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robertogreco : makeshifsociety   1

A Kickstarter for co-working space Makeshift Society raises questions about what we freelancers need to be productive.: Observatory: Design Observer
"Rena Tom and Bryan Boyer have been thinking about how freelancers work, personally and professionally, for much of their careers. Rena owned and operated the cult design store and gallery Rare Device, and has also worked as a designer of jewelry, stationery and web pages. Bryan, trained as an architect, was most recently Strategic Design Lead at Sitra, the Finnish Innovation Fund. Among his projects there was Brickstarter, about which I wrote here. But rather than industrial design machines like cubicles, cases or office landscapes, they've created an idiosyncratic place to which freelancers can bring their laptops, headphones, and caffienated beverages. A space in which, they hope to create a sense of community and strenth in numbers.

In September 2012, Tom opened Makeshift Society in San Francisco. The society is,
an organization that fosters creativity, collaboration and community through a coworking space/clubhouse, innovative programming, and support for freelancers and small business owners. We want to enable everyone to make, learn, teach, and think.
Now they are bringing that model to Brooklyn, in a larger space in Williamsburg. They have the money to build it out, but they are currently running a Kickstarter campaign to create a creative tool lending library for that space. New York apartments make it hard to store, and use, the books, materials and equipment one needs once and a while.

In the Q&A below, Rena and Bryan talk about their lessons learned about workspace, community, and how to develop a business out of your own needs."



"Makeshift was at first just going to be a lending library for design books, and I’d split the rent with a couple friends Victoria Smith (sfgirlbybay blogger) and Suzanne Shade (creative director/muse at Minted) and eventually it turned into what it is today."



"As a place, we focus on having a diversity of micro-environments that suit our members at different times and in different moods. Even though SF is not quite 1000 square feet we have bright corners and darker ones, work desks and softer spots like sofas, seats for up to 20 and even a nap loft if someone needs down time. Despite making claims of freeing their members from the corporate grind, a number of the coworking spaces we saw when doing research for Makeshift look rather like a nicely appointed corporate office."



"Fast internet, WiFi, and copious power outlets are the starting point. A printer helps. We’ve thought about adding a fax machine in NYC because it’s the sort of thing that you use very seldomly, but when you do it’s often the only option and finding one can be so annoying.

The qualities of the space are the more important amenities, really. Things like an easily-accessible location; a nice, calm, well-designed environment; great daylight. These relate to aspects of the community as well: being able to leave your things around while you step out for a bit saves a lot of the hassle that one endures when working as a constant guest. Being surrounded by people who are working as hard as you are helps create a contagious sense of motivation. And being in a place where your peers are working on interesting things is critical."



"As you think about opening the Brooklyn space, what are you designing differently?

RT: I have a feeling that Brooklyn members will more results-oriented than the San Francisco crew, or at least they are in a greater hurry to get there! We’ll accommodate that with tighter programming (events and classes), but we also want to import some of the West coast vibe, which has a somewhat longer-term and broader definition of “results”, along with acting in a mutually beneficial manner. (Adam Grant’s book Give and Take has quite a bit more to say about that.) We want to show that flipping roles and being a teacher sometimes and a student other times is extremely valuable.

One of the ways that this will be expressed architecturally is a very slight emphasis on the more traditional studio model. In SF we do not have dedicated desks, but in NYC we will. In SF we have one small conference room, in NYC we’ll have one small room for focused discussion as well as one larger room for presentations, and a number of phone booths.

BB: I also want to mention something that’s not going to change in BK. We’re making a commitment in this location to having an open workspace, so you will not see any miniature glass cubicles. We’re going to keep BK as open as possible, just like SF."



"How do you see your spaces as interacting with the cities and neighborhoods around them?

We’re deliberately choosing neighborhoods that are lively, with bubbling street life and a significant number of local residents. Makeshift Society works best on the ground floor where big windows encourage passers-by to enter, and where the view of the street provides visual stimulation for our members.

Most of the SV companies you’ve written about start from the premise that they need to protect their secrets and capture 100% of their workers’ intellectual capital, which has the effect of turning them inwards as closed campuses where every idea has a whiteboard to land on, and every door secured by a keycard. The city itself is humanity’s best engine for connections and inspiration, but again and again we see corporations recreate a sanitized, interior version of a city all for themselves. The city-within-a-city architectural strategy becomes irrelevant or even counter-productive if you’re not constrained by the same IP concerns.

Makeshift has the freedom to embed ourselves in the existing networks of the city itself, and to benefit from the actual, spectacular diversity that’s already there. We don’t need to have our own privatized transportation system, we need to be located near public transit like the subway and citibike; we don’t need to go through the gymnastics of creating ‘interior streets’ or plazas. We have a real street right outside our windows!"
workspaces  makeshifsociety  bryanboyer  renatom  howwework  openstudioproject  classroomdesign  schooldesign  interiors  alexandralange  2013  coworking  community  lighting  openspaces  tcsnmy  cv  lcproject  workspace 
october 2013 by robertogreco

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