Haworth – The Growing Relevance of Third Places

Third places are spaces that add a new dimension to our work—allowing for activities in a different setting from the office or home. These spaces provide alternative places where work gets done. As organizations continue to understand what hybrid work involves, third places are growing in relevance and popularity around the globe.

Third places that are designed and developed around a strategy of activation can provide space for focus work, meeting, hosting, or coworking. Because of this, many successful third places rely on thoughtful space design and a level of hospitality that goes beyond what you typically see in a corporate office.

A Premium Third Place in Cambodia
Dominating the Phnom Penh skyline, Vattanac Capital is an international icon. It is also a corporate symbol of social and environmental responsibility. Shaped like a dragon’s back and incorporating elements of feng shui and traditional Naga motifs, the 39-story Vattanac Capital complex is host to a wide range of organizations. The multi-use space presented a unique opportunity to develop a new type of workspace that would showcase the unique cultural elements of the region, as well as provide an environment for the community to work and engage.

Located on the sixth floor of the Vattanac Capital complex is a coworking space called The Atom. This third place brings together community within a highly flexible atmosphere, challenging the traditional ideas of the workplace through the cross-pollination of work, hospitality, and well-being. Here’s a look at how The Atom came to be.

The Power of People
The process of developing a concept and strategy around The Atom started with the people—arguably the most important element in design. Haworth’s Ideation team leveraged a customized survey to understand what kind of function, aesthetic, and services were needed to get the most out of the multi-purpose space.

A Process of Discovery
With the discovery process underway, the Ideation team compiled a report that highlighted both key findings and the necessary support for different workstyles, affordances, and collaboration needs within the space. Recommendations included design-based suggestions like spatial planning, materials, and finishes.

Developing a Design Strategy
Using insights from people and the discovery findings, the Ideation team developed a design concept and strategy. The plan included incorporating elements of modernized Khmer architecture highlighting the spatial qualities required for people to rest, meet, or focus. The Ideation team partnered with the A&D firm M Moser Associates to work through final floorplan layouts, materials, finishes, and space themes. For example, color palettes connecting users to nature and traditional Cambodian culture created a feeling of luxury and comfort within the space.

A Progression of Ideas and Action
Throughout the process, robust collaboration amongst the Ideation team, A&D firm, and members from Vattanac Capital explored how the design of space would best support its users—from a variety of workstyles to hospitality needs.

The three main spaces of The Atom include the green room, salon, and library—each designed with nearly unlimited application potential. Because of this, The Atom is the ultimate third place in the heart of Phnom Penh—for working, hosting gatherings, and socializing.

Space Flexibility is Key
The flexibility of The Atom’s 650-square-meter space requires application and functional support for a variety of needs within the space. As part of the design process, several use-case scenarios were presented. Each scenario offered new insight as to how to design and organize the space. From day one to day 100, the goal was to make sure the furniture and layout were flexible enough to reconfigure as needed to support focus work, collaboration, and events.

The Evolution of Coworking Spaces
The Atom is just one example of the evolution of the third place. On a global scale, designing spaces that accommodate remote users, or those who might not have daily access to the main office, is a vital aspect of a successful hybrid work model.

As we strive to understand the future of the office, spaces like The Atom show the power of designing for people, space, and purpose. In a work from anywhere world, third places are going to play an integral part in keeping people engaged and connected.