Visiting Village Underground
Located next to LX Factory and near the old Lisbon docks, entering Village Underground can seem confusing and overwhelming at first. The place is composed of 13 maritime containers and 2 disabled buses arranged like Tetris and with bright colors, cool graffiti and clever details all around: A wooden swing, a bridge to get from one container to the other, an outside area to sit, meet and relax and a big half pipe behind the complex. Village Underground that everyone only calls “VU Lisbon” has become a well-known workplace for creatives as well as a cultural- and event space. During our trip to Lisbon, parts of our group met up with Matheaus – one of five people running and managing VU Lisbon – who showed us around the trendy area.
VU Lisbon was initiated by Mariana Duarte Silva and opened in 2014. When working in London, Mariana had a desk at VU London herself and was amazed and inspired by the entire concept. Therefore, she decided to take it to Portugal, her home country, and build a second creative space. Today, VU Lisbon hosts around 60 people who are, among others, working on virtual reality products for google, building an energy drink company or are designers, developers, event organizers or architects and who value the tight-knit group of people. “Community” and “close” were terms repeatedly used by Matheus during our tour. VU Lisbon aims at bringing interesting and exciting people together and sees personal fit as a key criterion for renting out their work places. Interestingly, VU Lisbon has no intentions to expand its space to be able to host more people, but rather wants to remain the cozy and small bunch of people. At one point, VU Lisbon had made first steps into incubation, but decided to stick to its core and follow the community-only approach as they felt it would have been too much time and effort and they were not sure whether they could be successful with the available resources. In general, residents highly appreciate the close community and friendliness and value the fact that they really leverage the entire group of people: Residing designers support others with their creativity and skills, people make use of their personal as well as professional network and residents pitch ideas to each other to improve their businesses.
Work places can be rented on a monthly or hourly basis. Each container can be shared by up to five people and work places cost around 200€ per person per month including all utilities. During our tour, we also visited the common areas, such as the meeting room, recording studio and cafeteria – all only a few steps away from the residents’ desks making it a very convenient place to work at. Besides the working areas in the containers and buses, VU Lisbon has started to use the warehouse space in one of the buildings around as a public event space. In the past, companies such as BMW or Ducati have used this space for product launch events while others have hosted their Christmas parties in there. Companies thereby hope to benefit from the creative and innovative environment and even use it for their product and brand positioning.
What remains after this great visit are a few key takeaways. Firstly, use the diversity in terms of skills, backgrounds and experiences to help each other out and thereby grow the community as a whole. Secondly, a work place in a creative environment fuels new ideas and innovative solutions – something that we at Vertical try to create with our open office space as well. And thirdly, never lose sight of your core and only expand your offerings in case you really feel they add significant value to your customers.
All in all, the tour through VU Lisbon was inspiring and great fun at the same time. We hope the video can give you a first impression of VU Lisboa.