How do you design a space for an idea that largely exists in a virtual world? The team at Katherine Wong Design Studio recently did just that for Metta, a membership-only entrepreneurs club founded in Hong Kong
If you had to use an analogy to describe what Metta is, you might say that it is a cross between LinkedIn and ASMALLWORLD with a little Coffee Meets Bagel thrown in for good measure (in a purely platonic way, of course). The digital platform hopes to connect entrepreneurs and start-ups with each other, following the philosophy that two or more heads are, indeed, better than one.
The idea is the brainchild of Tony Verb, managing partner of Metta, and a native of Hungary who has been an entrepreneur since the age of 19. Having moved to Hong Kong five years ago, he got involved in the tech and start up scene as soon as he arrived and soon realised it was where his passion lay.
"Ultimately, I'm not a tech guy; I'm an entrepreneur, and I'm a connector. And, as I try to find my way in this world, I realise that's what I have to give, but what was missing, was a space and a platform where all the eco-systems and stake holders in Hong Kong could come together and join forces," he explains.
"I realised when I got involved with the industry here that all the different small communities were working in silence, they weren't really talking to each other and that didn't really make sense to me, so that's what Metta attempts to solve. Our role is to make them connect in a meaningful way."
So the handpicked members of the platform have access to each other's profiles, and communication between members is free and easy. An extensive database is being created by data scientists of members of Metta that essentially matches contacts, whether the meeting is then virtual or live.
Metta's physical manifestation is housed in the new California Tower in Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong. Sitting up on the 21st floor, the vast open-plan space includes floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing for sweeping views of the CBD — this is not your typical start-up or co-working space.
"The idea for the space went through many moderations and involved a team of people. What we realised throughout the process was that the world didn't need another co-working space. What the world needed was a very flexible space to accommodate people in a casual, trusted, high-quality environment," notes Verb.
Essentially, the team wanted Metta to feel like a coffee shop, that third space located somewhere between office and home. For the design, they wanted to work with a young and hungry firm that understood the values and drive necessary for being in the world of start-ups. For this reason, they approached Katherine Wong Design Studio.
"The biggest challenge of this project was to translate the idea of Metta, a dynamic concept which is constantly changing and progressing, into a physical space, which not only allows the space to transform, but continue to evolve and grow," says Katherine Wong, founder of her eponymous studio.
To create a multi-functional space which could host events, meetings and provide casual spaces for members to meet and greet, the team designed a system of movable shelving on wheels that run along I-beam tracks on the ceiling, lengthwise to the space. The shelving dissects the open-plan space to create an ever-changing interior that meets the unique needs of its users.
This is an excerpt from the “Connecting the Dots" article from the November 2016 issue of Perspective magazine.
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