Items filtered by date: November 2012 - onoffice magazine

Rivals, then friends, the German designers have used their creative tensions to make some seriously coherent products  

Creative partnerships are often sparked by conflict. In the music world, tension-fuelled relationships are everywhere, occasionally used as a tool by hard-bitten promoters to sell their latest pop hopefuls to a jaded public. Inevitably, they burn with a comet’s intensity before fizzling out under the innocuous euphemism of “creative differences”. For German designers Markus Jehs and Jürgen Laub, the two halves of Jehs + Laub, “creative differences” are often the beginning rather than the end of a project.

“We want to fight because it means there is something happening,” says Jehs. “First it is a feeling or intuition, and then you have to explain it. Maybe the man in the street cannot explain why he thinks something is stupid or not stupid, but our job is to explain why. This is where ideas are born.”

Although, to paraphrase Charles Eames, they take their fights seriously, there is nothing histrionic about the products spawned; far from it.

In fact, the duo’s work is characterised by an accomplished mid-century modern sensibility as opposed to exotic concepts. It is in the detail and the finish where Jehs + Laub excel. onoffice tracked them down at Orgatec – an environment that goes hand in glove with their serious-minded nature – where they unveiled new work for Brunner and longtime collaborators Renz, Cor and Wilkhahn.

Of all the new launches, it was the A-chair for Brunner that caught the eye. One well-respected British designer described it to me as a hidden gem, while another confessed they wished they had designed it. I relay the compliment, which confirms the pair’s belief that there was a gap in the market.

“There are many, many companies with many stacking chairs, but we felt there was nothing good,” says Laub. “With all of them you have the shell and the legs which you screw together with lots of parts. Put 300 of them in a room and it is very unquiet.” A-chair comprises two parts – a base and a shell, which can be combined in a variety of finishes: a wooden shell with plastic legs, or aluminium legs with a plastic shell. “This one chair can fit any room,” Laub concludes.

When arranged in rows, as they are in the press photos, the chairs resemble a well-drilled battalion of men marching in unison. With its simple form, the A-chair would be easy to overlook.

The industry’s big guns seemed to regard chairs and tables as passé this year, instead turning their focus toward reinventing the office cubicle. And while to many this appears a logical and indeed necessary step to claw back some of the privacy lost in open-plan offices, it fails to impress either designer. “This is a very attractive area for all the companies, because it is very hard to make money in the traditional arena. So they go in this direction. But in 500 years there are still going to be humans who need a chair and a table,” says Jehs. His compadre agrees, but goes further: “It is a fad. In two or four years you will not see any of this.”

“It is not necessary to have all these seating machines”

With sentiments like these it is no revelation to find the pair sticking to the office’s set pieces – meeting tables, conference chairs and suchlike.

I conduct our interview sat in one of their new products for Wikhahn, a sofa and chair combo called Asienta. Not only is it comfortable, but also looks inviting, thanks to a bulbous interior that bulges like the belly of an infant – contrasting agreeably with the outwardly cubic form.

The thin die-cast aluminium legs and frame seem almost too weedy to hold the weight of Orgatec’s carb- and protein-fuelled demographic, but this is illusory. Asienta is aimed at the contract market and is correspondingly robust. “Maybe we live in an era of dematerialisation where everything is made from less material,” says Jehs. “It is not necessary to have all these seating machines to sit in at work. It just makes things confusing. The chair should fit you automatically.” It’s an ethos explored with Graph – an ultra-masculine boardroom chair that boasted none of the normal gadgetry save for flexible stem derived from car suspension – and Shrimp for Cor. With Shrimp, Jehs + Laub removed sections of the wooden one-piece back, creating a crustacean-like shell that gives a little when you sit in it.

Of the two, Jehs is the chattier. Laub seems happy to take a back seat, opening up only when a question is aimed directly at him. He is, according to Jehs, the grounding force behind the duo, the one who brings occasional flights of fancy back to down to earth. “I am a bit here, there and everywhere. I don’t like to take care of everyday business. He [Laub] is very straight.” Conversely, it is Jehs the dreamer that drives the duo to greater heights. “If he has an idea, sometimes I might say, ‘Yes, but that is not enough, it must be fantastic.’” For a dreamer, Jehs shows an impressive lack of sentimentality when it comes to his work, a ruthless streak that Jehs admires: “He designs something for months and one day he just says, ‘this is bullshit,’ and throws it out. It could be two days before a presentation.”

Though they seem happy in their defined roles, the two know each other so well that they can slip into each other’s character to play devil’s advocate. “I am always sketching while I am talking and he is only talking while I am sketching,” says Laub. “At the beginning of a project this is how we work.” They are family men, meaning that, between work and home life, there is little time for anything else: “Having children keeps you from being a professional idiot.”

Physically they cut very different figures: Laub bespectacled and rangy, Jehs less so. Both speak in measured tones, their English coloured by the occasional idiosyncrasy.

They explain how they met at the Schwäbisch Gmünd design school in 1988 where, sat alongside each other during the entrance exam, they marked each other out as the “danger man” on the course. So began a rivalry that eventually, at the suggestion of one of their professors, morphed (reluctantly at first) into a partnership and friendship that has endured for over 20 years.

They interned in New York (catching a taxi was easier than in Palo Alto, they explain with faultless logic) and later pitched their first commercial venture, some luxury bathroom taps for Dornbracht. Unfortunately, the project coincided with the collapse of the communist GDR. With millions of their fellow countrymen on the breadline, Dornbracht sensitively shelved the project. Still, the advance provided the funds to help start the business.

