Work, but with flair please
BY ANJA FAHS
(Published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue 1 2016)
Members-only clubs have been around for centuries. This is where the powerful representatives of the society have met, the leaders and thinkers, and all of them minding their own businesses in a like-minded community. Nowadays, golf clubs, a gym membership or spending the evening in a business club have long become routine. You can enjoy privacy, meet like-minded people and often the establishment becomes your second living room. Private country, gentlemens’ or ladies’ clubs look back upon a long tradition, although no doubt their image is a little antiquated if you ask younger people. However, the fact that the tradition of member-only clubs has become a trend among the younger target group is thanks to the concept of Soho House.
Soho House was founded in 40 Greek Street, London, in 1995 by English entrepreneur Nick Jones, as a private members’ club for those in film, media and the creative industries. The portfolio has since expanded to include clubs, hotels, restaurants and spas across the UK, Europe, the US and Canada. Each site is different, maintaining its own personality, but all have a sense of shared DNA as homes from home for members and guests.
Now Soho House have expanded their successful concept into Soho Works. The first Soho Works was established in East London’s iconic Tea Building – a fully-equipped members-only workspace, comfortable and stylishly decorated with desks, all office equipment, meeting rooms, restaurant and presentation areas. The perfect around-the-clock workspace for individuals and businesses in the creative industries who want to work on a mobile basis and in a like-minded community.
We talk to Tanya Nathan, Director of Soho Works, about the concept and the advantages of working in a members-only workspace and what fruits the concept will bear worldwide.
What is the philosophy of your concept?
Tanya Nathan: It has been created for individuals and businesses that want dedicated workspace and appreciate Soho House’s design, functionality, service and attention to detail. Soho Works is open to both Soho House members and non-members. We’ve seen a lot of our members launch businesses from their laptops sitting in the clubs, and we love this. It is undeniable that more people are lap-topping and working in a more mobile way. Members are more than welcome to keep doing that from the clubs, for some people that’s all they need, but we’ve noticed that there is a demand for something more, a space that gives them the tools that they really need to do their work. That’s where the idea for Soho Works came from. The space is open around the clock, with a full team of support staff. There is no 9-to-5 anymore and we are seeing members that work all hours.
What kind of target group does your new concept have? The same as for Soho House or are there differences?
T. N.: Yes, our members are a natural extension of the communities we’ve established via our clubs. The space is designed to offer creatives the tools they need to work. Facilities include a workshop with 3D printer and full range of arts materials, studio space for photography shoots or classes and a curated calendar of Soho Works member events and workshops, as well as one-to-one advice from industry experts.
Tell us about the industry experts you’re working with.
T. N.: The events include one-on-one sessions with industry experts. So far we’ve hosted private sessions with Karen Birchall, executive life coach, and Fiona Buckland from ‘The School of Life’ to explore your strengths, emotional intelligence and drive.
What kind of creative industries are you exactly looking for?
T. N.: All creative industries are welcome across the board. Currently we have photographers, writers, folk in advertising and marketing, architects, TV production, tech, and a founder of an almond milk company. We really love this mix and think it is essential for building a collaborative community.
What makes Soho Works so special compared to regular shared-office concepts like ‘Regus’ for example, with spaces in over 900 cities and 120 countries?
T. N.: We’ve tried to bring the hospitality of Soho House to a work environment, which automatically sets us apart in terms of the offering. We aim to deliver a comfortable, practical workspace.
You have to apply for a membership. What do I have to offer to meet the conditions even when I’m not from the creative industry?
T. N.: All enquiries go via the website - we always like members to visit the space to see if they can imagine themselves being there. We look to create a great mix of creatives to maximise creativity and collaboration.
What kind of different memberships does Soho Works offer? And what kind of services do these include?
T. N.: We offer five different types of membership. These include Sitting Room; a monthly hot-desk membership, Shared Desk; a monthly guaranteed desk with lockable storage, and Study; a monthly secure space for between one and 10 people. Further options include Night Owl; a monthly night-time hot-desk membership, and Day Lark, a daytime hot-desk membership (for Soho House members only). All monthly memberships include meeting room credits, use of all facilities and attendance to all member events among other things.
What cities is Soho Works focusing on next and why?
T. N.: Yes, Shoreditch is the first of four workspaces planned for the coming year, and membership will enable access to all of them: Shoreditch, LA, Istanbul and New York. Plans for further sites beyond that are underway. Of course naturally the first cities are places we already have a presence in with the Houses.
The only Soho House in Germany is in Berlin. But in terms of business will other German cities possibly be more interesting to establish a Soho Works in?
T. N.: Berlin is obviously a city on our list, as we have an established Soho House there. That said we are always open to the idea of exploring other cities. It’s very much open to the sites that we find and the timings of other openings.
When can we expect a Soho Works in Germany?
T. N.: When we find the right building.
All Soho Houses around the world present their own local style in interior design – but all are somehow similar with their individual modern look. What kind of interior style do the Soho Works places have?
T. N.: Each individual Soho Works will have its own look and feel, as with the Houses, dependent on the location. Design is spearheaded by Soho Works’ in-house design team. At Soho Works Shoreditch in London, the interiors are a mixture of vintage and contemporary furnishings. 19th century Victorian dining-room tables and brass mid-century chandeliers sit beside bespoke ‘Humanscale’ ergonomic furniture, to provide a carefully curated yet fully functional working environment. Saying that, there will be a common thread throughout with some of the furnishings. For example, we will be partnering with these experts for the upcoming buildings, so they will have bespoke ergonomic furniture too.
Is there anything which I will find in every Soho Works around the world?
T. N.: It will have a selection of meeting rooms, a library, studio space, a workshop, great printers, phone booths – all the tools we want to provide people to do their work.
What do you personally appreciate when you look at your Soho Works members?
T. N.: I really appreciate the strong sense of community that has developed so quickly. It’s been really pleasing to see and has generated a truly welcoming and inspiring atmosphere.
Picture credits © Soho House