The Creative Boost Of Buenos Aires’ Shared Workspaces

When sharing is working
When sharing is working
Vivian Urfeig

BUENOS AIRES â€" In the Argentine capital, always aiming to be on top of the latest trends, is part of the wave of turning staid office culture into hubs of creativity through shared workspaces.

These workspaces, which are offices that freelancers share as a workplace, are found to foster useful interaction and creative activity. Many say that these places help them concentrate on their work better. Maybe it’s because of the Chinese takeout lunches they share, the ping-pong tournaments or the hammocks found dangling on some office terraces. These shared offices, which cut costs, generate a good work atmosphere and boost creative networks, are growing increasingly popular these days.

Some of these places act as a kind of second home or living room for freelancers and mobile workers who find in them an ideal space to develop and share interests with like-minded people. These offices often have lounge areas, open plan kitchens, sofas and "fun" zones. Besides being comfortable, these offices provide a space for the free flow of ideas as well as a private place on a table. These shared workplaces, which are often discreetly located inside restored or older buildings, suit the need of users who range from experienced professionals to "digital nomads" â€" the workers of the future.

In the Espacio Gamarra in the Parque Chas area of Buenos Aires, an old building has been converted to host a group of architects and graphic designers.

"We share data on competitions and suppliers and joint projects come up from time to time,” says Carolina Jaroslavsky, an architect at Umbral. She sits near graphic designers working for Estudio TIPA as well as another architecture firm Damero.

Everyone focuses on their own work but "we agree that sharing helps us have a good time. The most interesting thing here is the diversity,” says Jaroslavsky, saying that the exchanges with coworkers livens the work atmosphere.

Some workplaces are more exclusive and only accept certain kinds of people. Manawa, a space in the Palermo SoHo district intended for creative types and entrepreneurs working in the arts, is one such place. "We don't accept salespeople. And we prefer foreigners â€" the more cosmopolitan, the more enriching the atmosphere," says Martín Nardone, a DJ, apparently oblivious to the possibility of discrimination.

People working at Manawa include rock band managers, literary headhunters and employees of ZZK Records. "I concentrate better here and I’m more productive," says Guillermo Arana, who shares a desk, Chinese meals and after work drinks with a French architect, Alex Lyens.

Another workspace, DECK-co, was designed to foster creative energy among the workers. The design includes a "weave" panel that architecturally unifies the various private spots in the office while serving as a center piece.

The weaving concept ties in with DECK's philosophy of "shared growth" and linking its users toward a "particular end," says architect Vanesa Lijdens.

Another "decker," the 27-year-old architect Virginia Micheloud, says she likes DECK's design and comfort. "It allows me to separate work and life, belong to a stable community that brings security. It gives me a chance to meet people." Above all, she adds, she gets feedback that allows her to grow her project.

These spaces provide not just shared living rooms, bars and kitchen facilities but also messenger services and paid access to seminars. The five workspaces run by Urban Station provide workers with lockers, bike racks and a "Creativity Room" with contains giant rubber balls. These places share a common idea â€" that free association with like-minded people boosts creativity, and brings success.

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Debt Trap: Why South Korean Economics Explains Squid Game

Crunching the numbers of South Korea's personal and household debt offers a glimpse into what drives the win-or-die plot of the Netflix hit produced in the Asian country.

In the Netflix series, losers of the game face death

Yip Wing Sum


SEOUL — The South Korean series Squid Game has become the most viewed series on Netflix, watched by over 111 million viewers and counting. It has also generated a wave of debate online and off about its provocative message about contemporary life.

The plot follows the story of a desperate man in debt, who receives a mysterious invitation to play a game in which the contestants gamble their lives on six childhood games, with the winner awarded a prize of 45.6 billion won ($38 million)... while the losers face death.

It's a plot that many have noted is not quite as surreal as it sounds, a reflection of the reality of Korean society today mired in personal debt.

Seoul housing prices top London and New York

In the polished streets of downtown Seoul, one sees endless cards and coupons advertising loans scattered on the ground. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, as the demand for loans in South Korea has exploded, lax lending policies have led to a rapid increase in personal debt.

According to the South Korean Central Bank's "Monetary Credit Policy Report," household debt reached 105% of GDP in the first quarter of this year, equivalent to approximately $1.5 trillion at the end of March, with a major share tied up in home mortgages.

Average home loans are equivalent to 270% of annual income.

One reason behind the debts is the soaring housing prices. In Seoul, home to nearly half of the country's population, housing prices are now among the highest in the world. The price to income ratio (PIR), which weighs the average price of a home to the average annual household income, is 12.04 in Seoul, compared to 8.4 in San Francisco, 8.2 in London and 5.4 in New York.

According to the Korea Real Estate Commission, 42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s. For those in their 30s, the average amount borrowed is equivalent to 270% of their annual income.

Playing the stock market

At the same time, the South Korean stock market is booming. The increased demand to buy stocks has led to an increase in other loans such as credit. The ratio for Korean shareholders conducting credit financing, i.e. borrowing from securities companies to secure stock holdings, had reached 21.4 trillion won ($17.7 billion), further increasing the indebtedness of households.

A 30-year-old Seoul office worker who bought stocks through various forms of borrowing was interviewed by Reuters this year, and said he was "very foolish not to take advantage of the rebound."

In addition to his 100 million won ($84,000) overdraft account, he also took out a 100 million won loan against his house in Seoul, and a 50 million won stock pledge. All of these demands on the stock market have further exacerbated the problem of household debt.

42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s

Simon Shin/SOPA Images/ZUMA

Game of survival

In response to the accumulating financial risks, the Bank of Korea has restricted the release of loans and has announced its first interest rate hike in three years at the end of August.

But experts believe that even if banks cut loans or raise interest rates, those who need money will look for other ways to borrow, often turning to more costly institutions and mechanisms.

This all risks leading to what one can call a "debt trap," one loan piling on top of another. That brings us back to the plot of Squid Game, "Either you live or I do." South Korean society has turned into a game of survival.

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