Every time you enter a new space, you come eye to eye with its history. The way the building was initially designed, the new materials incorporated over the years, which original pieces have been highlighted -- all of this tells a space’s story. With every new location (now 14!) we’ve opened at The Yard, we’ve had to make interesting choices about how we celebrate what came before us.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Brooklyn. I feel a great deal of pride in all of our locations, and, in particular, our spaces in Brooklyn hit a personal note for me as I was born, raised, and now live with my family in the borough.
When my partner Richard and I founded The Yard in 2011 in Williamsburg, we were one of the first coworking spaces in the area. As part of an industry built on the intersection of great spaces and community, we’ve witnessed the exponential growth of small businesses around us and have seen it trickle into neighborhoods throughout the borough.
In the past year, we’ve come full circle, opening our two newest locations in our home of Brooklyn - the first in Gowanus and the second in South Williamsburg - and we’re seeing history repeat itself. The Gowanus area, in particular, has a thriving arts community reminiscent of Williamsburg and Greenpoint in the 90s and early 2000s. Specifically, the area west of 4th Avenue, which was and still is home to many warehouses and art studios, has begun welcoming more community-focused businesses, such as residential buildings, a new beer hall, and gyms, and many Gowanus residents have launched their own endeavors in the area.
So, how do we retain the Gowanus neighborhood’s sense of history while contributing to its growth and building something new? As a company, we place design, aesthetics, and art at the forefront of all of our spaces because we believe in the significance these components have in the personal and professional success of our community.
The Yard: Gowanus found its home in one of the many warehouse buildings on 13th Street and 3rd Avenue. After the construction and design of our new space was completed, you could still find many of the structure’s original features. Our community consistently expresses that they love how the building maintained its original, unique flow, which consists of ramps, stairways, and even a mezzanine tucked away on the second floor. In addition to the space’s layout, we preserved many of the architectural details found in the previous design. For example, we had to have a long conversation about the trestles holding up the second floor because they didn’t fit into the floorplan we had envisioned for the space. In the end, we decided they were important and chose to integrate them into the new design.
We also discussed the loading dock area at the front of the building, which was previously used to load in raw materials, and now presented us with a unique, rectangular space leading towards the front entrance. To celebrate this open entryway we worked with local iron maker Custom Fixtures -- known for their architectural and ornamental metal fabrications -- to make a gate that allows you to see through and that adorns what is now our courtyard area with a Brooklyn themed mural by artist Zimer. The art exemplifies our love for Brooklyn as well as the creativity of the entrepreneurs in the surrounding area while providing an inspiring welcome to people who come inside.
Lastly, we would have been remiss if we didn’t keep the beautiful, original, multi-paneled window panes of the building. They contribute to a modest, down to earth energy from within the individual offices in the building, and they complement the outside views of vine-covered, brick buildings in the area. To me, they encompass the DIY spirit of the neighborhood and enhance the personality of the space.
Although we aim for consistency across our locations, we also aim to instill a sense of local community pride in the innate structural components and in pulling in accents from the surrounding areas. Returning to Brooklyn, in general, carries a nostalgia for me, and I’ve found that many of the elements we’ve encountered in opening these new spaces ring true to the inspiring, innovative mentalities we encountered in the area back in 2011.
We’re excited to welcome new and seasoned residents to work at The Yard in the years to come and know that while the neighborhood will continue to change and grow, our community will maintain the charming qualities that brought us all here in the first place.