Groundwork London’s installation in the heart of Hackney. Photograph: Jack Hobhouse/PA
The strange, translucent structure encircling a tree in a London square is a pop-up pod that blurs the boundary between workplace and nature.
Nestled among the foliage in Hoxton Square, east London, a businessman opens his laptop. Enjoying a panoramic view bathed in sunshine, he begins his day. He is not a victim of London’s office-space shortage. Instead, he is taking advantage of TREExOFFICE, the regeneration charity Groundwork London’s new installation in the heart of Hackney.
Groundwork London is seeking to reinvigorate the city’s green spaces through project Park Hack. With the support of Hackney council, its pop-up office (a plastic pod on stilts at the bottom of the tree) has been installed in Hoxton’s leafy square. Blending into the natural scenery, the office is now open for bookings and is available to community groups free of charge at weekends. Users directly contribute to supporting parks in Hackney, as all income from the project is reinvested into more installations or into cultivating existing green spaces.
The office was designed by the Australian architect Natalie Jeremijenko, in collaboration with the artists Shuster + Mosley and architects Tate Harmer. Rory Harmer, of Tate Harmer, said the aim was to “create a new office concept, changing the way we work in the city”. It is one of a crop of alternative office-space projects in London, like BoxPark in Shoreditch and ContainerVille on the banks of the Regent’s Canal.
Standing 4m tall, the main structure of the TREExOFFICE is made of compressed paper, while the outer walls are a combination of transparent plastic and translucent polycarbonate. The challenge was to create a space that is “robust, but blurs the boundary between the office and nature,” said Harmer. The greenery of the square filters through the panels, filling the office with a soothing light.
For now, TREExOFFICE is still a prototype, but Groundwork London hopes that, if it proves popular, the project can be rolled out in more sites in and around Hackney.
So, next time you see somebody slip into a garden square, laptop under arm, it might not just be for a lunchbreak. Project Park Hack wants us to reconsider our green spaces, and to do more with them. If all goes to plan, we might find translucent pods popping up in parks all around the country.