WeWork taps Bjarke Ingels as chief architect

Company plans to build campuses

Adam Neumann and Bjarke Ingels (Credit: Alexei Hay via WeWork)
Adam Neumann and Bjarke Ingels (Credit: Alexei Hay via WeWork)

UPDATED, May 8, 3:48 p.m.: WeWork hired Danish architect Bjarke Ingels as “chief architect,” as the co-working company ramps up its development business.

Ingels, who designed the Durst Organization’s rental apartment building VIA 57 West, among other New York projects, will continue to run his architecture firm BIG alongside his new job. At WeWork, the architect will be charged with designing the company’s new Midtown headquarters in the Lord & Taylor building at 424 Fifth Avenue. He is already working on the design of WeWork’s first WeGrow grade school.

WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann told Fast Company that the company will build more ground-up developments, designed by Ingels, this year. It plans to start working on so-called campuses — basically small neighborhoods managed by WeWork that include offices, apartments and a school — in 2019.

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“If I were to just hire his firm, then there’s a client-service provider relationship,” Neumann said. “In my opinion that’s a limiting relationship. It’s what we’ve observed in the real estate world. If we can streamline these decisions and make a little bit of frictionless design, we can unleash creativity.”

WeWork’s real estate investment vehicle, which the company launched in partnership with private equity firm Rhone Group, bought the Lord & Taylor Building for $850 million from Hudson’s Bay Co. last year. In April, another WeWork venture paid $826 million for the London office complex Devonshire Square.

WeWork, which was valued at $20 billion following a $4.4 billion investment by Softbank, is hungry for more money. The co-working firm raised more than $700 million in a bond offering last month, but some investors expressed concern with the company’s financials. WeWork lost $933 million last year, and the bonds have already slumped. [FastCo]Konrad Putzier

Correction: an earlier version of this post incorrectly claimed that the same WeWork vehicle bought the Lord & Taylor building and Devonshire Square.