• LXFACTORY AS AN EXAMPLE

     The LXFactory case study is organized to illustrate how spaces, people, organizations and networks (of people within spaces) co‐evolve together to form a new reality of multidisciplinary working and living spaces. The LXFactory case in Lisbon suggests that these kinds of spaces, evolve over time following a trajectory of progressively dense social and learning networks. Although we could argue that LXFactory is a relatively recent case only 9 years old, it appears that its evolutionary trajectory captures elements that go from a lower departing point of little or no local connection to a higher developed stage where we can detect, local and global scale multidisciplinary networks.

    MULTIDISCIPLINARY WORKING SCOPE

    As we all know the landscape of innovation used to be dominated by suburban corridors of spatially isolated office campuses, accessible by car, with little emphasis on the quality of life or on integrating work, housing, and recreation. As a symbolic example we just have to remember places like Silicon Valley, and multiple Parks Incubators.

    Today, in metropolitan areas of cities such as London, Berlin, Barcelona, Boston, Telavive, etc., a new complementary urban model is emerging, giving rise to what we and others are calling “multidisciplinary working spaces”. These spaces, by our definition, are geographically limited areas where entrepreneurs, freelancers, artists, hot‐deskers, etc., may collaborate with different kinds of small and large companies or leading‐edge anchor institutions. Typically these new multidisciplinary spaces are physically compact, transit‐accessible, and technically‐wired and offer mixed use office, housing and commerce. Because of a combination of key macro socio‐economic drivers such as ecology, technology, values and needs, demography, urban planning policies, life‐styles etc., a rising number of talented workers and innovative firms are choosing to congregate and co‐locate in compact, amenity‐rich enclaves in the cores of central cities. However, with office space offerings in inner‐city core areas heating up in all major cities, and therefore causing higher rents particularly in the more dense areas, multidisciplinary working and coworking spaces are becoming an increasingly popular and effective way for emerging businesses to build agile networks of connections and be cost effective at the same time. In some cases these new multi‐working spaces are much more than just a trend in office development they are working / living communities.
    The scope of working/coworking refers to the range of activities not just related to work but extending beyond work into after‐work leisure that one can find inside the space. LxFactory has a scope ranging from: Architecture, Design, Fashion, Arts, Music, New Technologies, Marketing, Advertising, Photography, etc. to restaurants, commerce and other leisure related activities such as concerts, conferences, exhibitions, etc.

    BACKGROUND

    In the year 1846 a textile and weaving Company called “Companhia de Fiação e Tecidos Lisbonense”, one of the most important manufacturing companies, sets in what would become one of the most important industrial complexes of Lisbon –the industrial compound of Alcântara designed by the architect João Pires. The complex also housed the mils of the industrial company of Portugal and Colonies, and later the printings of Portugal Commercial Typography and Mirandela Printing Company – “Gráfica Mirandela”.
    Slowly, with the natural city growth, and increasing difficulties of access, logistics, etc. industrial spaces moved out to the new boundaries of the growing urban area originating empty spaces, voids in the city.

    CONCEPT

    A factory of ideas and creativity where anything can happen.
    At first, the project was thought to be a temporary usage of an old textile factory adapting it to the creative sector: companies, people, ideas and projects. The project was centered in a community of users (tenants and visitors) that could work, eat and relax all in the same space. Work and leisure were initially focused on the internal dynamics of the space as there were only plans for one restaurant, one gymnasium, one book shop, etc. However, soon LxFactory became absorbed by visitors, opening up to the city and it made sense to have more than one restaurant as well as more commercial spaces, shops, markets, etc.
    The occupancy strategy was deliberately loose and ill‐defined allowing for flexibility. This was thought necessary to attract promising and talented first projects, and to give them the possibility to adapt their space‐concepts to suit different purposes. Refurbishment was kept to the basic conditions for operation and was assumed as a characteristic of the LxFactory project, where tenants were given a “white box” that they could adapt to their own image, providing the liberty to build their own space.
    In essence, the new “factory of ideas and creativity” was set upon three fundamental orientations that lay the foundations for social and spatial development of the project:

