Don Draper Hits Warsaw! The co-working space that has left the world’s design gurus drooling
Inspired in part by the hit TV series Mad Men, a Warsaw co-working space has been thrust into the global spotlight after topping a list of design-conscious office spaces assembled by the influential style bible Wallpaper*.
Featuring alongside projects found in Paris, London, New York and San Francisco, the 80 sq/m Warszawski UL was the brainchild of Beza Projekt, an acclaimed Warsaw-based studio known for their innovative solutions. Located within a modernist, inter-war tenement originally built by architect Romauld Gutt, the building’s back story played a decisive factor in Beza Projekt’s vision.
“It’s not always necessary to fit a design around the style of a building,” Anna Łoskiewicz, one of the co-founders of Beza Projekt, tells TFN. “But in this case the stairwell had such a special terrazzo pattern that we decided to refer to it inside. Then, the more we browsed archival resources, the more the entire house reminded us of Don Draper from Mad Men. Hence the idea that the interior should be inspired by a 50s or 60s-style office.”
Home to four spacious offices, a conference room, kitchen, as well as a bathroom and shower, Warszawski UL invokes the spirit of the era with vintage lighting, rosewood panelling, and black fittings and ceramics offset by brushed gold details, and a colour palette dominated by elegant shades of sandy yellow and soothing blue.
“One of our bigger challenges involved the separation of the conference room,” continues Anna, who worked as the lead designer alongside Zofia Strumiłło-Sukiennik. “At first it was supposed to form one office, but that turned out to be impossible.
“We thought about making it the meeting point of two rooms, but we were met with two big problems: first, a lack of daylight, and then, a load-bearing wall standing in the middle; but rather than seeing these as potential obstacles we used these factors to our advantage – the conference table was placed against the wall to create a functional and comfortable space, whilst the lack of daylight was solved by partially glazing the walls to provide natural light access while retaining privacy.
“The glassing didn’t just make the interior feel more spacious, but also constituted a further reference to the 60s style.”
High on customized details, many designed by Beza Projekt themselves, the lasting impression is of entering somewhere uniquely special. “We wanted people to feel like they were crossing the threshold of an exclusive office in someone’s home,” says Anna.
“The functional design doesn’t just provide users with comfort, but also allows for maximum privacy, and taken as a whole the interior is interesting, elegant and slightly… mysterious. We think it would certainly please one of the characters of Mad Men!”
Since being namechecked by Wallpaper*, interest in Warszawski UL has grown at speed with the project being picked-up by a wealth of international design portals as well as the Polish edition of Vogue.
“In this case I think we’ve been a little bit surprised by all of the attention simply because it was a relatively small-scale project,” says Anna.
“But I think, in some ways, it’s gone to show that scale doesn’t matter. We’ve fitted a number of details and functions into Warszawski UL and I think the publicity has been a sign of the increased awareness people are paying towards co-working spaces.
“We wanted to demonstrate the importance of attention to detail and it’s great that this has been recognized because, at times, clients or sub-contractors don’t always understand why we don’t take the common path.”
However, Warszawski UL has not been the only recent success recorded by Beza Projekt. Also prominent in Wallpaper’s* article is The Nest, a communal office in a slim, glass tower in downtown Warsaw. “It’s a modern building with hard lines and angles,” says Anna, “so we wanted something softer on the inside, a place where workers could immerse themselves in a place that felt like another world.”
To reach this aim, vibrant aquamarine colours were implemented, while several rounded objects and fittings were also introduced to mitigate the narrowing nature of the tower’s triangular floorplan.
This changing approach to work space has been part of a wider global phenomenon that has taken the planet by storm. “We spend a lot of time at work,” says Anna, “and it’s become increasingly important to recognize the needs of workers and answer them.
“It’s no longer about getting fixed objects ordered from a catalogue and then just fitting them inside a certain amount of square metres – people are looking for something else. Materials, furnishings and technique have all started to matter, and while it’s not my place to comment on other countries or Poland’s position in the world of design, I think this country has shown it’s a little more open to experimenting.”
Of this, Beza Projekt are proof.