Coworking Spaces

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Diploma thesis, theoretical, architecture & urbanism, social science, real estate practices, organisational theory, AHO, spring 2016.


Written by Tin Phan with the title "Coworking Spaces - From industrial complexes to the fourth industrial revolution?". He also presented and won the Master Pitch at the Oslo Urban Arena and became the 2nd recipient of the Aspelin Ramm Award 2016.This thesis has not only spawned a series of lectures and public appearances at universities, conferences, municipalities, for the likes of urban developers/professionals, and CEO's/executives in real estate, but also generated new knowledge (not in the thesis) in emerging real estate practices within the presentations itself.


Supervisors were Lisbet Harboe & Erling Dokk Holm, with Anders Ese as guest critic



In the summer of 2012 Oslo went from 0 to 4 coworking spaces and in 2016, the number of spaces has more than tripled. This thesis investigates 3 startup-related coworking spaces (The Simula Garage, StartupLab, MESH) in the Oslo area. What are the spatial culture and urban implications of coworking spaces?



According to Oslo Business Region’s estimates, startup-related coworking may take up to as 40% of the employment rates in Oslo in near future, where the percentage is currently on 2. If freelance work are occupying more and more of the working society, so will the definition of what a workspace might be. While this new trend is emerging, another ancient tradition is endangered - namely serendipity, or incidental but favorable events at work; such as small talk over a cup of coffee, knowledge exchange, and room for unforeseen results and ideas at the workplace. If companies and corporations no longer hire competence and expertise in-house, but rather outsource it to freelancers; how will this production of beneficial coincidences at the workplace occur among knowledge workers? It is here coworking spaces emerges as an enduring necessity; in a society where everybody can work apart and every individual is a competitor, participants of coworking are working together, but independently, exploring notions of what a contemporary, yet professional community might be.

Through 3 case studies, this thesis elaborates on the properties that defines and distinguishes each of them from a set of categories such as: history, management, image and profile, physical layout, urban implications, working culture and social culture. The quality and success of these spaces are not only measured by pure architectonic, urban qualities or economic measures, but also a mixture of intent, virtues, business segment, a critical mass of intellectual property etc.

Looking past the exotic nature and hype around coworking spaces, resides something more than just a mere trend; they embody the quintessence of the next generation workplaces; a powerhouse of serendipity production in a world getting increasingly more fragmented. Therefore, a workplace here is not just a mere desk and place to work, but an experience in itself. The practice of a careful selection of members is essential in order to cultivate specific communities. We have to ask how the mobilization of knowledge workers through clever subleasing systems are becoming the vanguard of our contemporary working ideals. In the field of urban planning, coworking spaces may in fact evoke some interesting questions in its transcendent values; of how working societies can be replicated in neighborhoods and districts. 



Coworking may not only become the norm of workplaces, but also generate unprecedented variations of what a professional or social community can be. The upcoming years may in fact reveal coworking spaces in its adolescent years, generating the most interesting data on collective ideology and the planning of communities, which have the potential to be translated into architectural and urban development. We have to speculate from the very modest beginnings of freelancers and entrepreneurs rounding up tables in a shared facility, to what role and impact they may have on society.







Master Pitch booklet 2016, before winning the Aspelin Ramm award.

Master Pitch booklet 2017. Coincidently before the winner of the next Aspelin Ramm award recipient was announced, Tin remarked the projects that combined both theory and design, also combined the best from two worlds. The winner of the Aspelin Ramm Award 2017, would go on to do exactly this.