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Design for office life

11 November 2010

Anna King

More than 600 office furnishers and facilities designers gathered at Orgatec in Cologne last month to present innovation and solutions for the challenges facing our places of work.


Under the headline of Better Office - Greater Success, office furnishers and facilities designers gathered at Orgatec from 26-30 October for the international trade fair for the modern office.

Orgatec has decreased in size dramatically over the last few years which many feel is for the better. The show now comprises the cream of office furniture design and rather than being overwhelmed by its vastness, visitors are able to see all that Orgatec has to offer. There is also time for high level thinking, with many exhibitors prepared to share their theories and predictions for the future of the workplace so one feels less bombarded by pure sales patter.
The atmosphere was very upbeat and although there is a definite euro-centric feel about the show, its international reach should not be underestimated. As Martyn Colebrook, managing director of Colebrook Bosson Saunders explained: “For us, Orgatec is a great opportunity to bring together Colebrook Bosson Saunders’ representatives from all over the world: from Australia to Dubai and Singapore to France – all make an effort to attend; to learn from each other, to see first hand our own new product “Flo” and to absorb developments in the market as a whole.”

Changing times

The eclectic mix of stands is always a talking point, with Vitra as always the inspirational crowd pleaser, defining its enormous 20,000 sq ft booth with end on end wood that we were assured will be re-used. Herman Miller notably re-used elements of previous show stands in the spirit of austerity and sustainability and Humanscale must be praised for its beautiful simplicity.
The way we work is constantly changing – fuelled by technology, demands on real estate and the types of spaces required to allow workers to perform tasks to their optimum. As we all know the speed and efficiency of the reconfiguration of a space can often have a dramatic impact on morale of employees in an organisation, which is essential for facilities managers faced with more employee churn than ever, as businesses/public sector organisations still face mass redundancies.

The integration of technology within the furniture was a key trend with monitors, projectors, or loudspeakers often concealed in furniture at the touch of a button, microphones were seen to directly retract into the conference table or integrated monitors and what may appear to be a normal glass tops transforming into projection walls with touch screen technology.
Communication and collaboration are all essential elements in a modern workplace and the facilities provided need to respond to and support these requirements and much on offer at Orgatec did not disappoint.
 
Flexibility

The over arching theme of the entire show was clearly that of ‘flexibility’ both in terms of what individual products have to offer and how they respond to the user, to the formation of modular types of furniture and the ease of configuration to deal with expanding and retracting workforces, as well as the multiple uses of softer furnishings for break out spaces. On another level many of the exhibitors did not want their products only to be seen in a commercial/office context with reference to domestic use frequently made.

Two front runners for task chairs were predictably SAYL by Herman Miller with a ‘mere’ third of stand space given over to its design and development, and Humanscale with the Diffrient World Chair under the spotlight.

 Kinnarps was at Orgatec for the first time this year and presented a number of products including a workplace system – Work DS, again with flexibility in mind. It comprises both tabletop and frame sections, offering a wide spectrum for a number of work situations.         In the office storage arena Bisley had the most innovative offering with a prototype for Console on display, challenging the way storage is planned into the workspace, bringing it to the centre rather than assuming its location on the periphery.
So another good year for Orgatec, with all the key manufacturers very much still present, demonstrating commitment and investment to the marketplace and more positively many exhibitors estimating that the show was far busier than in recent years.