Fosbury & Sons opens new coworking space in Brussels
BY CARMELA MELONE
(Published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue Q1 2019)
The building arises from a green and airy landscape with high facades of concrete and seemingly futuristic oval windows that mirror their surrounding in a way that gives the whole building a kind of supernatural, light and translucent aura. It is not difficult to relate to the fascination the modernist building exerted on the founders of Fosbury & Sons, inspiring them to create yet another space for collaboration and coworking.
The original building was designed by the Belgian-Polish architect Constantin Brodzki, who was born in Italy and moved to Belgium before the Second World War. The 1970s project, which gave home to the headquarters of cement company CBR, helped him establish himself as one of the country’s most innovative architects. The original interior was designed by Brodzki together with Belgian furniture designer and interior architect Jules Wabbes. It is, in fact, the only Benelux building that is part of a Museum of Modern Art collection. Fosbury & Sons Boitsfort, as is it called today, pays tribute to the building’s history and the age in which it was built while giving it a completely new and modern yet cosy and warm touch.
Starting the project, they visited 93-year-old Brodzki who passionately gave them his vision for the building and which aspects he wanted them to turn their attention to. One of the most striking aspects of the building is its functionality and intelligent simplicity. Fosbury & Sons removed the corridors in favour of more open and friendly spaces, which are now home to various custom-made pieces as part of the design. They collaborated again with interior architecture firm Going East, which already contributed to a previous project in Antwerp. The result is a harmonious vintage and contemporary mixture of modern items such as the huge chandelier, wooden furniture or marble tables, and the original framework, including the curving, concrete central staircase. In addition, galleries Rodolphe Janssen and Veerle Verbaekel Gallery from Brussels, as well as artists Perry Roberts and Florian Tomballe and the Private Art Support Foundation contributed to the interior design with art pieces throughout the building. The whole concept aims at giving people the feeling of (well-)being in a café or a restaurant.
The 7,000 square metres are distributed over eight floors and give space to an open lobby and bar on the ground floor, 15 meetings rooms, a 75-seat auditorium, private and shared offices spaces and a number of other shared workspaces. There is also a restaurant catering to culinary needs and another bar on the 8th floor. This bar on the top floor provides a great view of the Sonian Forest that is nearby and that is open to all workers – not just directors. In total, the building can host up to 600 workers and 250 companies. The declared goal of the company is to bring together employees, individuals, startups, entrepreneurs, as well as large and small companies into one open space where they have the possibility get in touch, collaborate, and exchange skills. “What we are seeing is a hunger for more autonomy, fulfilment and synergy coming from everyone – whether that be a team of lawyers, a web design firm or a group of employees of a big corporation, the needs of today’s generation are different than 50 years ago”, explains Stijn Geeraets, who founded Fosbury & Sons together with Serge Hannecart and Maarten van Gool.
Rethinking something that is conventional – this is actually what the company is based on. The company name, Fosbury & Sons, is a tribute to Mr. Dick Fosbury, the high jump athlete who struggled with the conventional high jump straddle method and, thus, developed his own technique that better suited his body. The so-called ‘Fosbury Flop’ became the dominant style after he succeeded at the Olympic games in 1968 with a new record at 2.24 metres. Fosbury & Sons therefore acknowledge the athlete’s determination and braveness of going new ways and adopt this credo for their own goal to redesign work environments to suit this generation’s needs: “We tear down walls between companies and people, making a very fertile platform where collaborations occur every day: in the end, that is exactly what makes people happy – connection”, Stijn Geeraets says.
So, despite increasingly digital work environments, human interaction and collaboration still seem to be of high value for working people. The approach of Fosbury & Sons is actually a very scientific one: insights from neuroscientist studies deeply impact their roadmap for new locations. For instance, the proximity to greenery is proven to increase cognition by 26 per cent and, at the same time, it decreases absences due to sickness by 30 per cent. Therefore, Boitsfort provides the ideal basis with the nearby 4,421 hectares of pure forest and a lot of daylight that falls into the building. Contributing to the collaboration factor, Fosbury & Sons places great emphasis on integrating bars and restaurants into their concepts. They partnered with Coffeelabs to host their in-house bars, for instance, in order to provide breakfast, lunch, juices, cake, coffee, and catering services for meetings and events. There are actually a whole host of services offered besides nourishing ones. Members of Fosbury & Sons enjoy mailing services, a reception, print services, and parking, amongst others. Taking these burdens from people so that they are able to focus on their work and being creative and productive is the driving factor of their concept. In addition, Fosbury & Sons are working out interesting partnerships that their members can benefit from a great deal. For example, they are collaborating with BMW & Centrauto, which allows members to book a super deluxe ‘co-company car’ to get to their meetings and offsite activities. The cooperation with The Office Group London enables members to visit one of the TOG coworking spaces, membership lounges, offices, meeting rooms, and event spaces when they are in London.
Fosbury & Sons is planning to open two more buildings in the course of 2019 – Fosbury & Sons Albert and Fosbury & Sons Alfons, both of which will also be located in Brussels.
FOSBURY & SONS
Fosbury & Sons is a coworking office with current and upcoming locations across Belgium and Europe. The company offers a broad range of services and various different membership models.
Picture credit © Jeroen Verrecht