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Meet WeWork’s Miguel McKelvey

As WeWork launches its second location on Hong Kong Island, we speak to its co-creator, who was among the first to redefine the physical workspace.

Meet WeWork’s Miguel McKelvey

The way we work has undergone a huge shift, as have the spaces we work in – and Miguel McKelvey, Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of WeWork, had a hand in this transformation. McKelvey and his Co-founder (and WeWork’s CEO) Adam Neumann were way ahead of the curve: they realised early on that each of us works in a different way, and that by empowering people to choose when, where and how they do so, and by surrounding them with the right network, they will drastically improve their productivity, and ultimately, business performance.

It was this realisation that led McKelvey and Neumann to set up WeWork in 2010, as a platform for creators; one that combines workspace with community and services in order to enhance the work experience. Just seven years later, the company has nearly 130 active locations around the world, and it recently announced additional spaces in Shanghai and Beijing, as well as opening its second space in Hong Kong’s Wan Chai.

McKelvey now oversees design, architecture and construction for WeWork on a global level, and he took a leading hand in the design for the Hong Kong locations, working with Nelson Chow on WeWork Tower 535 in Causeway Bay. Here, he tells us more about the design for the Hong Kong spaces, technology and the future of work.

There are so many co-working spaces popping up now – how do you make sure yours are unique?

We really don’t consider ourselves a co-working space because our primary focus is community – we’re really a community platform and our beautifully designed spaces are just one of the benefits of joining WeWork.

How does design encourage people to work better at your Tower 535 location?

We think of Tower 535 is an “urban retreat” that draws the electric energy of Hong Kong inside with nostalgic yet modern references to the cityscape while managing to remain subtle and not overdo it. These design details serve as conversation starters and inspires members to explore each floor.

All eight floors use different colour and material palettes, artwork and finishings to give each floor a distinctive identity. These elements define each floor so it has its own sense of place or neighborhood feel. Here, we’ve collaborated with Hong Kong-based creatives for bespoke art murals and details. We’re proud that WeWork gives artists space to express themselves.

How does your Wan Chai space differ from your Causeway Bay location?

Our spaces at Tower 535 and Wan Chai are very different and create varied atmospheres. For example, WeWork Wan Chai has a smaller floor plate, which creates a warmer and cosier vibe than Tower 535, which has high ceilings and sweeping views.

At both our spaces though, you can definitely see elements of old and new Hong Kong in our design – like how we have old ferry ticket designs on the wallpaper in some of our meeting rooms, or how the doors to our space have a mixed metal and glass feature typical of Hong Kong. We were very purposeful about this, so that local Hong Kong members feel the neighborhood spirit of Causeway Bay and Wan Chai, while also getting access to the global community.

Where do you see workspace design going in future?

There has been little innovation in workspace over the years and I’m really interested in how to design more dynamic space that ultimately optimises utilisation. So often space is left unused – like a large conference room that is only used once a quarter. I think in the future we will have more dynamic solutions that promote sharing and collaboration while improving efficiency.

What is technology’s role in your design process?

In terms of our physical spaces, we are constantly studying how our members interact with our spaces. Our research and development team uses machine learning to predict how to better design space for optimal use. We use technology in all aspects of our operations, development and community.

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