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These co-working spaces aren’t for everyone

Campfire is setting itself apart by creating environments that aim to satisfy the needs of different industries.

These co-working spaces aren’t for everyone

There’s a lot of debate about how, when and where co-working started. No matter how it first came to life, though, it has really taken off in the last five years in Hong Kong. The Hive, Good Lab, nakedHub, WeWork and The Work Project are just a handful of the names that have set down roots here since 2012. These days, the market is crowded. With so many spaces for entrepreneurs, startups, and even larger companies like HSBC, the big question becomes, how do you get individuals and companies to work in your space?

One company has found an answer to this question: Campfire Collaborative Spaces. Their solution? To create spaces that cater specifically to the needs of certain industries. They started with one that targets tech in Kennedy Town; next came Campfire Creative in Wong Chuk Hang, which is geared at fashion startups, both designed by Hong Kong-based Studio Cassells to meet the individual needs of these industries. In the works are sites designed for media, marketing and advertising, design and build, and education.

Here, Wang Tse, Co-founder and Director of Campfire, tell us how they have used design to capture the attention and attendance of Hong Kong’s entrepreneurs.

What inspired you to create Campfire?

The idea for Campfire emerged shortly after the January 2016 riots in Mong Kok, which was sparked by attempts to shut down informal Lunar New Year hawker stalls.That time in Hong Kong was pretty political and lots of young people were feeling insecure, thinking they didn’t have a good chance for the future. We thought we should start a platform to help them, to support startups. We wanted to create a platform to support entrepreneurs. We’ve started quite a few businesses in Hong Kong and we know how hard it is. What followed was a four-month-long conversation about co-working space.

Why did you decide to create different spaces for different industries?

When we started, we didn’t have a very clear idea in mind. We just thought about making a platform for entrepreneurs, so our design was pretty generic. But when we really looked at co-working and its potential, we realised it’s about the culture, and how it heightens collaboration. By being industry focused, we can maximise collaboration.

How have you used design to cater to the needs of different industries?

Design is crucial to ensure that the spaces are flexible for multi-purpose usage. For example, our fashion-focused site has a hot-desk collaboration area that buzzes with activity by day. But at night, it can be transformed into a glamorous runway, fit for any fashion show.

What was your brief to Studio Cassells for the Wong Chuk Hang space? And what about the designers of the film and media space?

We challenged Studio Cassells to maximise possible space for collaboration and for private discussions, yet to provide an open floor plan for events – all while keeping in mind that the site is catered for fashion. Not satisfied with just the function, Studio Cassells were also able to fill the space with plenty of form.

We gave the other designers a similar brief – except for that for the media space, we needed to squeeze in a screening room, a kitchen studio, a YouTuber room, hotdesks, private offices and more. All that, plus retaining the aesthetics Campfire is known for.

How have users responded to the spaces you’ve created? Have they used them in ways that have surprised you?

Some people have blown us away with how they use our spaces. We’ve had a dog fashion show on our runway, a drum circle, yoga retreat, and many more events. It’s quite amazing [what happens when] we let people customise our space to their vision and idea … later on, this could actually help us design our next location.

What are the must-haves for any co-working space you create?

We must have a large floor plan. We would always choose a large floor plan over multiple small floors. Also, in each of our spaces, you will find our iconic Campfire tent in various shapes, eye-popping neon lights, creative wallpapers, and unique furniture centerpieces.

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