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Well Worked

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In a time when working patterns are shifting, we are experiencing a decoupling of the home and the office. Traditionally, the office has not been a strong placemaking component, but in the run up to offer best in class facilities and wellbeing credentials, workspaces also compete for place appeal; quality environments and lived experiences will influence where people will chose to work.

Another key determining factor will be working arrangements that better respond to our personal circumstances – ideally less fixed and closer to home – prioritising office locations within easy and safe reach from where we live, while placing less focus on the central flagship. Commuting consumes an average of seven hours weekly for Londoners, a considerable amount of time that could be released for life affirming pursuits. In order to attract the best talent, businesses are becoming much more aware of staff wellbeing. Prior to the pandemic, wellbeing was primarily focused around the workplace itself, but must now also include risks associated with the journey to and from work, as well as the nature of the neighbourhoods in which we do work.

It seems certain that the draw of the centralised office is waning in favour of more dispersed and multi-nodal arrangements. One response to this trend is the workplace campus, which forms part of a peripheral network of generally mixed tenancy buildings within established or emerging neighbourhoods, offering co-working benefits without the need to travel to the city centre.

The co-working campus can help combat the isolation of home working, nurture spontaneous face-to-face interactions and human connection – all important drivers for collaboration and ideas generation that are challenging to replicate online. A balanced mix of adaptable spaces that suit different people, organisations and activities can nurture a symbiotic blend of occupants. Long term members can benefit from the potential to expand and contract without the need to relocate, allowing even more established businesses to swap their HQ for a more dynamic co-working space. Flexible membership formats can support ad hoc and short term access to space and facilities, de-risking the process of starting a business. Managed support – such as mentoring programmes, educational opportunities, networking events, financial advice and frameworks for knowledge sharing between businesses and sectors – can help elevate businesses beyond their individual capacity.

Being uniquely differentiated will help these campuses create a destination with a strong placemaking agenda that extends beyond the confines of the buildings and hums in tune with the neighbourhood around it, drawing people, businesses and service operators in.

Historically, peripherally located workspaces have been challenged by the lack of public transport links, but with more investment in rapid cross city transport such as Cross Rail, these could become more attractive, particularly if the ongoing trend for Londoners to relocate outside the city continues. At SEW, we are placing workspace at the centre of some intriguing new neighbourhoods, where they will breathe life into their surrounding communities, and bring positive impacts and benefits that will by far outweigh direct economic spend.

Wild Works – Digbeth

Digbeth Well Worked Campus 05 Studio Egret West's framework design for Digbeth, Birmingham

At Digbeth in Birmingham, Oval Developments and SEW are revitalising and diversifying a post-industrial district on the edge of the city to become a mixed use place with significant office capacity, the first phase of which is Wild Works. This eclectic place is rooted in history and home to a rich array of small businesses and activities, but much of the site is underutilised, deteriorated and disconnected.

The area’s many hidden assets will be strengthened through intensified and diversified workspace clusters that are complemented by light industrial uses, shops, restaurants, cafés, leisure facilities and high-quality urban living, injecting a new lease of life and increasing footfall. New connections will stitch the area back into its context and the local high street, both physically and through social and economic relationships.

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Wild Works, Digbeth by Studio Egret West
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Exemplar new workspaces will offer new models of working and living. Embracing the history of the place, they will blend with reactivated heritage buildings that are repurposed for new uses. Anchored at the heart is Wild Works – a cluster of four buildings that provides modern workspace and communal incubators designed with creative professionals in mind, increasing the capacity for this growing market. The cluster retains elements of two existing warehouse buildings that will accommodate a small restaurant and retail unit, as well as an affordable co-working space for start-ups. Two larger scale commercial workspace buildings for more established creative businesses add to the mix, housing a café and events space on the street level. Ground level uses spills out into the public realm and a central yard through large façade openings, complementing the local centre nearby and adding layers of activities that enrich the area.

