”To get people to choose to work from an office, companies have to step up”

At the beginning of next year, one of Scandinavia’s leading co-working companies United Spaces opens its new space in a former administration building for Stockholm’s gasworks. The 4,000 sqm space in one of Stockholm’s largest 20th-century buildings will include a pod, photo, and yoga studio, a cocktail bar, an outdoor gym, and a padel tennis track.

When creating the interior, Stockholm-based architecture and design studio Specific Generic deep dived into the life of Ferdinand Boberg, the architect of the building, and Jugend, which was the prevailing style at the time when the building was erected. 

— We selected a painting by Boberg’s friend Anders Zorn that summarizes the story we want to tell at the site, tells the studio’s Chief Creative Officer Maja Bernvill. It is a portrait, painted in the year 1900, of Elizabeth Sherman Cameron, a senator’s wife that was known for being Washington’s most fashionable hostess, seated in a curved sofa upholstered in tones of red. As a backdrop sits a beautiful gold leaf wallpaper with Japanese blossoming cherry branches. The painting is the base of our palette. The gold of the wallpaper became the golden bar that is the heart of the space.

The red tones are found throughout the space and furniture is selected that brings associations to nature, Asia, and the turn of the last century. Bernvill mentions Massproductions’ Puddle table and the Gervasoni Log tables, Konstantin Grcic’s Mingx chair for Driade, and bentwood chairs from Gebruder Thonet. 

— We have also designed bespoke XXXL size communal atelier tables inspired by nature, she says. The hope is that these tables will be catalyzers for conversations between the co-working space’s members. The in-house art curator, Jun-Hi Wennergren Nordling, fills the space with art. The pieces will be renewed every six months and it will also be possible to acquire it. For the opening, there will be works by, among others, Jenny Källman, Åsa Jungnelius, and Jonas Nobel.

Did you have the pandemic in mind when you created the space? And how do you imagine offices will be designed in the close future? Will the pandemic change this?

— Even though the space was planned before the pandemic, adjustments like more spacing between the furniture have had to be made. The pandemic has really been boosting the possibilities of working remotely and many of the doubts of having employees spread out and working from home has been erased in many businesses. I don’t think it will ever be as before, Bernvill states. 

— People will be in desperate need of real social interaction when this is over, but maybe a day or two a week at the office will be enough. Co-working will be a safe alternative for businesses that don’t want to sign up for longtime contracts and also a good way of scaling when people spend less time in office. When in the office, more focus will be on meeting other people and here co-working venues will provide an interesting alternative, with the mix of guests and social events.

What other trends do you see when it comes to designing office spaces?

— People are starting to get used to the comfort and freedom of being able to work from wherever. You just need a laptop and a connection. To get people to choose to work from an office, companies have to step their game up.