What started off as a small coworking conference in 2012, GCUC has turned into a global coworking community that seeks to connect, discover, discuss, and educate their members through their now 3000 + conferences around the world.

GCUC is an experience unlike any other. Packed into three days of keynotes, “unconferencing”, networking, panel sessions, group dinners, and a fabulous trade show expo. the energy you experience at this conference is infectious. Bond Collective was lucky enough to have the privilege and honor to not only attend, but to speak at their latest conference in the beautiful city of Seattle, WA.

Written by Ryan Cottrill - Junior Designer

Tucked in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle boasts a booming tech industry run by corporate giants like Amazon, Microsoft, Tableau, and SAP Concur to name a few. As the largest city in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle is overgrown with lush forests, lakes, and mountains, all nestled along the Puget Sound; A breathtaking body of water that hugs the city, shielded by Seattle’s many islands. Just look at this gorgeous view of the Puget Sound and mountains beyond inside the convention center!

The Global Coworking Unconference Conference (GCUC) was held in Seattle from May 17 - 19th, 2022, which proved to be an interesting time as the design team was approaching the finish line of our newest location in Vinegar Hill, a seven story, 30,000+ SF space with a postmodernism design. For years, our in-house design team, led by Elide Rathborne and partner, Thomas Gibbons, has been paving their way through new locations to uncover our own unique design identity. We were honored when GCUC asked the design team to share their approach and what it means to design for a new world.

From left to right: Ryan Cottrill (Junior Designer), Elide Rathborne (Director of Design), Shlomo Silber (Co-Founder & CEO), Thomas Gibbons (Creative Director)

We started with our fundamentals. Who we are, where we started, and why great design has such an impact on productivity, overall wellness, and efficiency. Of course, building great luxury coworking spaces didn’t come out of thin air. There were enormous challenges, set-backs, and learning experiences that shaped the work we are able to accomplish today. After introducing themselves on stage, the team dove into our location timeline and the path that binds them all together.

Elide explains, “Our interiors really elevate our members’ experiences and that is really the driving force - being a partner to our members, making them really happy to stay and come to the office.” Thomas adds, “And being people focused, it’s all about community. People make up a community, and that community is what essentially drives our design. Each location is super unique. No Bond Collective looks the same; we like them to feel like a family. They are all completely different, they have their own personalities, their own quarks, their own misgivings, but they are all undeniably related.”

This level of refinement, passion and scrutiny for our signature design is something that so many coworking spaces are either lacking or not optimizing correctly, which is what makes a Bond Collective really stand out, giving coworking a chance to be hospitable and not so sterile.

Elide and Thomas continue to walk through several more locations, unveiling their design strategy like using fluted window film, designing with custom lighting and terrazzo, mixing patterns and textures, and embracing any history they uncover when converting a building with a past. This conversation then led to our most iconic transformation yet. Bond Collective LA, formerly known as Desmond’s.

“When I first entered the space, I was floored. It was incredible… but also very scary!” Elide says with great excitement.  “The entire space is just about 60,000 SF and we were able to secure all the floors except the rooftop.” She later explains that there was about two inches of dust covering most everything, which gave a great amount of color inspiration lending to a warm, sandy, swirly, creamy, and ethereal environment. Images of the space behind them highlight the main coworking level. “This was a very glamorous 1930’s department store called, Desmond’s", Elide continues. “And throughout the design of this space, we really tried to keep the integrity of the building. And so, these phone booths are kind of reminiscent of sumptuous dressing rooms.”

“That glamor of the department store comes in with these kitchens that resemble 1930’s display cases - vitrines”, Thomas conveys with feeling. “The custom lighting we did was all inspired by Paavo Tynell with these 1930’s pendants that almost feel like jewelry.” That level of detail and connection to this historic landmark definitely pushed the design team in directions that were never thought possible, launching our brand into a new standard for the shared workspace industry.

But who sets these standards? What are people craving when looking for office space? What makes a memorable first impression and how do we retain the members we currently have?

Shlomo Silber, our co-founder and CEO, was later met on stage with executives like Nick Clark - Founder & CEO of Common Desk, Sofia Stolberg - Founder of Piloto 151, and Peter Chee - Founder & CEO of Thinkspace to discuss exactly that. Seeing this vibrant group of people come together, all with the same common goals was so inspiring. There was energy, charisma, and even a Smirnoff Ice chugging contest which made the audience howl with laughter - thanks Shlomo. But all joking aside, hearing what this dynamic group of industry leaders had to say was not only inspiring but made one think.

What can we do to embrace change and adversity in these uncertain times?

How are we setting a lasting impression for our members?

Are plush lounges, outdoor space, and private phone booths enough?

Taking the lead on discussions of adversity, Piloto 151 founder, Sofia Stolberg says, “Coming from Puerto Rico, I feel like I am the queen of adversity…” as she lists monumental hardships such as Hurricane Maria to earthquakes, the pandemic, and more. “I do feel that what doesn’t kill you actually makes you a lot stronger, and throughout the pandemic, we realized the power of diversifying your product mix.” She continues, “If it hadn’t been for our virtual office offerings, making up at that time 30% of our revenue, it would have been very challenging and one of the really amazing things that we learned was that community can be built in many different ways.” Piloto 151 explained they stayed open during the pandemic as they were deemed an essential service, acting as a mail hub for many and hosting companies that ran essential services. “We had members that were getting, through mail, all sorts of protective gear, medicines, and help to those people that were most in need.” Sofia explains. “We had the opportunity, even with curbside pickup, to engage and have conversations and get to know our members a lot better.”

Thinkspace Founder & CEO, Peter Chen, discussed opening his unused space for services like a blood drive during the pandemic when hospitals were struggling to keep up. And later, Nick Clark of Common Desk, opened up about being visible and present as a large company during the pandemic, offering one-on-one screen time with employees in every department.

Stories like these are so inspiring as to what the power of community and the power of a company backed by community can accomplish. Building impactful, humble, and honest relationships that extend below the surface. That’s what it’s all about.

But how do we get people to come back to the office? During the pandemic, so many of us (guilty as charged) have had the time to really marinate in their home office, surrounded by all the creature comforts of being at home. We’re at the point where comfortable lounges and electronic espresso machines just aren’t cutting it. We have to think bigger, broader, and more innovative when it comes to amenities.

Sofia, with Piloto 151, elaborates on the lack of accessible healthcare for entrepreneurs or freelancers, especially for those in Puerto Rico. “One of the things that we’re doing now, and it’s taken much longer than expected unfortunately, but we’re about to close a partnership with one of the largest healthcare providers back in Puerto Rico to be able to offer to our members, specifically to this type of member, health coverage that’s affordable and that works. That’s the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that comes out of scenarios like a global pandemic that you see really impacting your members in a real way.”

This radical transformation from cubicle, sterile, and obtuse work environments to a hospitality focused, boutique-designed, community-driven environment is not losing traction any time soon. As Nick Clark from Common Desk puts it, “I think what people want, when they’re coming into our coworking space, when they’re coming back to the office, is the same thing they want when they go to a restaurant. They want to be served.”

We definitely expect this level of service to keep climbing as we explore more amenities to keep our members happy. As the founder of GCUC, Liz Elam, puts it, “People are getting together for intention, purpose and a reason.” It’s our job to keep them together.

Cheers to a wonderful conference in Seattle!

Thanks GCUC! We hope to see you again soon.

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