    1. The human element, including social interactions. Valuing the inherited assets is highly dependent on how the space is populated, animated with human activities of various kinds. Transforming or adapting old buildings to new purposes is only one side of the equation.
      The heritage of old buildings can only be valued through people. Our projects are designed for people. A beautiful building without people does not work, it’s worthless.
      This is the most important and difficult pillar.
    2. We should value our historical heritage and therefore property developers should try to give back to the city a revalued building heritage. That is the idea that old industrial compounds can be re‐oriented to a new role/function, as already happened with buildings that were originally though for a specific usage and over time, lost the purpose for what they were initially built, for example old monasteries and convents which had to be re-adapted to house hospitals, universities, luxury hotels, etc. The same can be made with any historic building, re-adapting them to the contemporary needs of the XXI century.
    3. There is also timing. In 2008, when the first tenant companies started to settle, the economic crisis had just started to create a new scenario for the emergence of new startup companies in the creative industries and these companies were just starting to look for alternative locations (to start or to relocate).

    Projects, organizations, freelancers, etc. that are part of the LXFactory ecosystem share and understand the concept and specific vision on the revitalization of that particular space: old spaces for new ideas. A new space where historical heritage could live alongside alternative spaces adapted to needs of tech start‐ups, creative sectors and others.

    SCALE

    Scale has a double meaning. On the one hand space‐scale has to do with the physical, or geographical size of the place. For example the total area of LxFactory it’s about 25.000m2. This area contains 15 buildings, the highest with 5 floors. On the other hand space‐scale is also about the size of human activities so it can and should also be measured by number of people, number of interactions between the people. Again in the case of LxFactory there are more than 200 companies (around 1000 workers) inside the space, and more than 2.000 visitors per day with one million entrances a year in total which makes LxFactory stand out as a small city within the larger urban area, with its own specific ecosystem.

    LEGAL AND FINANCIAL ASPECTS

    LXFactory is a private limited liability company (Sociedade por Quotas, Lda) owned 80% by MainSide Investments SGPS, and 20% by private individual investors. MainSide is a holding company, a property investor that focuses mainly on the reuse of spaces through revitalization and rehabilitation and has a portfolio of projects each one with a specific vision in sync with the history/heritage of the building(s) and the targeted end users of the project.

    The initial funding of LXFactory came from its main shareholder – Mainside SGPS. Over time the project became self‐sustainable.

    A legal aspect of great importance at LXFactory is that, all projects and organizations installed in the space have a lease agreement.
    The different spaces are leased according to a price range based on space, location, usage as well as the project being implemented. There’s an intrinsic policy that favors innovative and creative projects.
    LXFactory sets its own price value, since it makes its own market when offering a different product.

    PLACE PROFILE

    Location: Alcântara, Lisbon
    Total Area: 24.950m2
    Number of buildings: 10
    Maximum floors: 5
    Year the project started: 2008
    Total number of companies: over 200
    Number of companies in coworking: 30
    Number of visitors (average per day): 1.500

  • How to start

    • Find suitable premises and negotiate the right terms.
    • Target potential coworkers and find out about their motivations (seek as much diversity as possible).
    • Make sure space answers your needs and motivations.
    • Build, nurture and participate in a lively community.
    • Find out about the main problems that may arise in the process of starting up a community.
    • Define basic rules of participation, behaviors, etc. on how you want to define your project (i.e. you may want a less formal space with almost no rules).
  • Let's get started

    • Identify your project starting point: Is it space, concept, people/community, funding or anything else?
    • Define why you want to start a coworking/creative hub in 30 words.
    • Find the story/concept that will attract the community and support it, strengthen it. What distinguishes your project from your competition?
  • Other examples

    There are different kinds of hubs and coworking spaces each set on different values.
    As partners on this project LXFactory and Coworklisboa are two different examples set in Lisbon:
    LXFactory is a creative hub, located in a revitalized industrial site, that started in 2008 set on 3 pillars: timing, space and people.
    Coworklisboa is located inside LXFactory. Starting in 2010, was the first Portuguese coworking space, and is set on multiple values, such as: creativity, multi-disciplinarity, diversity, sharing, and living in a community.

    There are many other examples of coworking and hub spaces in Lisbon, Portugal, and worldwide
    each one with their one set of values and developed according to different locations, circumstances, audience, etc. Some worldwide interesting examples are:
    Inspire9 – coworking space, Melbourne
    Village Underground – coworking space, London
    One Day – hostel and coworking space, Bangkok

    You can find other examples on Trans Europe Halle – creative hubs network

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