In 2050by Anya Zinn / 22.11.2013
When you walk into Twenty Fifty, the first thing you pass is a bike mounted onto a gridded iron fence. Dodge past it, round the corner, and the dark wooden floor pans out into a vast, open space:
Pillars and metal hanging lamps are staggered amongst trestle desks and black seats. A man dressed a waistcoat and velvet hat climbs the stairs and moves around the desks to deliver steaming board of pizza and coffees to faces that pop up from behind charging Macbooks.
Whether it’s the exposed bareness of the interior, the marriage of metal and wood or the tapping of fingertips across keyboards, you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking you’d stepped into the heart of some phantasmagorical factory. But when you go up the stairs up the side of TRUTH coffee, you are, in fact, climbing a rope ladder into a clubhouse.
Gareth Pearson and Nathan Daniel Heller are just two local Cape Town boys: they surf, they skate, they organise events. But these aren’t your typical small club party excuses of events created so the organisers can finally anoint themselves headlining DJ’s;; these men are the brains behind events such as First Thursdays and Walking the Daisies, respectively. With their fingers on Cape Town’s creative pulse, they know exactly what to do when they feel that pulse quicken to make it beat even harder.
Launched in August this year, Twenty Fifty is their collaborative response to the growing need of shared office spaces cropping up all over South Africa and the world. Investing in a trend may seem unwise as trends are, by definition, ephemeral; but Gareth and Nathan saw an opportunity in its potential for the new way of working: freelance.
More and more creatives are removing themselves from desk-jobs and taking the incentive to be their own boss. And in an open office space like Twenty Fifty they won’t entertain petty distractions. Here, when you sit down and set up, you become a part of a community of doers, all with one shared purpose: get shit done. Hell, Twenty Fifty even have a weekly event dedicated to it: “Big Wednesdays” sees a mass late-night work-binge, where you write down what you want to achieve in the session on a big black board at the beginning of the night, and you get it done. No room for excuses like, ‘just finding inspiration on this 9gag page’ or ‘I’ll get it done tomorrow’ – it’s about the now as much as it is about the future.
If clubhouses are known for one thing, it’s their exclusivity – but it does work differently at Twenty Fifty. The system works on a monthly membership basis, and to join, you need to apply. However, this isn’t so that applicants can be scrutinised from above a trapdoor, judged by what they’re wearing and kicked down if their journals aren’t leather-bound. Nathan and Gareth see the application process as more a way to start a conversation – find out what makes the hopeful tick, and figure out whether they’d be beneficial to the space, and whether the space would be beneficial for them.
Twenty Fifty can also work as a transition space for some members – it did for their first member, Melissa: surgeon turned crochet-er who is now building a fashion-based social enterprise. In the room were also web developers, designers and an app builder. The space acts as a crucible of professional creatives – and it’s no coincidence Gareth and Nathan are striving to build a community based on diversity. Although the application process is the primary form of access into the clubhouse, some individuals are prominent or innovative enough to be invited, and the guys are looking forward to having representatives across creative strains in-house – anything from food, media and publishing, fashion and film, and even the odd tech start-up. They envision Twenty Fifty as an active movement – harnessing different co-working spaces all over South Africa and the world, forming a network of creators and innovators who are driven to explore new possibilities and do things better.
With so many big names in the creative industry under one (exposed) roof, there’s huge potential for the clubhouse to turn into a powerhouse. This, of course, has not gone past the attention of Nathan and Gareth, who, staying true to their name and ethos, are looking onwards and upwards and have big ideas burning in the pipeline for the future. Next year will see the implementation of a programme that will see members teaming up to work on themed projects – watch this space. The name acts as a business strategy when put into action – and, by 2050, these guys are aiming for something close to world domination. They envision Twenty Fifty as an active movement – harnessing different co-working spaces all over South Africa and the world, that form a network of collective operating. Nathan, specifically, likens this to pouring oil into pasta – how it splits and regroups (and leaves the pasta glossy and tastier).
So far, they’ve done everything right for Twenty Fifty to become a centre for creativity in Cape Town: they have the right atmosphere, the right people, the right mindset. Most important, Nate and Gareth themselves get shit done: it’s never a quiet or dull day at the office, there are always opportunities for inspiration – be it through the invited speakers who talk on the importance of failure, the group lunches or simply the books they have lining the big bay windows. And if all else fails, you’re standing on the roof of a famous coffee shop.