Arseniy Leonovich: “A coworking space is a universal cluster for the growth of business and exchange of ideas”.
The head of the architectural firm PANACOM shares about the Moscow area coworking spaces “Start” that were designed and built by his company over the last year and a half, as well as about how the world is changing, what spa-working is all about, and what the future of the development of business spaces looks like.
– The topic of coworking spaces is extremely relevant and interesting. How did it start for you?
– The first coworking spaces opened at ArtPlay about five years ago; there was also a coworking space in the format of a library combined with a meeting room, with literature addressed to architects and designers, with coffee points and a Wi-Fi hotspot. But these places weren’t much of a success – probably because they did not meet the needs of those whom they were originally designed for, they were not specifically targeted. At the same time, however, in the western countries coworking spaces were created as a place where a person could at once develop his startup project and enjoy the “club” atmosphere which is attractive to people who have similar goals. You discuss Ideas over a cup of coffee, you hear alternative opinions, and this brings about some sort of synergy: I do, I work, we work. All is based on the idea that like-minded people get together at one place.
At the same time, Internet technologies were developing, startup as a business model grew ever more popular, and coworking spaces began to draw crowds of young people who needed a super-fast internet connection and 10 square meters to start up their own business. The market formed the demand for that.
– When and how did designing coworking spaces become a professional task for PANACOM?
– For PANACOM, the topic of coworking spaces came up in 2016 when I met the leaders of RE Group. There was a competition for the coworking spaces named “Start”, which were to be built in the Moscow area. PANACOM was ultimately chosen because we already had experience in designing interiors of various formats; we are not just architects but we are also graphic designers, industrial designers, and we were very quick to come up with the concept for the competition. Within four months we developed a cost-efficient solution for 5000 square meters at ten locations. Our client had quite ambitious plans for developing his chain in the Moscow area cities, and then going national with a franchise. They had a support from the Ministry of Innovation and Development, from the local communities, and the suitable venues were also quick to appear. The first five coworking spaces “Start” opened in 2016, as eary as in 2017 they opened the four coworking spaces designed by PANACOM, and in February and March six more new spaces will open. The coworking spaces got a name of “Start” because it is resonant with the term “startup”, like the beginning of the ascent, and its logo essentially looks like an arrow pointing upwards. In addition, the name is symbolic of achievements in business and sports. Oh, and by the way, each of the coworking spaces provides a place for active recreation, like fitness equipment, body builders, billiards, and air hockey. In the interior design, we used symbols connected with the business theme – bitcoins, rubles, dollars, fragments of graphs and analytic reports. What makes the coworking spaces “Start” different from their foreign and domestic analogues is the fact that they have a clear target audience: it is communities of people who want do develop and grow professionally.
– What were the specifics and challenges of working on this project?
– We had a formidable task of coming up with one single solution which could be extrapolated to various locations. What the interiors of the coworking spaces have in common is the mobility and flexibility (from small offices to large open space zones), and the necessary full-in setup: an auditorium, a large kitchen with a coffee point, a print point, an idea pin board, and modular furniture.
We took only the best, casting away everything we didn’t need, in order to meet the budget constraints: the maxi investments were the walls and the infrastructure. We designed furniture that was made by the Russian company Z-Office.pro. This is a kind of furniture of the middle price segment, but the order itself turned out to be so big (1000 tables) that the client got it on very favorable terms. What we also did was develop the animated graphics and the navigation system with a recognizable style and language. This is what sets our solution apart from the ones that came before us in 2016.
– What is the difference between a coworking space and a regular office, from the standpoint of the author that is designing it?
– The main difference lies in the fact that an office is designed in accordance with the needs of this or that specific company that is going to be quartered here. A coworking space is different – it is created for a conditional client who will be coming here at his desire, and our job is to make sure that he does develop such a desire.
Unlike the office situation where everyone is working more or less on one and the same task, a coworking space is a place where people with different ideas and projects meet. The proverbial cup of coffee is shared by the people who may be into developing space technology, writing stories for children, doing a biology research, and whatnot. This is a cluster, and it simply has to be versatile, accessible and simple to understand.
Then you have to balance out the proportions of the zones: less open space, more cubicles. This has to do with the fact that open spaces with hot desks are visited only occasionally, from time to time, and a coworking space is interested in business residents who prefer mini offices. Here, in addition to the square footage and the Internet, the users are getting other services, such as legal, accounting, and consulting. Our “Start” lecture halls are equipped with all the necessary presentation electronics and they house up to 70 people. These places are visited by “advanced” me municipality officials and businessmen who feel responsible for the development of their cities.
– Do our Russian coworking spaces look like their western counterparts or are there any differences, conditioned, for instance, by our specific environment?
– We did a research of foreign projects – all of them are sophisticated and very flashy in terms of interior design. Originally, our client would say to us: “I want exactly this kind of thing”, but all these variants were prohibitively expensive. We optimized the project by removing the niches and decorative backlights, leaving just the bare necessities. Some volumetric solutions turned into a 2D format becoming flat graphics and prints. Wherever the pictograms and symbols were applied, the walls were leveled out; otherwise, the surfaces were just filled with color. But then again, our clients did pay for the glass partitions for mini offices, and this is how our space got “aquariums” designed for the work of small resident teams.
