The 21st century’s profusion of freelancers, start-ups, and frequent travelers has ushered in the era of the co-working space. With more than 19,000 such spaces now operating around the world, co-working has become an attractive alternative to renting expensive traditional office spaces and the isolation of working from home. Companies like WeWork, Phase Two, and The Wing have tried to anticipate the needs of a growing nomadic workforce, yet co-working remains a developing phenomenon, and there is still much to learn about the kinds of environments that best support the practice.
One company that seems ahead of the curve is Second Home, whose recently opened campus in East Hollywood, Los Angeles, proves that its competitors have some catching up to do. Every seat within the 90,000-square-foot complex feels like the best place to open a laptop and get to work, while a wide range of public services makes the company’s fourth outpost feel especially welcoming.
In 2017, Second Home purchased a four-acre property on the corner of North St. Andrews Place and De Longpre Avenue and hired SelgasCano, the Madrid-based architecture firm that has designed its other locations, to develop its first campus outside of Europe in an impressively short amount of time. One of the creative challenges the site presented was an existing courtyard building by legendary “architect to the celebrities” Paul Williams. Completed in 1964, the colonial revival building, which once housed offices and events for the Assistance League of Southern California, is notable for its glamorous exterior, circular staircase, and central courtyard. SelgasCano gutted the building while incorporating these three elements into its design.
From the street, visitors pass through the formal facade to enter what feels like a different world: a low-slung, columnless lobby with a dizzying array of tropical plants, extruded tubular furniture pieces, and a mobile coffee cart. Beyond this space is the courtyard, which has been charmingly reimagined as a casual workspace, restaurant, and public event space shaded by a canopy of trees. The space will soon host all events currently held at the SelgasCano-designed Serpentine Pavilion, which Second Home purchased and transported from London to the grounds of the La Brea Tar Pits. In an effort to distance itself from other co-working companies, Second Home has made the lobby and courtyard spaces accessible to the public without membership.
But the real showstopper is beyond the perimeter of the Williams-designed building: Sixty office spaces with acrylic walls and lemon-yellow rooftops carpet the rest of the site, connected to each other by pathways that meander through a forest of over 6,000 trees and shrubs. Each office space is lined with outward-facing desks underneath a yellow, steel-braced ceiling festooned with the ductwork of a central air conditioner (it comes as a mild disappointment that the windows are inoperable, ruling out the option of passive heating and cooling). When walking the yard’s labyrinthine paths, one is somehow able to forget just how closely the site abuts a Home Depot and a massive Target currently under construction.
Accessed via the original grand staircase, which contrasts with a translucent egg-like chandelier designed by SelgasCano hanging at its center, the second floor of the Assistance League building is divided between an outdoor lounge and 37 additional office spaces. While the rooms here are finely detailed, with orange carpeting that climbs up walls to reach waist height and entirely transparent top halves, they lack the lower-level offices’ immediate connection to the outdoors. From the lounge, one is afforded the most idyllic vantage point on the site: The lush courtyard is visible from one side, while on the other is the sea of office pods in front of the Santa Monica Mountains.
Given its commitment to inclusivity and creative adaptation to its site, Second Home Hollywood sets a new standard for the co-working building type; its creators should not be surprised if they feel other companies looking over their shoulders as the industry continues to discover its potential.