Angelenos may be ride or die for their city, but the place they call home isn’t exactly known as a top contender of the world’s greatest cities (we argue otherwise!). The reputations of places like New York City, Tokyo and Paris are cosmopolitan giants compared to Los Angeles, so it makes sense that Second Home founder and CEO (and Londoner) Rohan Silva was surprised by how much he came to like the Southern California city.
“I wasn’t expecting to as much as I did, in truth, because I’ve heard all the negatives,” Silva tells Angeleno. “I really have fallen in love with the nature and it’s such an open, welcoming place. We’ve felt so welcome here and I really want to repay that.”
In late 2019, Second Home set roots in East Hollywood, bringing to Los Angeles a two-acre co-working space that is 60 percent outdoors, 40 percent indoors and boasts Michelin-starred restaurant Phenakite, bookshop Libreria and hospital-grade MERV-13 air filters (In other words, the air is completely recycled every two minutes. It’s something they’ve had since before the pandemic).
“There’s lots of cities in the world when new concepts set up, people are quite hostile to it,” Silva says. “It’s been the opposite here and it’s been so great.”
It’s easy to see why Angelenos have been so welcoming. Second Home is more than a millennial fever dream. With its alfresco working areas and schedule flexibility, it elevates the coworking experience by tapping into what makes Los Angeles so great.
Dubbed as L.A.’s densest urban forest, 6,500 trees and plants surround Second Home, making the open-air design about function, not just aesthetic. It all came together at the hands of SelgasCano. Founded by José and Lucia Cano, the Madrid-based architecture studio coalesce their academic research on biophilia to create sustainable environments that support wellbeing and productivity.
“The workplace needs to be a place of inspiration, a place where you meet people you wouldn’t otherwise meet, a place where you’re going to learn things and be exposed to inspirations that wouldn’t happen at home,” Silva says.
Second Home is also doused in yellows and oranges, elevating the warmth not typically effused by the standard office space. A stone’s throw from the 101 Freeway, its lushness mirrors Los Angeles’ dynamic nature as a temperate environment fit for city dwellers and adventure seekers. It offers on-site childcare and allows you to bring in your dog.
“What we really felt was L.A., unlike say New York or even Chicago, is a very horizontal city. It’s a real sprawl of a city, and that was part of the magic,” Silva says. “It’s incredible the sheer amount of nature that’s here, the biodiversity. It’s amazing. So, it’s been really nice to be able to celebrate that.”
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Current inhabitants include Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, TaskRabbit, filmmaker George Pank and The David Nott Foundation, among others. Speaking to its mission to ensure diversity and innovation, Rohan explains that Second Home works hard to make sure that no one industry ever gets above 20 percent. However, taking a closer look at the needs of Los Angeles, Silva realized they needed to be a bit more flexible with this rule when it comes to media, which has been broken up into more specific classications to welcome the entertainment capital's top players.
“We’ve never been in a city before where media is the dominant industry and it’s so multifaceted,” he says.
The London-based creative workspace’s membership options speaks to the work schedules of large companies and freelancing individuals alike. You can opt for a garden office for your team of four (or up to 200) or commit to a permanent desk as a “Resident.” Even those just looking to pop in for the day can jump on a day pass. Such a variety in membership also fuels diversity among members. It’s part of the reason Second Home is in East Hollywood.
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“We want to be places where nonprofits can meet for profits,” Silva says. “It’s really sad how cities can end up being quite segregated racially, economically and so on… We love East Hollywood because it’s so diverse. You’re right next to Thai Town, Little Armenia. But we're also a block away from Netflix.”
“To have such diversity of industries and different types of organizations, there’s a reason to leave the house because you’re going to meet people here that you’re going to end up collaborating with, doing business with, learning from, etc,” he adds. “I think this has got to be the new norm.”
Silva’s envisioned new norm follows the pandemic-stricken flux in workplace culture. In addition to health concerns, the general transition to the work-from-home model for many office jobs imposed the consideration of what actually is the actual ideal workplace experience? Indeed, not having to trek to a drab, cold office has a plethora of practical benefits. But for a city whose lifeline is its creative pulse, a different office option, like Second Home, is crucial.
“I think working from home has been actually surprisingly productive for people, but it’s not great for innovation and new ideas because you don’t have those serendipitous moments,” Silva says.
He points out HBO’s animation training facility for previously homeless young people.
“When HBO approached them, the homeless charity said, ‘Yes, we’ll do it, but it’s got to be at Second Home,’ because we’re a partner of that [organization],” he says.
Igniting creative output requires not just nourishment of the brain, but the body, which is why every Second Home location features a restaurant. And the one in Los Angeles just so happens to have a Michelin star. Helmed by chef Minh Phan, Phenakite came as a result of the pandemic. Second Home wanted to reach out to restaurants that closed down as a result of lockdown and through that process found Phan. Through a nine-course-plus meal, Phan and Phenakite present a dining experience that leans into seasonal plants and seafood.
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“People come together around food and we’re all about bringing people together,” Silva says.
Giving another reason to leave the home, Second Home offers a stellar lineup of cultural education programming that has featured conversations with the likes of Judd Apatow, David Lynch, Patrisse Cullors, Cleo Wade and Stella McCartney.
“It’s not just good enough to be around other people,” he explains. We see our job as stirring the pot and making sure you meet other people.”
Between Second Home’s various locations, Silva has had plenty to see of workplace culture changes. He notes that in Los Angeles and London, Mondays and Fridays are much quieter than the rest of the week. He has also seen more companies work in “bubbles.” For example, a team of 30 might organize themselves into groups of six, which rotate what time of day they’ll come into work.
Silva is excited to see the long-term impact Second Home has on Los Angeles. Already, the teams based in the London spaces have created jobs 10 times faster than the United Kingdom national average.
“Shouldn’t office life be open air and healthy and inspiring," Silva assers. "I think that’s what people are demanding. It’s really cool. I think it’s such a great positive kind of movement for our city and our society and we feel very lucky to be playing a small part in that.”
Photography by: Iwan Baan