– What did the experience of working with such a typology give to you?
– Before we did “Start”, we designed about 3000 square meters for the so-called “Open Government of Moscow”. This is the place where the city people will be coming to see, at what stage of processing their applications are, whether or not the parking or waste disposal issues are solved, and so on. The project was developing on the coworking principle, and we fine-tuned a lot of technologies, aspects of interaction between the employees and the visitors, abs the organization of space in general. And, although this is not a coworking space from a purely functional standpoint, the similarities are apparent.
Design of things and architecture are changing, as well as the streets and overall look of the cities; particular importance is given to public spaces. Sometimes you cannot even tell where interior ends and outdoor area starts – we work everywhere where we can get a Wi-Fi connection. But such a diffusion of micro and macro scales must be reflected in the architectural environment.
This shift of interests of the development sector in the direction of mixed-use projects has to do with the dramatic change in the lifestyle: we no longer discriminate between work and private life, we value our time and we want to get services quickly and preferably within one space. Researching this problem in terms of town planning, I put forward the term “spa-working” – meaning, organizing a really comfortable and functional environment for productive and harmonious work. And the coworking spaces “Start” are beginning to implement these ideas.
Coworking spaces START in the cities of the Moscow area:
Man and the City
Designing this large-scale housing complex, GAFA architects accentuated two types of public spaces: bustling streets with shops and cafes – and a totally natural yard, visually separated as much as possible from the city. Making the most out of the contrast, both work together to make the life of the residents of EVER housing complex eventful and diverse.
Andy Snow: “I aim for an architecture which is rational and poetic”
The British architect Andy Snow has recently become the chief architect at GENPRO Architects & Engineers. Projects, which Andy Snow did in the UK in collaboration with world-famous architectural firms, scored numerous international awards. In Russia, the architect took part in designing Moscow’s Stanislavsky Factory business center, iLove housing complex, and AFI2B business center on the 2nd Brestskaya Street. In our interview, Andy Snow compared the construction realities in Russia and the UK, and also shared his vision of architectural prospects in Russia.
The Living Growth
The grand-scale housing complex AFI PARK Vorontsovsky in Moscow’s southwest consists of four towers, a “slab” house, and a kindergarten building. Interestingly, the plastique of the residential buildings is quite active – they seem to be growing before your eyes, responding to the natural context, and first of all opening the views of the nearby park. As for the kindergarten building, it is cute and lyrical, like a little sugar house.
The Red Building
The area of Novoslobodskaya has received Maison Rouge – an apartment complex designed by ADM, which continues the wave of renovation, started by the Atmosphere business center, from the side of the Palikha Street.
In this article, we are examining a rather rare and interesting case – two projects by Evgeny Gerasimov situated on one street and completed with a five years’ difference, presenting the perfect example of example for analyzing the overall trends and approaches practiced by the architectural company.
Raising the Yard
The housing complex Renome consists of two buildings: a modern stone house and a red-brick factory building of the end of the XIX century, reconstructed by measurements and original drafts. The two buildings are connected by an “inclined” yard – a rare, by Moscow standards, version of geoplastics that smoothly ascends to the roof of the stores lined up along a pedestrian street.
The high-end residential complex STORY, situated near the Avtozavodskaya metro station and the former ZIL factory, is delicately inscribed in the contrastive context, while its shape, which combines a regular grid and a stunning “shift” of the main facade, seems to respond to the dramatic history of the place, at the same time, however, allowing for multiple interpretations.
Yards and Towers: the Samara Experiment
The project of “Samara Arena Park”, proposed by Sergey Skuratov, scored second place in the competition. The project is essentially based on experimenting with typology of residential buildings and gallery/corridor-type city blocks combined with towers – as well as on sensitive response to the context and the urge to turn the complex into a full-fledged urban space providing a wide range of functions and experiences.
The Fili Duo
The second phase of the Filicity housing complex, designed by ADM architects, is based on the contrast between a 57-story skyscraper 200 meters high and an 11-story brick house. The high-rise building sets a futuristic vector in Moscow housing architecture.
The Wall and the Tower
The OSA architects have been searching for solutions that could be opposed to the low-rise construction in the center of Khabarovsk, as well as an opportunity to say a new word in the discourse about mass housing.
An Office for Concentrating Ideas
T+T Architects have designed an office for a French IT company, where the employees in any point of the premises can discuss with their colleagues new ideas or even write them on the wall.
The Energy Family
The housing complex Symphony 34 will be built in Moscow’s Savelovsky district; it will consist of four towers from 36 to 54 stories high. Each of the towers has an image of its own, but they all are gathered into a single architectural ensemble – a fragment of a new high-rise urban space lying outside the Third Transport Ring.
The Fifth Element
The high-end residential development in the Vsevolozhsky Lane features a combination of expensive stone and metal textures, immersing them into a feast of ornaments. The house looks like a fantasy inspired by the theater of the Art Nouveau and Symbolism era; a kind of oriental fairy tale, which paradoxically allows it to avoid direct stylization and become a reflection of one of the aspects of modern Moscow life.
