The Evolution of Co-working Spaces.

The power of co-working spaces to fuel innovation and creativity through the exchange of ideas is no longer the preserve of hipsters and start-ups. CEOs want in on the action too, and the new shared workspace is a haven of five-star luxury and style.

Published: August 2017
Video/Photos: Supplied

Co-working spaces were the domain of hipster entrepreneurs and the creative class. They were aimed at a new generation who didn’t have traditional jobs – freelancers, contractors, the disruptive start-ups, one-man shows and loose collaborations generated by the connected economy. They were an outward sign of a changing economy, but tended to be improvised spaces created by a need for affordable locations. Just like artists arranged shared studio spaces in empty warehouses, so the gig economy and itinerant workers started to need temporary workspaces.


Soon, the economic potential of these shared spaces was discovered. Co-working spaces became the nexus for shifting constellations of creative, disruptive, entrepreneurial types. This led to networking, the exchange of ideas, unlikely collaborations and the happy accidents that come with it.


As the habit shifted from artistic circles to the creative economy, they became formalised. The spaces became well designed and offered good coffee, Wi-Fi and meeting areas. They also provided membership schemes and programmes to facilitate the exchange of ideas.


As the more formal economy is learning to embrace disruption and collaboration – as its growth has also become reliant on the exchange of ideas – so spaces have sprung up to nurture this new echelon. The co-working space has recently found a new incarnation – an evolution towards luxury and a more plush atmosphere. It’s for captains of industry, who are now also freed from their corner offices and searching for new ideas.

The co-working space has recently found a new incarnation – an evolution towards luxury and a more plush atmosphere.

Co-working spaces

Co-working spaces are now luxurious, immaculately designed and kitted out with the very best of everything.

Three of them have sprung up in Rosebank in Johannesburg.


The Mesh Club

The Mesh Club in the Trumpet building has an atmosphere of exclusivity and extreme luxury, combined with edginess. With interiors designed by Tristan du Plessis from StudioA, one of Johannesburg’s hottest new design assets, it’s a carefully curated environment. The space combines socialising with work and high-level meeting spaces that have degrees of formality. The Mesh Club boasts luxury hot desking for members, exclusive offices, and a cocktail and wine bar overlooking a western view of the city.
The aesthetic blends luxury and industrial elements, showcased by a mix of contemporary art and 20th century collectibles. Juxtaposition was the common thread in the design – hanging Pierneef across the way from a concrete Skullboy mural and using rust-finish, school-style chairs from Diesel/Moroso and custom Cassina ultra high-grade, leather couches in the same space are examples of this.


138 Jan Smuts

Down the road is 138 Jan Smuts, a mid-century block of flats that has been artfully and sustainably converted into a collaborative workspace: an entire building designed to foster collaboration, rather than a co-working space. Carl Jacobsz of C76 Architecture has ensured double-volume workspaces, solid wood flooring and natural light. There’s even a loft area that is almost 12m high for working on creative projects.


Historical chic – 85% of the bricks have been re-used, timber has been reclaimed and the original wooden flooring from 1957 preserved – is combined with modern elements that are expressed in steel, glass, duraplastic and wood. 138 Jan Smuts caters to all sorts of contemporary tastes. They even plan to provide electric bicycles for tenants. Existing tenants anchor the identity of the space and include art world stalwarts David Krut Projects and Gallery 2.


The Mesh Club Trumpet Building
The Mesh Club in the Trumpet Building offers exclusive facilities to its members, including a wine and cocktail bar.
The co-working space
The co-working space has found a new incarnation - an evolution towards luxury and a more plush atmosphere.
Impact Hub Johannesburg
Impact Hub Johannesburg is a more traditional co-working space where the focus is on driving impact, fostering the exchange of ideas and collaboration.
The interior of The Mesh Club designed by Tristan du Plessis
The interior of The Mesh Club, designed by Tristan du Plessis from StudioA, is carefully curated to combine socialising with work.
138 Jan Smuts
138 Jan Smuts, a mid-century block, provides the perfect space for creative projects.
C76 Architecture
Carl Jacobsz of C76 Architecture has capitalised on the solid wood flooring and natural light that is part and parcel of 138 Jan Smuts.

Impact Hub Johannesburg

Impact Hub Johannesburg, which opened recently, is a more traditional co-working space. It’s an initiative of the Simanye Group. This cluster of entities helps businesses, communities and the public sector find effective and sustainable solutions for transformation and economic development in South Africa and beyond. It harnesses not only the synergies of the urban regeneration taking place in the area, but an incredible design by UrbanWorks Architecture and Urbanism.


Impact Hub is a global network that spans from Amsterdam to Accra, Singapore to San Francisco. It has been designed to incubate members’ businesses and grow their impact. Like The Mesh Club, this is a space where events, workshops, panels, labs, mentor sessions, fireside chats and more can take place. There’s a focus on driving impact, fostering the exchange of ideas and collaboration. These are office spaces that respond to the changing nature of our cities and our economy.


In Munich, the BMW Group’s Research and Innovation Centre (FIZ) is undergoing extensive redevelopment not only to expand its premises, but also to create an “innovation campus” that will help generate the ideas that will themselves pioneer future vehicle development. FIZ Future 2050, as the project has been dubbed, is designed to enhance the complex processes that go into vehicle design, and to bring together employees from a wide range of disciplines while giving individual staff members greater authority and operational freedom. The character of the trial spaces on which FIZ is to be based are laidback, featuring loft-like areas, with non-territorial workstations that can be individually configured, a relaxed café-style atmosphere in the canteen and a roof terrace. To find out more about how BMW is embracing the shift in the new working arena, click here.


These are only a few of the forward-thinking working spaces being created in Joburg. Read about the revolutionary Alexander Forbes headquarters in Sandton and explore Stand 47, a sustainable house designed by Gavin Rooke and Karlien Thomashoff.

It’s for captains of industry, who are now also freed from their corner offices and searching for new ideas.