Breathing Life Into Work

In response to Spaces’ rapid expansion across the Netherlands, a new location was opened in the Dutch port city Rotterdam. Photo by Jansje Klazinga

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“Every workplace needs a co-working space,” says Sevil Peach. So when it came time to design the Rotterdam branch of the Dutch co-working company Spaces, the London-based interior architect approached the project as she designs every office—building a variety of environments within an open plan to support every mode of work, from large-scale collaboration to intimate work sessions and solitary concentration. The difference lay in the building where Spaces wanted to set up shop: a long-vacant 1970s Brutalist tower designed by Dutch architect Piet Zanstra as the headquarters of Shell Oil Company.

“It had been unloved and empty for years and years,” Peach says of the former corporate high-rise, which also lacked street presence. To give the dated building a new lease on life, she increased its visibility in the surrounding plaza by pushing the ground-floor plate beyond the perimeter columns to align with the external boundary of the upper floors and adding double-height glazing. That move also gave her more square footage on the ground floor, which she cleared out and stripped back to expose the original pebble-dashed concrete elevator and stair core on all four sides.

Visual connections create a sense of community

Overall, the entry level functions as the social hub, according to Peach, so it was essential to create open sightlines for members “to connect visually and emotionally to the rest of the workers” and foster a “sense of belonging.” “We say that a common floor is very important for, one, the identity of the company, and second, to communicate and collaborate with your colleagues,” she says.

“How else are you going to see your colleagues?” Near the entryway, Peach created a triple-height void for a new staircase leading to the two floors above a handsome two-person reception desk. “It is important that the reception is a visual link to the rest of space, because it indicates the overall spirit of the place,” she says.

The main challenge was how to preserve the freshly revealed pebble-dashed core while carving out ample work spaces. The designer’s solution is a freestanding steel frame that forms semi-enclosed “work boxes” lined with cherry-wood paneling on the ground floor, acts as a support for the cafe bar, and provides the foundation for a new mezzanine level. “The steel frame is a standalone element that doesn’t have to attach itself to walls or cover the pebble-dashed core,” Peach says. “We were quite respectful to the old architecture in trying to retain the nice parts of the building as much as possible.” Soft seating and cafe tables fill the open spaces around the framework, including a double-height library with cherry-wood bookshelves and a 30-foot-long reading table.

An open floorplan with quiet retreats

On the first and second floors, a variety of private meeting rooms each have a different look and feel. In addition, a large double-height club room, with a new mezzanine floor and a connecting staircase, can be used as a quiet retreat when not booked as an event space.

With a client roster that includes Deloitte, Microsoft, and Vitra, Peach specializes in creating human-centered offices with an open-plan design, which she considers de rigueur for high-functioning workplaces. This is the fifth location Peach has designed for Spaces, a testament to the success of her approach in luring rent-paying members. “Nobody likes open-plan,” she says, “but when there’s huge global competition, you have to communicate and collaborate. You can’t just lock yourself in a room and think that you can compete with other companies.”

Instead of rows of anonymous desks, she brings people together in comfortable, warm, and textured settings, while at the same time giving them the option of enclosed spaces for focus and retreat. “The question is how to create an open-plan environment which fulfills every person’s needs,” she says. “Ultimately, what is important to us is that it’s an inspirational place for people to work in, because we spend most of our time in the workplace.”


Interior designer: Sevil Peach, director of SevilPeach Architecture and Design; Craig Welch, designer and project architect, SevilPeach Architecture and Design. Architect Mijke Rood, ZZDP. Local Executive Architect: Maarten Jamin, BSBP. Contractor: Groenendijk PGN Bouw. Lighting: Hiensch, Delta Light. Engineering: VanRossum. Graphics Spaces design team. Millwork: Frederiks Interiors. Furniture Supplier: Facility Linq. Steelworks: Nijborg


Movable walls: Maars Living Walls, available in North America through Herman Miller (pictured in gallery). Cafeteria/dining seating: Horgenglarus. Conference seating: Vitra, Howe, Artek. Library seating: Vitra (pictured in gallery). Lounge/reception seating: Cassina, Vita, Knoll Jorgensen, Carl Hansen (pictured in gallery). Workstation/task seating: Vitra. Conference tables: Artek Special bespoke joinery. Cafeteria/dining tables: Horgenglarus. Training tables: Howe. Reception desk: Special Joinery. Side tables: Artek, Fritz Hansen, Cassina, Lehni. Files: Joinery. Shelving: Joinery. Floor/table lamps: Areti, Andtradition. Pendants/chandeliers: Trainspotters. Doors (hardware): Hoppe. Doors: Maars Living Walls. Lockers/cubbies: Joinery. Architectural/custom woodworking: Frederiks lnterieurs. Signage (fabricator): HDV signage. Paint: Sikkens. Laminate: Polirey. Hard flooring: Sika flooring. Carpet/carpet tile: Ege Epoca. Ceilings: Rockton. Recessed lighting: Philips. Track lighting: Delta Light. Task lighting: Anglepoise. Fluorescent/industrial Belux.