Designing a Shared Office Space that enhances Productivity and stimulates the Senses!
Western New York is an area known for its history and culture. Our local brands are famous to not only those who live here but memorable and iconic to those who have visited or transplanted to other parts of the country. The HANSA team chose to create something reflective of what makes Buffalo, Buffalo. We didn’t franchise with a national coworking chain or outsource to a global business partner. We explored the “Soul of Buffalo” and created an environment that feels very much like home.
Located in downtown Buffalo, HANSA is a full-service, professional, shared office space that allows you to rent workspace on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Coworking, a growing movement reflecting a more flexible way to work, is popular for not only self-employed entrepreneurs but is also being offered as an option for employers to attract and retain new employees and provide creative work space for special project teams. To make sure we thoroughly understood this concept, we traveled across the U.S. and Canada, visiting different coworking spaces. Our goal was to decide what would make HANSA, Buffalo’s top rentable work space and a fixture in the professional networking scene for years to come.
As an interior designer of both residential and commercial spaces, I know that our environments play a significant role in our productivity and well-being. The key to a successful design is understanding who you are designing for and creating a well curated space that meets their needs and exceeds their expectations. Every detail truly makes a difference on an employees’ mental and physical health. The details also are what reflect a company’s branding and culture. In an era of COVID, offices mainly gone remote and remote workers are isolated at home. A shared space like HANSA creates a cohesive and positive work environment instead.
Through extensive research, we determined that there were three key guiding values for designing and creating our coworking space: Community, Comfort and Flexibility.
The idea of community is what drives a coworking space and brings added value to its members, rather than being isolated in a coffee shop or at home. Creating a culture of belonging is central to our brand, beginning with our name, HANSA, Latin for guild and meaning a collection of people uniting for a common purpose. The professionals that occupy the space work for different employers, therefore, it is important that the design of HANSA promotes a sense of togetherness and belonging. This was accomplished by creating open areas with high member visibility, in essence a “be and be seen” atmosphere. Visually, everyone is connected. The floor plan is an open design layout with a centralized atrium space on the first floor. Glass wall-lined corridors and an open second floor mezzanine maximizes views of the space. The work desks, numerous lounge chairs, residential style seating near the fireplace, and a large Cafe provide a collaborative environment that allows for socially-distanced interaction and comfortable, safe workspaces. When COVID-19 is no longer a threat, the atrium space will serve as the main gathering place.
In addition, each hot desk has privacy screens and conference rooms are outfitted with glass walls, which means that even if you’re in need of some privacy and quiet, you are never fully out of the action. The conference rooms have a frosted film on the glass to enhance privacy inside but are clear above and below to provide natural light into the space. The frosted film aesthetic complements the frosted screens already installed on neighboring desks in the main atrium, which also allow for privacy while ensuring the health and safety of our members. HANSA was designed in such a way that you can be a part of the community action and yet also find many nooks and private places to relax and get away.
For every member, comfort is key. It goes hand-in-hand with productivity. HANSA strives to make its members comfortable in a variety of ways. Authenticity to Buffalo and a residential feel were two important components. Our industrial heritage is a staple to Buffalo’s history and is expressed through the use of metal, wood and concrete finishes. Deep saturated colors and oxidized metal and rust tones where used to emphasize this aesthetic. Chevron tile backsplash patterns were incorporated to modernize a once nostalgic look.
Each conference room and phone booth is fully furnished and includes glass walls, carpet flooring and an acoustical ceiling. Phone booths have acoustical wall panels to help absorb sound whereas conference and meeting rooms use acoustic artwork to accomplish the same sound absorption benefits. All rooms are designed with different furniture types (task chairs and tables, mobile nesting chairs and mobile table combinations and lounge chairs with tablet arms). The intent was not only to create a different character for each room but to maximize the amount of flexibility and be able to pivot to meet different user needs. If an informal meeting area is desired or you are looking for a new place to work or check emails, there are multiple nook areas throughout that offer lounge style seating and small pull up tables for tablet or laptop work.
All of our conference rooms were created to have a specific function and personality. Some of our rooms, such as the Parlor and Board Room, are more formal which can be seen with details such as the large conference style tables, ergonomic office chairs and large flat-screen displays on the wall that offer exceptional live and virtual presentation capabilities. When you need to hunker down with your team and get serious work done, those are the rooms for you.
Towards the back of the workspace are our more informal conference rooms, like the Hive, Huddle and the large multi-purpose room called the Great Room. These rooms feature furniture that is more lounge like, mobile, and flexible. These rooms cultivate an environment that is creative and collaborative. The Hive was designed as the optimum break out space. The glass and writable walls provide great group thinking and collaborating space. Lounge chairs can be moved into small groups or one large meeting and the attached tablet arms eliminate the need for cumbersome tables, which take up space. The Huddle room offers our only high-top seating conference option which provides a great environment for stand-up meetings or quick collaboration. Lastly, the Great Room is our training room, seminar space, and overall multipurpose room. Chairs and tables are mobile, which means they can be reconfigured in a number of different layout options for members. If you are looking to book a meeting for the day, these diverse rooms will fit a variety of needs for you and your team. We also see offering wellness classes like yoga in this space someday.
While HANSA celebrates activity, it is also about human centric building design and human well-being. We all value some quiet time and a chance to unplug. For those moments, you can relax in our Wellness Room. This room was designed specifically to help members take a step back from work and surround themselves with a quiet, serene room. Inside is a giant bean bag chair that allows members to relax, read, meditate or just sit comfortably. In addition, the graphic wall covering that is used is a depiction of the woods, so that whoever utilizes the Wellness Room can feel like they are on a little escape into the serenity of the wilderness while still in the heart of Buffalo.
