Published On: August 1, 2018

Outer Space Indoors

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To reach investors and the notice of the public, tech startup projects must be radical, different. A co-working company in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, has adopted that concept literally and created a space that is out of this world. At the company, UFO Space, in the city of Canoas, a suburb of Porto Alegre, the idea of the infinite freedom of outer space has been incorporated into the interior design.

Inspired by the company’s extraterrestrial name and the idea of freely diving into the unknown, the architecture studio designed the office space for UFO. The design incorporates floating rocks that line the walls, a difference in workspace heights, and outer space names for meeting rooms.

UFO Space is a co-working company, a new endeavor in Brazil that is extremely popular in cities like New York and Los Angeles. A co-working company doesn’t produce anything. Rather, it rents its office space in the form of rooms, cubicles, and work tables to the public.




With many people today working simply by using their laptops, a need has arisen for very small offices and ones that don’t require an investment. Young people who have recently graduated from university and wish to work for themselves need a space to work that doesn’t require buying or renting an entire office.

Inside a co-working space, individuals may be starting their own companies, doing research, looking for investors on the internet, or meeting with friends to form a business partnership with the hopes of one day creating a successful company with enough money for their own offices. In the meantime, having a work table or cubicle is sufficient space for a laptop and cellphone, and affordable.

Thanks in part to 2009’s Innovation Law, Rio Grande do Sul has three tech parks hosting more than 300 startups and science clusters. The Porto Alegre metro area, which includes Canoas, is touted by the local government as a habitat of innovation. Canoas is home to the La Salle scientific research university and a large series of tech incubators and start-up weekends.


While this is UFO Space’s first co-working project, it’s not surprising that Rio Grande do Sul was their chosen spot to launch one of their many co-working units to come in the country. São Paulo might be where Brazil makes most of its money, but the gaúcho southernmost state is proving to be the place where it gets most of its tech ideas.

While co-working spaces are often radically designed, catering to the young and creative entrepreneurs who use them, few are as exceptional as UFO Space. Instead of being grouped tightly inside a wire wall, as rocks usually are, the design team at decided to place the rocks in gravity-defying ways, suspending them in a natural layout. The rocks are actually hung one-by-one on steel cables. There are also oddly rotated circular lights placed throughout the office space in order to create the illusion of actual unidentified objects flying above.


Along with the rocks, trampolines, hammocks, and bleachers, also created a mezzanine. The idea was to provide customers not just with a diversity of space given their particular layout needs, but also with a diversity in literal, and thus hopefully figurative, points of view – such as the way one would stare at earth from the window of a space station.

For those who work better in isolation or need privacy, there are cocoon-like environments with acoustic padding. The meeting rooms have names like Andromeda and Milky Way. “The crowd’s reaction was even better than we expected,” the owners of UFO said. “Everyone walking in front of our co-working office stops and walks in, even if they are not interested in being our clients, but only to understand what’s going on with the rocks.”


Unfortunately, there is still a gender imbalance in this environment for co-working. The team isn’t immune to that: its four members, Francisco Tubino, Guilherme Busin, Lucas Dutra, and Matheus Stringhini, are all male. Knowing that the way women use public co-working spaces might differ from the way men envision them, the architecture team decided to bring in a consulting female architect to make sure UFO would be an inclusive space that could, in turn, lead to more women-lead startup projects in Brazil.

“From the moment UFO came to us to design their office, we knew that it was necessary to include a differentiated vision in order to make the space friendly to all who could benefit from it,” explained. “So we invited Letícia Jacobsen to help us, a great architect, who throughout the process let us see where it would be necessary to adapt the project for women.”

That male/female designer relationship informed the diversity of the workspace layout, including, for example, the cocoons. So, while UFO was inspired by matters out of this world, the design team never lost sight of its main goal – to make sure this project, which could inform the co-working space trends in the region, would make this world a better one.

Bradesco, one of Brazil’s largest banks, just created a co-working space in February in São Paulo. It’s called InovaBra Habitat. At InovaBra Habitat, 153 startups, 25 large business, 10 tech companies, along with investment funds, researchers, and consultants all interact to develop new technologies.

InovaBra Habitat

InovaBra Habitat

“More than a co-working space, this location was created with co-innovation in mind, to make sure that relationships and cooperation are the main results,” says Fernando Freitas, 36, executive superintendent for innovation at Bradesco.

Startups pay R$ 700 a month for a small office, while large businesses pay R$ 2800, tech companies and investment funds and consultants, R$ 1189. It’s necessary to apply for a spot in the co-working space. Bradesco selects the applicants based on the type of business and its maturity.

IBM is one of the large businesses present in InovaBra Habitat. The US company has been renting an office since March to stay close to both startups and clients. “Our main goal is to foment, democratize, and innovate the use of our technology,” says Stéfany Mazon, 22, IBM’s AI specialist.

UFO Space is located at Avenida Farroupilha, 4545, Canoas, RS, Brazil


[Research for this article comes from Folha de S. Paulo and the website FRAMƎ. Photos of UFO by Marcelo Donaduss]

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