It’s a buzz word these days. Journalists, CEOs and that overly active colleague on LinkedIn are all talking about it. They say that Uber has disrupted transit. That AirBnb has disrupted the hospitality sector. That Netflix has disrupted the entertainment industry.
Hyperbolic or not, in each of these cases, a single pivotal moment exists – a factor of disruption and change.
But in the workplace there hasn’t been a single moment. Instead, mobile technologies and new business practices have created multiple moments. The result is something different altogether. Technology and people are changing faster than furniture or building infrastructure.
What we are seeing in response are versatile and changing workplaces. Offices where people have more flexibility and less structure. Studios where people don’t necessary work from their desks. In many cases people bring work home. This has affected different industries and different firms in different ways. There is no formula for how to react to these changes, but it is important to understand it and take it into consideration.
Our recent installation at IIDEX explored these changes. Part art and part functional lounge, GOAWAY! was IIDEX’s Best of the Workplace Feature. A 2000 sqft space on the showroom floor, we hid its contents from the outside. Our goal was to elicit the same sense of the unknown that is facing the workplace.
Once inside, guests would see four different “biomes” representing different places we work – the traditional workplace, the outdoors, cafes and public spaces. These biomes each had a distinct look and smell. We wanted to remove guests from the showroom floor. To engage all their senses and bring them to these environments.
Each biome featured a small work area, comprised of furniture from industry leading designers. Then, every few hours, we would swap the furniture out for a whole new set. GOAWAY! evolved and changed over the course of IIDEX, but always remained a functional space.
We worked with major industry suppliers to explore this theme. Teknion, Haworth, Keilhauer Steelcase, Framery and Vitra all contributed to the installation. We curated the furniture selection to reflect the evolution of the workspace. We showed that harnessing solar power could create well-lit outdoor workspaces with Steelcase’s Emu Ivy set. Teknion’s Fractals, Haworth’s Opennest Plume and Keilhauer’s Talk series demonstrated how high-backed seating can create privacy even in open spaces. Steelcase’s Brody, Vitra’s NesTable and Haworth’s Harbour Worklounge challenged preconceptions of what a desk should look like.
The central piece, and the only one that didn’t change, was the Framery booth from Drechsel Business Interiors. It acted as an anchor for the installation and a summation of our thesis: that the solutions to the new challenges of the workspace hide in plain sight. Smart design creates beautiful pieces that offer flexibility and versatility to the contemporary office or studio. A canopied chair can create a private space to work. A table can be lit using the power of the sun. A soundproof, comfortable booth can eliminate the construction of a private meeting room.
These furnishings are versatile. They are multi-functional. And they look great. When we design contemporary offices, these are the types of products we suggest to improve worker efficiency and comfort. Our team put on GOAWAY! to show that these solutions exist. There are answers to the challenges of the disrupted workplace.
GOAWAY! underscored one central truth: that no one knows what the future of the workplace will be.
But it will be everywhere.
A special thank you to Quadrangle staff who helped with the installation: Andrea Hall, Caroline Robbie, Dan Seljak, Diana Smiciklas, George Foussias, Julie Mroczkowski, Lana Ivanchuk, Maria Krynicki, Nariman Mousavi, Rob Shostak, Sarah Choi, Terri Flinn, Tor McGlade, Vera Gisarov and Will Marenco.
Furniture: Framery, Haworth, Keilhauer, Steelcase, Teknion, Vitra
On the walls and the Takeaway: James Munro, Astley Gilbert
Sound: David Buckman, Bellosound
Scent: Tracy Pepe, Nose Knows
Volunteers: Ryerson School of Interior Design – ryerson.ca/interior
Photography: Cindy Blazevic – cindyblazevic.com or headforhire.ca