Biophilic design was another aspect that we felt was important to enhance the wellbeing of our members. Biophilic design is the connection of interior building space to the natural environment, to create a better occupant experience. This is reflected in the design of the Wellness Room, the incorporation of skylights and exterior windows to provide natural light, the glass garage door with views and access to the outdoor patio, and the whimsical flower garden on the second floor. Located above the board room, the HANSA brand colors were added, as pops of color, into an array of greenery. It immediately catches the eye of anyone walking through the workspace. It is reflective of the energy and whimsy that the mural provokes and provides a second-floor lounge space with a “garden view.”
Showcasing the art and culture of Buffalo was another aspect of design that was extremely important. The large mural located in the main atrium was painted by a local artist, and the wall next to the coworking areas will be a rotating gallery featuring the work of local artists. At this time, it is Alyson O’Connor from Rust Belt Love. As you walk past the lobby and front desk, the wallpaper by Red Disk Studio, featuring iconic Buffalo buildings is featured in two different colors, again, emphasizing the Buffalo vibe that makes HANSA unique.
The lighting at HANSA was also a major point of emphasis as it relates to comfort and the creation of different atmospheres. LED lighting is used in the offices and in the atrium during the day for general illumination. Fixture controls were installed so different zones can be turned on or off to illuminate areas, providing maximum flexibility for multiple types of events. Edison bulbs hang over the atrium space adding a decorative lighting element during the day but create a glimmering “night sky star effect” for any kind of event or gathering after sundown. The main conference rooms showcase different light fixture styles to highlight the character of each of the rooms. For example, the Parlor Room utilizes a copper three-tiered fixture, the Huddle Room uses a modern metal arm extension light and the Board Room is a bit more elegant as it has an “atom” arrangement of frosted glass bulbs.
There is also plenty of natural light. Windows were added to the exterior of the building to pull light into the space while glass walls at room facades were added to continue the light further into the building interior. The skylights were reworked to provide additional natural light into the central core of the building. To bring in more natural light as well as enhance views to the outdoor space, we made use of the large front windows and even added some to expand the view and light penetration into the space. The previous garage door, which leads to the new patio space, was replaced with a new glass panel door. On warm summer days this can be opened to let in fresh air and afternoon sunlight.
“HANSA’s design is a physical translation of our ethos and can be seen in the way the workspaces are interwoven, the furniture, the art and our captivating mural,” says HANSA Community Manager Laura Jimenez. “It was truly to team effort. We all worked closely to make sure the design supported our collaborative environment and the community we are cultivating with our Members and guests. It is always rewarding to see and hear the reactions from people as they’re touring HANSA with us. The vision of HANSA has come to life!”
What makes coworking spaces so desirable? Flexibility. Work schedules can be unpredictable on a weekly or even daily basis, so it is important that HANSA has different membership and work style options. Work style options range from open desks or hot desks, dedicated desks and office and entire suite rentals. Memberships are as flexible as a coworking day pass to a monthly rental.
The ethos of flexibility begins with the lobby of HANSA. The visibility of the main lobby from the exterior made it a key space to create a lasting first impression that not only grabs your attention but makes you curious about what happens here. For this reason the lobby not only functions as the spot for daily check in but is also another part of the building that can be utilized for collaborating, taking a phone call or holding an informal meeting. Aside from the lounge sofa and chairs, there are mobile ottomans with tablet arms set up for the convenience of members. Also, our Studio/Podcast room is located in view from the lobby, which gives people the unique opportunity to watch someone record and edit a podcast right in front of them.
When at HANSA you have access to both public and private workspaces. The coworking desks located on the first floor put you right in the thick of things in terms of interaction and collaboration. A seat on the second floor gives you wide overlook of the open space. If you want to find somewhere quiet to focus, the private offices located on the perimeter of both the first and second floor might be your spot.
The Café, located in the middle of the main atrium, is one of the most populated and important spaces at HANSA. This is the hub of the community. Members can grab a complimentary coffee, eat lunch, interact with other people and also hold informal or impromptu meetings. This is meant to be a very flexible space that can open up to the Great Room and other areas of the atrium to accommodate a larger scale event.
Impromptu meetings, brainstorming and collaborating can happen within seconds during an average work day and you won’t always be prepared for them. What happens if you need to take notes quickly but don’t have your notebook or laptop readily available? Well, at HANSA, all you have to do is find a wall! Writeable walls and wall paint come equipped in each meeting room and as well as in designated corridors on both floors. In addition, each glass wall in the building can be written on using dry erase markers, which means you can do business and complete work no matter where you are at HANSA.
As you now know, many ideas were brought to life when designing HANSA’s flexible on-demand workspaces, common areas, and meeting rooms. The layout, the workspace locations, the lighting variety and controls, and the colors and materials in each room are just a few of the many meticulous details that went into designing HANSA to enhance enjoyment and productivity for our members and guests.
Which of HANSA’s pillars of Community, Comfort and Flexibility interest you? Schedule a tour to explore this new hub for yourself and see what an elevated office experience can be.
About the author: Mary C. Hazlett, NCIDQ is Architectural/Interior Designer at Uniland Development Company. A key member of Uniland’s internal planning and design team since 2007, she has designed the interiors of hundreds of thousands of square feet of commercial and residential space in the region. Her award-winning portfolio includes the stunning common areas of The Delaware North Building, exceptional offices and condos at Avant, the welcoming and inclusive design of the Hampton Inn Buffalo-Amherst at the Northtown Center athletic complex, and the modern and collaborative interior of D’Youville College’s School of Arts, Sciences and Education building.