Larger characterful floorplates that can subdivide into smaller spaces provide an opportunity for creative industries of varying sizes to inhabit the buildings, with opportunities to expand and contract in size with tenants’ future needs. Hotdesking facilities are provided at ground level. The variety of spaces allow Wild Works to function as an incubator cluster, where businesses can start-up and mature over time, in different parts of the complex.

As the buildings become inhabited and teeming with life, the positive effects of reoccupation and diversification will ripple across the neighbourhood, assisting in Digbeth’s repositioning as a go to area in Birmingham.

Murphy’s Yard – Kentish Town

Murphys Yard Well Worked 03 Murphy's Yard, Kentish Town by Studio Egret West

In Kentish Town, SEW are transforming a Locally Significant Industrial Site tucked behind railway sidings from an underperforming backlands into an active and vibrant working neighbourhood. Three workspace buildings of varying size, scale and function, totalling up to 34,500sqm of commercial floor space are proposed as part of a diverse employment led mixed use development supplemented by additional light industry, F&B/retail, community uses and at least 750 new homes. Each of the workspace buildings will provide a natural expansion of the neighbouring small/medium enterprise occupied Highgate Road Business Area, supporting local job creation and strengthening the local high street by bringing increased footfall and business to the area.

At key nodes across the masterplan, workspace hubs are proposed to form a critical mass of accommodation. The centrally located Engine Depot proposes the reuse and expansion of a pair of locally listed locomotive sheds. The Coal Chute building, located at the southernmost Kentish Town Gateway, has been designed as a threshold between Kentish Town high street, the Highgate Road Business Area, and the new Murphy’s Yard development.

Murphy's Yard, Kentish Town by Studio Egret West
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The Coal Chute building is organised to ensure that an active community of small/medium enterprises can occupy one of a number of different sized affordable workspace units located at ground floor. Multiple front doors are used to extend the high street into the site, integrating the building further in the local community, and establishing the first phase of development as a catalyst for local regeneration. Each of the workspace offerings prioritises publicly accessible spaces at key interfaces between the site and both Kentish Town and Highgate Road. Interaction is encouraged between the public and workspace occupants, with a prioritisation of a community led rather than a commercial environment.

Plus X and Preston Barracks – Brighton

Preston Barracks Well Worked 02 Aerial view of Preston Barracks, Moulsecoomb by Studio Egret West

Preston Barracks is a mixed-use scheme in Brighton that is transforming an army barracks and two adjacent University of Brighton (UoB) Car Park sites into a rejuvenated university campus and new neighbourhood at a key entry point to the city. This neighbourhood scheme provides a blend of UoB academic facilities, the Plus X multi award winning technology and co-working hub designed by Studio Egret West, 1,300 student beds and 360 residential dwellings. The building is intended to provide a transition between student learning and the evolution into business owning. With the University’s new Business School also located within the masterplan, Plus X offers varied grades of offices and lab spaces from co-working facilities to smaller studio space, larger traditional office spaces to prototyping labs that allow the building users (and students from the university) to develop their products and digital platforms in a space dedicated to supporting new businesses.

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Preston Barracks, Moulsecoomb by Studio Egret West
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Preston Barracks, Moulsecoomb by Studio Egret West
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Preston Barracks evolved from a brief that puts place at the forefront. The long term aspiration for this area is to create an inspiring neighbourhood campus where people live, work and learn together, as well as enabling inward investment within the city. The development seeks to embrace the notion of an outward facing community, one that encourages the students to engage with the city and the city’s public to engage with the University. This is captured most tangibly by Plus X which creates a new workplace for the digital community in Brighton (and beyond) as well as offering entry level workspace aimed at students from the neighbouring Business School. The building is an emblem of the University and city working together through a space that embraces a more open and collaborative future.

In the future, a student will be able to live on the site in modern, purpose built, student accommodation while studying at the brand new business school. The same student, once finished with their studies, will be able to move into an apartment and start a business with the help and support of Plus X – this is a truly sustainable neighbourhood that offers a long term home to residents and hopes to form a rich and memorable new district.

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