June 9, 2015

The New Office Landscape: 5 Products for Social Spaces


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With the countdown to NeoCon 2015 in full swing, let’s take a look back at how far we’ve come with office furniture in the past year. The omnipresence of the Internet has changed the way we work and, in turn, the spaces that we work in. Lightweight laptops and powerful portable devices enable us to work in isolation—and from anywhere. Despite this, the traditional office is still an important space—but now its most important offering is the opportunity for collaboration and social interaction. It’s a shift in focus that has been reflected in recent new office furniture designs, which take an altogether more casual approach, encouraging interaction, movement, comfort and flexibility.

1. Herman Miller’s Public Office Landscape, designed by Yves Behar of fuseproject, is designed to provide surfaces, storage, and seating across a multitude of work settings—from collaborative meeting settings to private workstations. The core component of the system is the Social chair, which can be integrated into a wider seating system or added onto the side of a desk in order to foster casual meetings and encourage interaction. As the office grows, the pieces can be rearranged and reconfigured to suit changing needs.

2. Recent years have seen the distinction between residential and office furniture soften, with informal sofas, pouf seating and coffee tables bringing the comforts of home into the workspace. Launched last year at #IDneocon, the BuzziSpace workbench BuzziPicNic is one such design. Created by furniture designer Alain Gilles for Belgian brand BuzziSpace, the table and bench set is a collaborative desk solution with a built-in system of electrical strips and cable management that belie its rustic wooden facade.

3. Showcased at this year’s SxSW festival in Austin, Texas, the folding Mogo seat by Rhode Island-based Focal Upright is the latest launch from the ergonomic office furniture brand. Weighing in at just 250 pounds, Mogo can be carried around the office and used as an impromptu perch; as a task seat at a standing desk or used around the conference table. Mogo’s annodized extruded recyclable aluminum stem can be adjusted to any height from 18.5” to 38” while a soft rubber foot stops it from slipping. The detachable contoured seat pan is made from fiberglass-reinforced nylon and comes with an easy-to-clean cushion.

4. Handheld tablets and smartphones are actually changing the way in which we sit. In a study of more than 2,000 people in 14 countries, Steelcase identified nine new postures caused entirely by the use of personal technology devices. In response, they came up with the Gesture chair—a seat that encourages motion rather than forcing the body to hold a particular pose. By drawing the body in closer to the screen, the seat eradicates the need for workers to hunch over their work surface. In addition, the armrests are designed to support a person texting, while the back cradles the user as they recline to scroll on a tablet screen.

5. Inspired by the hordes of fast-growing tech start-ups that populate California’s Silicon valley, Konstantin Grcic’s Hack desks for Vitra are designed with customization in mind. The Hack, unveiled at last year’s Orgatec in Cologne, is made from a set of unfinished wooden panels that fold out into a cubicle with a height adjustable work surface. The cubicles can be linked together to form an instant office or can be folded away flat at a moment’s notice.

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