of information and communication technology has created a wide range of self-employees, the shape of a traditional office with furnished and well-organized and controlled place of work in a certain building is consequently replaced by a random Wifi Café or home offices. Even though, the demand for socialization and communication between people is still a crucial factor in the work performance beyond objective working conditions. Hence, the coworking space is the answer to address this challenge. The shared office space is defined as a gathering place for like-minded people who love to work independently but still in social connections with the others. The five core values of coworking space reflect the general form of a coworking space (Figure 5). “Community”, “Sustainability” and “Accessibility” are expressed explicitly in most of the serviced offices and bringing a wide range of benefits to the users. Meanwhile, “Openness” and “Collaboration” are usually referred to the open floor plan office- which has both advantage and disadvantage to the work productivity and mental health of the users (Lang and Preece 2016).

Coworking space and impact of open-plan office on workers

According to the report What Workers Want of British Council for Offices in 2016, 25% of respondents believe that open-plan office has the adverse impacts on productivity while 15% of office employees agree that private office could help increase productivity. In general, private office is believed to harm productivity less than an open-plan office (Figure 6). Figure 6. Impacts of office layout to productivity (Lang and Preece 2016)

In the survey in 2016 of Gensler over more than 1000 UK office workers in 11 different industries about the current state of UK workplace, it is reported that the basic open plan environments show no difference in improving the work activities, job satisfaction, performance compared to the enclosed environments. In figure 8, it can be seen that “private office” is still the highest priority in the workplace and working without any physical barriers has the lowest rate of productivity. That is to say, despite all of the benefits from open-plan office, lack of privacy is the major problem of this working environment (Figure 7).

Figure 7. Effectiveness ratings by work setting (Scores are out of 5) (Gensler 2016) 4

13th century

shared working space

19th century

cubicle space solution

20th century

open-plan space

co-working space

21st century







open and customized space

OPEN shared space (from open-plan office)

CUSTOMIZED individual workspace (from cubicle office)

Figure 8. The transformation of the office by times and its connection to the current issue of co-working office

Solution and Concept

Privacy in the working environment is the major concern for most of the users, particularly to selfemployees or independent professionals when they have to work on their own. Therefore, for coworking space, individual working space is a key factor to address the users basic need for improving their productivity. According to the development in the spatial setting of the office through times, it can be seen that privacy or collaboration is always placed at the core of each type of office. However, they are rarely gained the true significance simultaneously in each time. In particular, a shared office space for independent employees should strive to achieve both of these criteria. In other words, a hybrid floor plan which is combined the strengths of the cubicle office (having a high level of privacy) and open-plan space (encouraging collaboration) can be an optimal solution for this problem (Figure 8). 5

Figure 9. Interrelations between spatial barriers and convergent-divergent thinking (Haworth 2017)

A hybrid floor plan needs to be clear in the spatial organization, separated the individual working spaces with shared spaces so that the users won’t be distracted by visual or noise stimuli from common areas. It is also important to understand the importance of space set to the creative process. In the research of Haworth about Optimizing the Workplace for Innovation, it is claimed that innovation requires spaces for focused work, restful activities and the in-between (Figure 9).


creative process

key elements


Focused Work

Restful Activities

the in-between

1. private space includes seperated areas with high partitions to divide to the space into smaller rooms for different needs

2. shared space surrounding areas without physical barriers but based on the structure of space and furniture to seperate space

3. walkway a system of walkway is designed to connect seperated areas and give more space for physical activities such as going for a stroll or interact with the others Figure 10. Genral principle for spatial organization in a village office

