02/01: Co-working and Co-lab spaces

The project mentioned yesterday involved the design of a co-lab or co-working space in Old City, Philadelphia. We were introduced to Alex Hillman of Indy Hall (read a good interview with him here courtesy of Philadelphia Magazine), and were told of spaces like 3rd Ward in Brooklyn. These organizations work off of two principles, firstly that independent workers/freelancers can share the costs of resources like tools, internet, rent, etc. so as to save money without competing with each other’s businesses. Secondly, people often find themselves needed to be in the company of energetic and motivated people in order to improve their own efficiency/productivity. It’s Starbucks without the morning rush and the casual readers.

These organizations work more with the principle of economies of agglomeration, or the reason why so many firms operate close to each other despite potential competition (think of any garment district or Silicon Valley). I don’t have the best synopsis of economies of agglomeration, even after sitting in on a lecture on the subject given by Manuel Delanda (part one and part two).

A cautionary tale emerges, however. I went up to visit 3rd Ward back in 2012 as part of research for this project, and I came away impressed with their facilities and organization. They closed down, suddenly, over night, without warning its members, last fall. Read more about it here:

http://www.phillymag.com/property/2013/10/09/expansion-philadelphia-crush-3rd-ward/

http://observer.com/2013/10/brooklyns-creative-community-3rd-ward-shutters-without-warning/

This seems to be a case of poorly managed growth, and not an indictment of the concept. This type of business model is thriving all over the world. I found out recently that former teachers of mine started an operation called Makers of Barcelona (MOB) located in the same city.

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