Springboards and Patios
The central element of the manor house in the village of Antonovka, designed by Roman Leonidov, is the inner yard with pergolas, meant to remind its owner about his vacations in exotic countries. The exposed wooden structures emphasize the soaring diagonals of single-pitched roofs.
Adding Up a Growing City
The housing quarter “1147” is located at the border between the old “Stalin” district in the north and the actively developing territories in the south. Its image responds to a difficult task: the compound brick facades of the neighboring sections are different, their height varying from 9 to 22 floors, and, if we are look from the street, it seems as though the front of the city development, consisting from long narrow elements, is forming some sophisticated array at this very moment in front of our eyes.
Agility of the Modular
In the Discovery housing complex that they designed, ADM architects proposed a modern version of structuralism: the form is based on modular cells, which, smoothly protruding and deepening, make the volumes display a kind of restrained flexibility, differentiated element by element. The lamellar and ledged facades are “stitched” with golden threads – they unite the volumes, emphasizing the textured character of the architectural solution.
Polyphony of a Strict Style
The “ID Moskovskiy” housing project on St. Petersburg’s Moscow Avenue was designed by the team of Stepan Liphart in the past 2020. The ensemble of two buildings, joined by a colonnade, is executed in a generalized neoclassical style with elements of Art Deco.
In Three Voices
The high-rise – 41 stories high – housing complex HIDE is being built on the bank of the Setun River, near the Poklonnaya Mountain. It consists of three towers of equal height, yet interpreted in three different ways. One of the towers, the most conspicuous one looks as if it was twisted in a spiral, composed of a multitude of golden bay windows.
In the Space of Pobedy Park
In the project of a housing complex designed by Sergey Skuratov, which is now being built near the park of the Poklonnaya Hill, a multifunctional stylobate is turned into a compound city space with intriguing “access” slopes that also take on the role of mini-plazas. The architecture of the residential buildings responds to the proximity of the Pobedy Park, on the one hand, “dissolving in the air”, and, on the other hand, supporting the memorial complex rhythmically and color-wise.
Dynamics of the Avenue
On Leningrad Avenue, not far away from the Sokol metro station, the construction of the A-Class business center Alcon II has been completed. ADM architects designed the main façade as three volumetric ribbons, as if the busy traffic of the avenue “shook” the matter sending large waves through it.
Steamer at the Pier
An apartment hotel that looks like a ship with wide decks has been designed for a land plot on a lake shore in Moscow’s South Tushino. This “steamer” house, overlooking the lake and the river port, does indeed look as if it were ready to sail away.
The Magic of Rhythm or Ornament as a Theme
Designed by Sergey Tchoban, the housing complex Veren Place in St. Petersburg is the perfect example of inserting a new building into a historical city, and one the cases of implementing the strategy that the architect presented a few years ago in the book, which he coauthored with Vladimir Sedov, called “30:70. Architecture as a Balance of Forces”.
Walking on Water
In the nearest future, the Marc Chagall Embankment will be turned into Moscow’s largest riverside park with green promenades, cycling and jogging trails, a spa center on water, a water garden, and sculptural pavilions designed in the spirit of the Russian avant-garde artists of the 1920, and, first of all, Chagall himself. In this issue, we are covering the second-stage project.
A-Len has developed and patented the “Perfect Apartments” program, which totally eliminates “bad” apartment layouts. In this article, we are sharing how this program came around, what it is about, who can benefit from it, and how.
“Architectural Archaeology of the Narkomfin Building”: the Recap
One of the most important events of 2020 has been the completion of the long-awaited restoration of the monument of Soviet avant-garde architecture – the Narkomfin Building, the progenitor of the typology of social housing in this country. The house retained its residential function as the main one, alongside with a number of artifacts and restoration clearances turned into living museum exhibits.
LIFE on the Setun River
The area in the valley of the Setun River near the Vereiskaya Street got two new blocks of the “LIFE-Kutuzovsky” housing complex, designed by ADM architects. The two new blocks have a retail boulevard of their own, and a small riverside park.
Three towers on a podium over the Ramenka River are the new dominant elements on the edge of a Soviet “microdistrict”. Their scale is quite modern: the height is 176 m – almost a skyscraper; the facades are made of glass and steel. Their graceful proportions are emphasized by a strict white grid, and the volumetric composition picks up the diagonal “grid of coordinates” that was once outlined in the southwest of Moscow by the architects of the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Clouds over the Railroad
In the stead of former warehouses near “Lyubertsy-1” station, a new housing complex has been built, which peacefully coexists with the railroad, with the flyover bridge, and with the diverse surrounding scenery, not only dominating over the latter, but improving it.
Towers in a Forest
The authors of the housing complex “In the Heart of Pushkino” were faced with a difficult task: to preserve the already existing urban forest, at the same time building on it a compound of rather high density. This is how three towers at the edge of the forest appeared with highly developed public spaces in their podiums and graceful “tucks” in the crowning part of the 18-story volumes.