Imagine your place of work is situated in one of the most beautiful parts of the country. No traffic or long commute as you can easily take a brisk walk to work. You and your family are provided a home with heating, power, water and amenities all taken care of. Healthcare, education, spiritual sites, parks, libraries, shops and even hot spas are all laid on. An experimental google town? A utopian village in Denmark? James Bond villains lair?
The year was actually 1833 and as Titus Salt became the largest employer in Bradford UK, a notoriously miserable industrial town. While his intensions and beliefs were no doubt noble, it was also basic sound economics. Creating an amenable workforce, attracting top tier talent, increasing productivity, inspiring creativity, loyalty is desired by most successful organizations today.
HOME COWORKING + CAfe 2014-2015
Fernandes Industrial CentrE 2008
2006 was a defining moment when we were offered a generous studio space at CCA7 (Caribbean Contemporary Arts) based in Fernandes Industrial Centre, a historical grouping of warehouses, neighboring and once part of the Angostura rum factory in Laventille, Port of Spain. We soon started on a rebranding and complex wayfinding project with the centre, to help them communicate the changes and lay a signage foundation to help navigate the grounds better.
Our lot was a 1000 sq ft bay with a large bright window, a small L shaped extension that was perfect for constructing an infinity shooting cove. We quickly settled on bright white walls where a few pieces of art work were brought vividly to life being hung in stark isolation. We experimented with a tough industrial white floor paint commonly used on ocean tankers. In true start-up mode, we found some wooden A-frame legs and our quickest solution was to just put our thick chunky glass on-top. We soon expanded sidewise and by 2008 we were working with a wide cross-section of companies and organisations, large and small, national and international.
Established in 1997 by Charlotte Elias at, CCA7 was the regions most coveted artists residency programme. It hosted community and international workshops and residency programmes and accommodation. In its 18,000 sq. ft. space, CCA had two exhibition spaces, eleven artist studios, an information centre and office, along with lecture and meeting facilities, and a library and archive. It curated over seventy exhibitions and hosted eighty-four artists in residence, six regional workshops with over a hundred local, regional, and international participants.
By 2009 we'd merged with a Ogilvy a global advertising agency and expanded from 16 to 60 over night. We needed more space and accommodate a new way of working.
Working with specialists in interiors, lighting, fittings we planned out the ultimate design studio in the region. Embracing the challenge of remaining on budget, we looked at repurposing materials, locally found objects, materials from the industrial estate.
Our largest outfitting to date took into consideration spacial planning, staffing needs and layout, user flows through a space. This was layered with conforming to codes and standards for that volume of staff.
ABOVEGROUP TEAM OVER 10 YEARS
The learning from all of this is it's actually the people that make spaces special. I'm so proud of our people that have all gone on to do the most amazing things. We've seen colleagues move onto digital firms in Toronto, experiential companies in Los Angeles, teach English in Japan, design in Australia, visiting designers from Denmark, Sweden and The Netherlands. Photo assistants have turned into professionals, interns into artists. Most of all we had fun.
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