Love Your Space with Sankt Oberholz Co-Working

By David Knight |

On the door to the balcony which looks down imperiously over Rosenthaler Platz, someone put up a sticker which read: “Love your space.” The word ‘space’ was written in a heart shape. It’s quite appropriately really; there is a lot to love about the co-working space above Sankt Oberholz. The café is a hub of the startup scene in Berlin – on any given day you’ll find plenty of enthusiastic entrepreneurs tapping away on their keyboards and sipping their coffee.

In fact, it’s a magnet for creative people of all kinds. We’ve been holding our monthly Silicon Allee meetups at the café for nearly a year, and one of its owners, namesake Ansgar Oberholz, invited me to spend some time writing out of a newly-opened co-working space directly above the café.

Ansgar Oberholz sits at the conference room in the new co-working space.

The Oberholz venue now covers the entire building, sitting on the corner of Torstrasse and Rosenthaler Strasse in Berlin’s central Mitte district. The first two floors are taken up by the café, which Ansgar opened in 2005 with his business partner Koulla Louca, while flats rented on a short-term basis which were launched in 2009 occupy the top two. In between is the co-working space, a former flat which was refurbished with plenty of vim into a shared office which Ansgar hope will attract a more “serious” crowd then below.

Access to the office is through a door from the street separate to the café. Once inside, you can appreciate the fantastic staircase, a spiral type unusual to Berlin. The building was originally erected in 1898 as a beer hall by the Aschinger brothers, and it does exude a certain historic sense of style. Now, however, the drink of choice is coffee, and inside the co-working space, all kinds of online entrepreneurs and freelancers are hard at work.

Co-Working on Every Floor

Ansgar said: “We see the whole building as one concept because there is co-working on every floor – even the apartments, where sometimes there are groups brainstorming for a couple of days, or meetings between agencies and their clients doing workshops.”

They wanted, however, to ensure the new office did not have the same atmosphere as downstairs in the café: “This is a different idea up here; it is more serious than in the café, and more business people than students. It should be good for work and concentration but also should be lively.”

The space has a total of 18 desks, although Ansgar said that because many people would not  be there all the time, it would be possible to have up to 22 members. “But we will let it grow at its own pace so we get a feeling for what is enough and what is too many.” Currently there are 11 members.

The co-working space combines the old with the new – the former flat has a distinctive Altbau feel, with big windows and balconies looking out onto the busy intersection below, as well as a funky new décor including numerous hanging lights, a couple of old phone box head booths complete with multi-coloured post-it notes, and even a separate padded room for phone calls you want to keep private.

“There is a lot of creative energy here,” Ansgar said. “I see the whole building as a creative hub. I marvel about the output of the whole building – if you could see all the screens, containing all the ideas, concepts and so on, which are going on in this place, it’s amazing.”

A Very Flexible Space

So what do the users of this space think? Matt Smith is an online entrepreneur from the UK who has been in Berlin since June. He runs a number of online companies, mostly in marketing and promotion, including Melody Nights, a global online booking platform for professional musicians and bands. Having moved to Berlin in June, he recently signed up to the co-working space at Sankt Oberholz, and he told Silicon Allee: “To network is one of the aspects (of becoming a member). Before, I was sharing an office elsewhere in Mitte with a film production company. I still have that space, as I’m trying to expand my business. It’s great as it’s a very flexible space; you book the space not the person, so anyone can use it.”

Matt said he had previously worked in a shared environment elsewhere in Berlin. “This compares very favourably,” he added. “It’s a great location, well maintained, well structured, it has a good attention to detail, which is very important for a good environment to work and network.” It’s also vital, he said, to not overestimate how many people a shared office can comfortably accommodate. “If you are looking and struggling to find a seat, you are being much less productive. I’ve had that experience before – I went to see some others in June and they seemed pretty busy. But here it’s great.”

The co-working space is still looking for new members, and the conference room can also be rented separately for meetings – as can the two flats above it as well. So what does Ansgar envisage for Sankt Oberholz? “We are happy that we are the hub for hipsters, tech and digital people. I don’t know where the story will end, but it will be more tech than design.”