It might be the 49ºC temperature, twelve-plus hours of golden sunlight and relentless Teutonic pure-filtered lager, but I really really like Berlin and its inspiring bohemian culture.
And the experience just got a whole lot better after I remembered why I was there in the first place: to explore the rest of the known coworking universe.
Our first Berlin cowork experience was at Agora in Mittelweg one quiet Friday afternoon. After a bargain lunch and salad for about €5, I got on with some copywriting on their makeshift decorators’ tables as Jazz music drifted lazily from the cafe below.
Shabby-chic is the watchword at Agora, plain walls are adorned with guerrilla artwork overlooking vintage furniture and lights. Agora’s rough edges and informality reflects the idea that coworking is more about people and their chance encounters in an environment free from the suffocations of office tradition.
The heart of Agora’s coworking space is undoubtedly its cafe area where coworkers, staff and visitors chat casually over lunch. Rich noted that many of us already make a point of eating together at Old Broadcasting House, albeit unintentionally, which made me realise just how important eating is for communal bonding.
Later in the week we had a day at Nest coworking in Kreuzberg, a collection of first-floor spaces above a street cafe opposite Görlitzer park. Decor was even rougher at the edges, with plaster-less walls, exposed masonry and bare floorboards. If it weren’t for the smart office furniture dotted about you’d be forgiven for thinking it a squat.
Nest was still a peaceful, bright and airy space to work and its simple style underlined that you don’t need clean white walls and flawless lines in a place of work. If anything, I craved more of Agora’s haphazardly sprinkled bric-a-brac to add character to the place in preference to Nest’s unremarkable stock office desks and chairs.
Nest’s cafe wasn’t quite the same centre-point as it was at Agora either. It felt more like a separate entity than somewhere you might repeatedly drift through for a casual break. Its workspaces resembled conference rooms too, instead of Agora’s wide-open spaces. I noticed that this had the effect of discouraging other people from joining you, thinking you had a monopoly over the room. Communal areas encourage people to let their guard down and mingle more too, and that’s when exciting things happen.
The folk at Agora sounded invested in their space too. We were interviewed as part of their ongoing documentary into the evolution of the coworking space, which involved interviews with members to find out what they want from it. I got the impression that there’s a spirit of free collectivism at Agora, where ideas have a genuine chance of becoming reality.
I’ve much to reflect upon from our coworking experience in Berlin, like how much of their coworking explosion is down to cultural enablers, liberal attitudes to work practice, economics and the obvious recent historic influences in modern Germany.
Your thoughts below please.