“Village office”- the concept is to plan the working space into different areas with specific purposes based on the research about the creative process. A village office with the core is “residential areas” distributed flexibly and creatively according to the character of each office or client’s needs. All of these private areas will work as an independent unit, connected to each other by a system of walkways. Meanwhile, the surrounding area is utilized as common opened spaces. In general, a village office consists of three basic elements (Figure 10): 1. Private space acts a residential area in which serve for the concentrative mode of work of an individual or a group. In this area, space is organized as a maze with a high partition to divide this area into smaller rooms with variable sizes. The image of the labyrinth is harnessed to give a sense of high privacy and utilize the area of the site by shared partitions. Each residential area will be considered as a unit and the numbers of this unit will be flexible based on the needs and the total area of the site. 2. Shared space serves for collaboration or any activities that don’t require a high privacy and this area welcomes the users to work, interact and communicate with the others. 3. A system of walkways: this will be levelled up to the ground floor in order to give more space for physical activities without causing any distractions. These activities can be simply going a for a stroll with friends or enjoying the whole the site from the different levels. By this means, the site will be effectively harnessed in both vertical and horizon.

Figure 11. Two different ways for layout in different kind of floor plans. 6

Figure 12. Residential area’s floor plan

The idea for the residential area comes from the image of a maze where there are a number of smaller spaces created in a limited area. These small areas show a strong connection with each other but still achieve a high level of privacy. Moreover, the use of wall partition in a cubicle office is actually a creative solution for the privacy issue in the working environment. However, the original intention of this design is distorted by economic profits when the company figured out that they can save more money by putting more workers into a smaller space like a box as Robert Propst claimed that “The cubicle-izing of people in modern corporations is monolithic insanity.” (Lohr 1997). As a result of this misperception, the open-plan office had come as a rejection of the whole proposal about cubicle office. It is important to reactivate this design in an appropriate way. Instead of imprisoning employees into a tiny box fitting for only one person, why don’t extend the space into a larger space like a room for a small group of people working together? By this means, it will flexibly create a micro-collaborative environment but still help to minimize the external distractions from the other areas. 7







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“Village Office” and Its application to Shrubhill Tram Depot

1. Reception 2. Staff area 3. Private workspace 4. Meeting room 5. Shared working space (for group activities) 6. Shared working space (for individual and group activities) 7. Shared working space (for individual and small group) 8. Office services 9. Cafeteria 10. Working pod (for individuals) 11. Walkway 12. Restroom

An application of this “village office” to the Shrubhill site. This site is characterized by a lot of large windows and a system of 4 big columns in the centre. Therefore, the idea is to plan “residential areas” facing to the windows to receive more natural light while the walkway will follow the form of the column system. 12



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Metal track Firestop packing

Figure 16. Detail 1- Partition installtion detail, scale 1/15 Figure 17. Section, scale 1/300

Firestop Gypsum board/ MDF Metal stud

The space under the walkways is used for office services (printers, biding area, etc). the In the shared space, one area serving more for individual works is placed in the corner of the site and near the windows. In the regards to economic aspect, the wall system can be constructed by using the metal frames to attach gypsum board or MDF as a finishing materials which will possibly cost less and save more time in the installation process (Figure 16).


detail 1

Previous page On top Figure 13. Spatial organization from three-dimension view. On bottom, from left to right Figure 14. Ground floor, scale 1/300 Figure 15. Mezzanine floor, scale 1/300

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Figure 18. Spatial organization from the three-dimension view


Reference list Gensler (2016) ‘UK Workplace Survey’ Haworth (2016) ‘Harnessing the Potential of Coworking’ Haworth (2017) ‘Optimizing the Workplace for Innovation: Using Brain Service for Smart Design’ Lang, S. and Preece, S. (2016) ‘What Workers Want’ Lohr, S. (1997) ‘Cubicle are Winning Wars against Closed Office’, available: [accessed 17th April 2018] 9

Profile for Linh Phamvu

A Hybrid Co- Working Office_ Student project  

Co-working office, a go-to choice for entrepreneurs and freelancers replacing the traditional offices, is characterized by the flexibility i...

A Hybrid Co- Working Office_ Student project  

Co-working office, a go-to choice for entrepreneurs and freelancers replacing the traditional offices, is characterized by the flexibility i...