Subcultural trends and alternative fashions have always eventually been taken over by big business and their marketing machinery, before being repackaged, mainstreamed, and rolled out to the masses. The once provocative punk styles of the 1970s have since become ‘daring’ fashion accessories for conventional 9-to-5ers.
In the 1980s, oversized jeans originally worn by skateboarders were adopted as the trousers of choice for every teen. Coworking could be another example of this phenomenon.
In 2007, Sascha Lobo and Holm Friebe wrote their book ‘Wir nennen es Arbeit’ (‘We call it work’) in St. Oberholz – a cowriting project in Berlin’s first coworking location. It was about new work – new ways of working beyond traditional employment and 9-to-5 jobs, which struck a chord with its readers. The book was a rallying cry, the authors coined the term ‘digital bohemian’, and to this day, the community of coworking freelancers, digital nomads, and free-floating teams continues to grow. The culture that developed here was not conceived by a bright spark in some marketing department or part of any business plan. It spontaneously sparked when coffee-house culture met the then-novel invention of wireless internet, along with the coming together of very different, but somehow like-minded people who wanted to work without the usual constraints.
It is these chance encounters, the dialogue, and the unplanned formation of communities that define coworking culture. Tobias Kremkau, coworking manager at St. Oberholz, encapsulates the essence of this culture in the term ‘serendipity’.
The unfamiliar and unplanned interactions between very different people unlock new perspectives, resulting in innovations that are rather unlikely within a homogeneous group in an open-plan office. ‘That’s why you can’t really say what will happen when you become a member of a coworking community,’ says Tobias Kremkau. ‘But it’s certain that something will happen and a new journey will begin.’ Ultimately, coworking is also a natural consequence of the changing world of work. Digitalisation is creating new professions and flexible, location-independent, decentralised but connected ways of working. Meanwhile, significant numbers of conventional jobs are becoming obsolete. This makes it all the more important for creative pioneers to sound out new opportunities and ideas in this area.
More than ten years have now passed since modern coworking first appeared around the year 2005 in St. Oberholz in Berlin, along with similar setups in in San Francisco and other locations around the world. In a digital world, that is a long time. As subcultural trends naturally hit the mainstream, global players have also established themselves in the coworking segment. There are critical voices that doubt whether the authentic energy of the coworking community still flows through the corridors of the global coworking chains. But what really matters is that the fundamental culture lives on, also in B-Part – a coworking space very much in tune with the original idea, and with a plan.
This place is still dominated by the unpredictability of spontaneous encounters, changing constellations, and true inspiration that cannot be forced onto the drawing board, but are the consequence of chance exchanges between people with different professions, backgrounds, and ideas. The location in the middle of the green park provides natural enrichment, while the parkour training course around B-Part contributes to a healthy work-life balance.
B-Part is also a cornerstone of a new urban quarter taking shape at Gleisdreieck. It will act as a lab to drive the evolution of future urban neighbourhoods. This is because B-Part is not just about business, but about developing new ways of living and working in rapidly changing cities.
An area of B-Part is therefore reserved for the Urban Ideation Lab. This space is provided for freelancers and teams from very different disciplines and professions, and includes free coworking spaces. The Urban Ideation Lab is designed to assemble as diverse an assortment of minds as possible under one roof. It provides a home for social initiatives, research projects, urban experiments, and unconventional entrepreneurs of all kinds, supporting open dialogue and the exchange of ideas.
Because that’s what coworking is all about.