On my second day in Amsterdam I rode my bike along the canals towards Westerstraat, which is a flea market street buzzing with traders, tourists and immigrants even on an ordinary Monday morning. My destination was the HUB Amsterdam, which is one of the coworking spaces related to the global HUB organization present in more than 30 cities across all 5 continents: http://www.the-hub.net/# The HUB Amsterdam did not announce its location other than by house number and a small door sign leading me to think the place could not be in need of public promotion. Once I got inside the distinguished entryway I reached a locked glass door, and realized surprisingly that for me to enter the HUB Amsterdam I not only had to ring the doorbell, I also had to wait for a host to come and pick me up at the ground floor.
Almost embarrassed by the formality of my reception I followed the host Somaye to the 3rd floor of the fancy building, where she guided me through the high-ceilinged hallway to the main room of the coworking space, a large common with green plants, comfortable office chairs, organically shaped desks made with recycle materials and natural sunlight illuminating the space through huge windows facing both the streets and the opposite site of the building (no doubt someone had been thinking about anti-stress decor while furnishing this place!).
I could go on about the interior design of The HUB Amsterdam (I even think I spotted the dining table as a Piet van Eek piece while chatting with some of the coworkers over lunch), but after being seduced by the pleasant decor, soothed by the sound of water running through the self-managing lettuce gartnery and politely greeted by whomever I addressed, I began to feel misplaced. Perhaps because of my anthropological agenda, my observational attitude or my protruding belly I felt all eyes on me, but as conversation (or interview I would rather call it since the formal and discrete manners of my host did not vanish throughout my visit) unfolded I noticed that, for me at least, the HUB Amsterdam seemed very closed in on itself despite the number of 350 members.
The HUB has an overall theme of sustainability, the official objective description being: The HUB is designed to facilitate the creation of sustainable impact through collaboration. Therefore all HUB members has to work with sustainability or some aspect of the concept resulting in a formal take in of coworking applicants. We plan to do a similar procedure to ensure the matchmaking potentials and the professional community of our coworking space (in the specific case of Klitmøller), but where The HUB Amsterdam did not seem to be too concerned with filling out their space, the flow of beta-residents is crucial to the conceptual survival and economic sustainability of the space we plan to create. My HUB experience lead me to reconsider the social mechanisms of a coworking space and the alfa-, beta- or gamma-residents it is designed to serve. How do we create a space as pleasurable and work encouraging as The HUB Amsterdam, while we also signal openness, cooperativeness and social interest towards the beta-residents, the daily visitors, the researchers, the students or whomever entering the MZ1 from the outside?
Cleaning my coffee cup in the open kitchen, wrapping myself up again and greeting my friendly host politely goodbye before exiting the fancy building again, I wondered about the response I would receive on the follow up questions I felt was appearing in my information overloaded head.