A workplace for the 21st century in a 1910 Southern School Book Building

On Auburn Avenue in downtown Atlanta, one of the most culturally rich (and walkable) neighborhoods in the city, Cognitive Design designed a workspace for the 21st century gig economy inside a 1910 Southern School Book Building, originally designed by Hal Hentz & Neel Reid.

Serving as both advisory board member and architect for this project, Cognitive Design founder Matt Finn helped shape form and function from concept to completion.  Matt’s involvement in focus groups, brainstorming, workplace research, design, and construction ensured continuity of thought from community engagement to the fine details like gold leaf signage fronting Auburn Avenue.

 

“Working with Cognitive Design leverages both thought leadership and thoughtful design.  Words like responsive, trustworthy, committed, creative, passionate and purpose-driven describe the people and the process.  We literally could not be any happier.”

Gene Kansas

Founder & President, Constellations

First appearing in San Francisco in 2005, coworking is a relatively new type of office space that breaks the mold of long-term large-space commercial office leases that don’t make sense for the 35% of the U.S. workforce who are freelancers.

Housed in a historic school book depository, Constellations innovates on the coworking concept with a contextual take by shining a light on unique in-place characteristics that inform newly created amenities including a civil- and human-rights themed library, a podcast studio (to create content and share it with the world), and private offices for focus work (for when an open workspace is too distracting).  These amenities are appealing to startups and freelancers, but also to large businesses and academic institutions who want a meaningful connection to the Martin Luther King Historic District and the Sweet Auburn neighborhood in which Constellations resides. 

 

Community

Among the more important and desired tools for success for freelancers and entrepreneurs is the ability to expand their social and business networks. 

"Serendipity within the startup ecosystem is one of the key factors to a entrepreneur's success. Having chance encounters at meetups & events or through co-working spaces builds trust and organically grows relationships that can lead to beneficial connections in the community.”

Charlton Cunningham

Executive Director, Startup Atlanta

 

Cognitive Design helped set the stage for these interactions by designing a variety of communal spaces including a break room, coffee bar, library and lobby lounge, where members can work, mingle, or take a restorative break.  These spaces are further activated by contextually-driven programming, check out Constellation’s Happenings Calendar.  But Constellations also offers a unique way to connect with people well beyond the halls of this historic structure - through its podcast recording studio.  In this intimately designed space, members can document what they’re doing and share it with the world. 

While this all has great advantages for small businesses, some larger organizations have taken notice, crafting partnerships to create meaningful connections.  Georgia Tech and Georgia State jumped at the opportunity to have space for some of their people here, which allows these large organizations to mix, mingle and collaborate with other like-minded professionals with whom they share a physical presence in the birthplace of Civil Rights.

Photo: Luke Beard courtesy of Constellations

Photo: Luke Beard courtesy of Constellations

 
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A place to work

Social connections help create opportunities, but having a place to deliver on those promises is equally critical.  A recent study found that the spaces that are right for the social aspects of work, like networking, collaboration and meetings, often provide too many distractions for doing focus work.  One study concluded that interruptions and distractions in open office environments consume 28% of a person’s workday. 

To address the need for focus work, Cognitive Design created private offices, where members can put their head down and flow. These spaces are purpose-built to eliminate the visual and acoustic distractions found in open office environments, all with the advantages of working in natural daylight compliments of large windows that help keep your biological clock in check with nature’s rhythms.  One private office, The Corner Office, even has a phone room inside a vintage elevator shaft, it’s great place to rise to the occasion of important calls!

Photo: Luke Beard courtesy of Constellations

 

If these walls could talk.

It’s almost hard to believe everything this building has seen.  Here are some newspaper clippings and photos that help tell the history this place has witnessed, as we enter its next chapter. 

135 Auburn Avenue c. 2015

135 Auburn Avenue c. 1976

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 Original elevator machinery and future home of  The Corner Office 's private phone room.

Original elevator machinery and future home of The Corner Office's private phone room.

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 Lobby of the Southern Education Foundation c. 2016

Lobby of the Southern Education Foundation c. 2016

Photo: Luke Beard courtesy of Constellations

Photo: Luke Beard courtesy of Constellations

Photo: Luke Beard courtesy of Constellations

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 Future home of Constellations' civil- and human-rights themed library.

Future home of Constellations' civil- and human-rights themed library.

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Photo: Luke Beard courtesy of Constellations

Photo: Luke Beard courtesy of Constellations