10 December 2010
Every other year, the design and office furniture community gathers in Cologne at Orgatec to showcase its latest thinking in workplace designs. On the look out for the new and innovative, Jane Dickson gives PFM a selection of the best on show
DESPITE THE TRAVAILS OF the world-wide economy in 2009, Orgatec, the biennial office and facilities trade fair in Cologne this October, was as ever the place to be to see innovations and new developments for the workplace. As UK manufacturer, Elite Office Furniture, said “At Orgatec we see all our UK dealers and other interested parties; everyone comes here.”
With over 600 exhibitors from 41 countries (including a large contingent from the Far East such as China and Japan) the exhibition this year focussed on how efficiency and productivity can be improved through well-designed and ergonomic products coupled with wellplanned office design. Time after time the refrain was that if fewer staff were expected to produce better results, these staff deserved being well looked after by their employers.
Innovative developments ranged from an electronic virtual assistant; office chairs using new materials, chairs providing even more in-built flexibility, and many chair designs with ‘membrane’ backs; storage cabinets with integral cable management; a circular group workstation; modular designs for networking facilities within an open space; acoustic materials for cupboard backs and doors; acoustic structures for secure meeting and networking rooms; and even prototype designs for home office seating.
Many desking manufacturers included modular designs for meeting points, networking and private meetings within the office - for example, König+Neurath’s new NET.WORK.PLACE furniture is based on an 80cm module. Herman Miller showed a heightadjustable linear plan desk range (design BroomeJenkins) enabling odd clusters of desk (3, 5, 7 or 9) as well as the more usual even number clusters. More desk manufacturers now offer electrically–operated desk height adjustment as an option.
The variety of chair designs reminded me that no one design seems to meet users’ needs. Health and safety is now more of an issue, as a chair is the most personal item of office equipment, and occupational health and HR staff increasingly have a voice in seating selection. Manufacturers strive to develop seating that is easy to adjust without requiring a manual. Dauphin has produced an interactive user manual and the 60 second ‘healthy click’ both of which are offered to all its users online. Amongst its new designs, Girsberger launched SWAY, a standing seat adjustable in height and with a buffer for a leaning position. Interstuhl showed early designs for a home office chair with chunky upholstery that would look good in any lounge.
Of particular interest was Bisley Office Furniture’s new office storage concept, Console™ which offers the option of including cable management within the storage, rather than the desk. Developed by Bisley Studio in conjunction with Radar Design, Console is the culmination of a two year programme which included a series of intensive focus groups in London and other European cities in order to gain in-depth understanding of the storage requirements of the company’s customers. “One issue highlighted by the focus groups,” says John Fogarty, Director of Design, “was being able to back up a laptop or other IT equipment overnight, safely and securely locked away in the storage provision.”
The storage modules allow for a range of flexible configurations, and Bisley has developed a software product to assist designers and space planners make the most efficient use of floor space whilst accommodating the individual needs of the users. Console will be launched at the Milan Fair next April.
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