Co-working started as as a way of providing a shared workspace for freelancers and homeworkers, but has really evolved into a way of developing communities of like-minded people who want to share ideas as well as resources. It would seem to be a no-brainer for design professionals; many work solo and don't make a lot of money, and it is hard to make a good impression when your drawings stick to the jam left on the dining room table.
Fold is a new co-working space in Toronto developed for "professionals working within architecture, landscape and interior design." Fold nails the problems: the cost of office infrastructure, the fact that working from home can be isolating, the fact that it is often nice to have someone to bounce an idea off of, and most importantly,
Tired of meeting clients at a coffee shop? Fold gives you a professional work environment - a business address, meeting areas, and a endless supply of coffee!
Since all designers
are prima donnas have refined tastes, designers Ryan Taylor and Vanessa Fong have done a masterful job of making the space as neutral and blank as possible, designing workspaces that are simple and elegant. When they bought furnishings, they are carefully chosen and impressive, with name brands like Hay, Nienkamper, Anglepoise, Bensen and MDF Italia. There is no IKEA in sight.
The ground floor provides a mix of hot desks that are rented as needed and dedicated desks for those who will use the space full time. Upstairs is devoted to the conference area and materials library.
For me, the most interesting thing about FOLD is that it is happening at all. Twenty-five years ago, when CAD was in its infancy and you needed a $20,000 Calcomp pen plotter because everyone expected massive whiteprint sets, and every office had a secretary or book-keeper, I thought a shared space would be a good idea and pitched it to a few other small practices. They thought I was nuts; they were worried about protecting their drawings, rolodexes, drafting tools, Letraset, Rapidographs and Leroy lettering sets. If they were into CAD, the computers were expensive and hardly portable. They certainly didn't want a possible competitor looking at what's on their drafting board or what's in the fax machine in-tray. And what about phones? You have to have your own fixed land line or you don't have a business. It took a lot of stuff to be an architect and it wasn't cheap or portable.
Today, the FOLD infrastructure is an 11 x 17 laser printer and high speed internet. The sample library is a shadow of what they used to be, and there are no shelves full of Sweets Catalogs. You can carry your office (and all it's secrets) in your notebook computer.
Today, the idea of the sharing economy has become accepted, and co-working has become not just stepping stones but desirable destinations; look at the success of the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto and New York City- they have become the place to be if you are a social entrepreneur.
FOLD can only happen because the technology and attitudes have changed so much in the last few years. I suspect it will do very well: nice space, hot location and very carefully resolved design. When I need a place to meet I may use it myself.