Space Refinery drew inspiration from nature and its resourcefulness when designing the Start it @KBC offices located in Antwerp, Belgium.

Start it @KBC wanted a workspace that would reflect its mission to empower the new generation of leaders. Today their dynamic coworking space is a melting pot where various startups exchange ideas and thrive in a stimulating community.

Start it @KBC is a Belgian startup accelerator empowering founders through its 1-year acceleration program and access to 6 different hubs spread across the country. Over 1 500 founders from more than 30 industries have already participated in the program, and hundreds of new startups apply every year.

The Challenge: During our information-gathering phase, we identified all the limitations and what end-users needed and wanted from the space. The fully open space didn’t provide any quiet areas necessary for deep focus work, so noise was a big issue. Besides acoustical challenges, the lack of division in the space was creating visual distractions. The meeting rooms were far from perfect – not enough power outlets, sometimes no seating elements, and again, bad acoustics.

According to our research, the founders thought the lunch area was impractical and there was a lack of spaces for socializing and afterworks. We also discovered that despite the open-plan approach, the founders weren’t interacting a lot and they were missing out on spontaneous run-ins and idea-sparking conversations.

The Outcome: the first objective was to enable individual, deep work. We created call booths, meeting rooms, and pods spread across the space to allow people to do focused work. We broke the entire floor into smaller subdivisions, reducing the noise level.

Then we focused on what complements individual productivity – stimulating creativity, increasing flexibility, and fostering interactions. We added informal areas around the O-shaped circulation area. This way, we created opportunities to have spontaneous run-ins and chat in lounge areas without disturbing other people.

Design: Space Refinery
Photography: Thomas Noceto

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