Meanwhile workspaces: an emerging solution for the modern city?

How do you meet a desire for local, accessible workspaces? Underutilised land in cities might provide the answer, with meanwhile offices popping up all over London

Demand for land in major cities is only getting more competitive and with more and more people working flexibly and looking to avoid the commute, the demand for local workspaces is also increasing. The solution to these twin problems may lie in a growing trend for ‘meanwhile spaces’ – semi-permanent structures that sit on land that is yet to be developed.

These spaces can activate underutilised land within the city, creating engagement and providing local communities with amenities and, in many instances, access to workspace. The structures are also often built with their temporary nature in mind, meaning that they can be disassembled and reassembled elsewhere when the time comes to develop the land. This makes them an ideal sustainable solution to rising rents for workspaces and high demand for land in big cities.

We take a look at some of the innovative meanwhile spaces popping up across London.

Angel Yard, Enfield

Designed by Jan Kattein Architects, this meanwhile space in Enfield looks to create community and combat crime while providing opportunity for young entrepreneurs. The designers converted the existing structures of the garage into a series of two-storey workspaces which can all be individually let and are ideally sized for young entrepreneurs and small businesses taking their first steps. The windows for each workspace overlook the set of sheltered ‘streets’ that run through the campus to create an outdoor space for collaboration and informal meeting.

Sustainability is at the heart of the projects, with reuse and a focus on limiting the addition of embodied carbon making up central tenets of the build. The idea behind the project is to bring new social and economic opportunities to the area, offering young people and small businesses the community and support they need to get started in the working world. Ultimately the land will be transformed into permanent workspaces, but until this becomes a reality Angel Yard is a transformative interim which will function as a workplace hub in the surrounding area.

The Hithe, Rotherhide

This low-cost structure in Rotherhide was designed by architects If-Do to function as a workspace and incubator for startups, Deezen reports. Designed to remain in place for 11 years, the structure is entirely demountable meaning that when its tenure comes to an end it can be relocated and put to good use elsewhere.

Providing a shared kitchen and community garden, this is a space designed to bring people together and its high ceilings and natural lighting create comfortable workspaces for ten small businesses on the ground floor with space for two bigger companies sharing the first floor. The structure was also designed to fit the needs of the local community who were keen for the structure to look more permanent and bring an element of vibrancy to the street. It was also built on the site of the previous building’s foundations, reducing the need for further concrete to be utilised.

Hackney Bridge, Hackney Wick

Hackney Bridge is a coworking, event and community space in East London that offers studio space and retail space to local businesses. The intention of architecture firm Turner Works throughout the design of the structure was to provide incubation and studio space to local entrepreneurs and artists whilst offering the local community a space to come together.

With five main buildings located around an open courtyard, an event space, a food hall and decking overlooking the canal this space is utilised throughout the day and night, making the most of the surrounding area and creating a vibrant workspace community. Even small touches to the space make a difference – with walls in the studios left blank for tenants to decorate and adapt as they wish, helping the space feel more personal. The space even boasts Turner Work’s own office – clearly the space is so welcoming they can’t stay away.

Echo Callaghan is an interdisciplinary researcher and writer with WORKTECH Academy. She holds degrees from the University of York and Trinity College Dublin.
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