By some estimates South Africa’s cultural and creative industries contribute around R63 billion per year to the economy (approximately 1.7% of total GDP). South African born co-working office space provider Workshop17 believes that the rapidly growing flexible office industry can do more to support the local creative economy.
South African design, entrepreneurship and collaboration is close to the heart of Workshop17, who is making the most of every opportunity to showcase the work of local artisans in its award-winning workspaces.
Workshop17’s discreetly elegant, contemporary office spaces, located in seven secure buildings across the cities of Johannesburg and Cape Town, are furnished with the creative outputs of local designers and furniture manufacturers who highly value their collaborative relationship with the firm. The partnerships facilitate the creation of local jobs, business growth and increased collaboration amongst local industry players. The workspaces provide an inspiring, adaptable environment; favoured by members who include freelancers, start-ups, non-profits, small businesses and even innovative corporates.
Investing in local creative talent, smme’s and jobs
Nisha Parbhoo, lead architect in the design of Workshop17’s office spaces, shares that the firm is passionate about showcasing the work of local designers, some of whom exhibit their work at leading industry events such as Cape Town’s Design Indaba. One of these designers is Marcus van der Hoven of Takk Studio.
Parbhoo says “Workshop17 provides workspaces ideally designed for its member clients to ensure a refreshing and stimulating environment in which to work. We prefer to partner with South African designers as far as possible. It is inspiring and rewarding to be able to collaborate with local talent in creating uniquely beautiful work environments for our members.”
She further highlights the firm’s tremendous respect for the expertise of local designers who bring bespoke concepts to life, enhancing the range of office spaces offered. Parbhoo adds, “By working closely with local creatives, our workspaces can be designed to meet the unique needs of individual client members. Whether it’s the curating of specific style paintings or the installation of fit for purpose cabinets and colour coding there is the flexibility to create the ideal flexible workspace to members’ specifications.”
“There is a whole psychology around the design of a workplace and how work environments encourage creativity and innovation. Our workspaces are all very different from one location to the next. We avoid any formulaic approach,” Parbhoo concludes.
Strengthening local manufacturing
Houtlander co-founder Phillip Hollander – whose firm has designed standalone furniture, cafe tables and benches for Workshop17 – said it was “amazing” to see the company “supporting, appreciating and celebrating” local designers. The Johannesburg based manufacturing business, which he co-founded with Stephen Wilson, employs 35 people. “It’s great to see organisations choosing to buy local and support local and making sure we grow the economy and that jobs are created locally instead of importing furniture. We have such a great pool of South African furniture designers and makers who don’t always get the jobs and opportunities. It has been amazing to see them appreciating and celebrating local,” Hollander says.
Designer David Krynauw said he had developed furniture solutions based on Workshop17’s customer requirements as the firm identified its clients’ needs and its spaces evolved. Krynauw, who employs 85 people at his factory in Johannesburg, was responsible for designing Workshop17’s desk solution as well as its innovative modular office partitioning system. “I value the relationship because they have challenged my design and manufacturing capabilities. They were my biggest customer last year and it has enabled me to grow my business,” Krynauw says.
“Workshop17 is in the business of nurturing the growth of local entrepreneurs and our investment in local designers is an extension of this commitment. We source the vast majority of our building design assets locally – that includes locally designed tables, chairs, crockery, light fixtures, cupboards and so much more. It would be very easy to import all of our resources more cheaply from the Far East, but we believe South African creatives are world-class and are a force to be reckoned with when it comes to designing the work spaces of the future” says Paul Keursten, CEO of Workshop17.
“In co-working.org’s recent analysis, South Africa is one of the top 25 major nations with the highest density of coworking spaces compared to their population. There is a huge opportunity in our industry to jobs and suppliers in the creative economy,” adds Keursten.