“Ego has nothing to do with the design process”

From this stunted beginning Jehs + Laub gathered momentum, steadily racking up an enviable list of international clients.

It is the Italian companies, such as Cassina and MDF Italia, with their predilection for risk-taking, that has the pair bubbling with enthusiasm. “Their first response to a new idea is always emotional. They say, ‘Let’s do it,’ and if it seems impossible then it is a challenge,” says Jehs. “Everyone involved – the craftsmen for example – is a designer. You do a sketch and you don’t see the product again until it’s finished.” To many designers, this approximates the sort of nightmare in which you wake up a screaming mess.

For Jehs + Laub, it is a welcome collaborative effort. “A lot of the time they do something exactly how you would do it. It’s like they are reading your mind.”

They prefer to work with companies that have retained their factories and express dismay at manufacturing’s migratory flight from Europe to China (“If you buy something in the UK it should have something to do with that country”).

Similarly, the duo believes that well-produced furniture is better for the environment than recyclable products. “An argument made is that you can buy a chair and after three years you can disassemble the whole thing and recycle it. But why take it apart?” says Jehs, who explains how longevity is more important, and that the way to achieve that is through good materials and quiet design. These two strands unite the vast majority of their clients.

Its safe to say there aren’t many misfires in the Jehs+Laub portfolio. Virtually all their work is purposeful and somewhat traditional, in the sense that their sofas look like sofas and tables look like tables. All that matters is the product. “At the end of the day, the company, the designer – they are not important. What is important is that you are a partner with the CEO of the company and the product comes good. Ego has nothing to do with the design process,” argues Laub. There are, however, moments of ingenuity, like the Stelton wall clock, whose minute hand is attached to a moving outer rim.

For the most part, though, wild experimentation is not on the agenda. “We are not crazy. Sometimes you like to be crazy, but whenever we tried it we realised it was not possible for us to do that,” Laub says almost apologetically. “And at the end of the day, there is always Jürgen,” says Jehs. “It can become experimental, but we have to go back down to the ground and think, ‘What can we use this for?’”

While this office in Darmstadt, Germany is no spectacle, it is nonetheless a space that shows how an everyday workplace can be transformed with thoughtful
planning and a simple design feature to tie it all together.

Created by Vitra for German gas and electricity supplier VNB, together with VNB’s in-house architect Gert Bock, the new office brings together 50 employees from several different departments in separate offices. A key aim was for the space to be open plan and fluid, but its location in a former factory building meant the architecture had its restrictions. “There are five arches within firewalls that we had to keep, but they are quite narrow,” says Vitra’s Miriam Vogel, who led the interior design together with colleague Pirjo Kiefer, “but we still wanted an open space to link the departments.” The team therefore devised the idea of the yellow line, which runs through the main office space as a suspended partial roof supported by yellow partition walls. Made in lacquered wood, the shape is not regimented but asymmetrical, like a freehand drawing, which breaks up the uniformity of the office and introduces a vibrant design element to join the spaces.

“We wanted to emphasise the importance of this corridor and we had the room height for it so we came up with this idea, which covers all the space as a unifying element,” says Vogel. She explains that, in Germany, the colour yellow is used as a universal symbol for gas, which is one of quite a few design elements that were included so the employees could identify with the company they are working for. Across one wall is a graphic designed and installed by German design studio 22quadrat, which depicts a map of interweaving lines representing a network of pipes, and a map of a small town, to “show where the gas ends up,” says Vogel. To the same effect, Vitra chose to leave the air ducts and pipes exposed on the ceilings, a reminder of the building’s former use, but also – according to Vogel – a reaffirmation of the employees’ responsibility.

Perhaps a subtler link to the company’s identity is the use of natural materials, which according to Vogel is a reference to the natural gas VNB uses. What it does achieve is a welcome softener to the lines of white desks and grey floors, creating a warmer atmosphere. Oak is used for some meeting-room floors, thick-pile rugs are used to delineate smaller breakout spaces, and olive trees and plants are dotted around the whole interior. The Mouette light by Artemide that hangs throughout was even chosen for its bird’s-wing shape.

Though the “yellow ribbon”, as it has been penned, has become the signature detail of this project, it was actually an afterthought that arrived after the meticulous and thorough planning of the layout. Before embarking on any design work, Vitra carried out a two-day workshop with some employees and department managers, looking into how they worked and how they wanted to work in the future. “We asked – what do you need? What is bad in the old office? Where would you like the printers, what type of coffee area do you want? Everything you need to design a good office. At the end, we had a concept for what it should be.”

The 1,100sq m space was planned for 50 people, a fairly generous space-to-person ratio, and included a few individual offices for managers. Where space was left over, it was filled with think tanks, meeting rooms and breakout spaces. Some of these are just two of Vitra’s Alcove high-back sofas put together, while others are big boardrooms. “At the workshop we asked, do you really need all these meeting rooms – what do you use them for?” says Vogel. “You don’t need much space for most of the meeting areas, and each one can do different things. You can meet there and be creative without disturbing your colleagues.”

Like most of Vitra’s workplace projects, the office is based on a raised floor built from 60x60cm sections, enclosing all the wires. This, together with the easily adaptable workstations and breakout spaces, makes the space more flexible to accommodate new layouts in the future. “This is a sustainable office because they won’t need to move out very soon!” says Vogel.

It seemed a silly question to ask if all the furniture was Vitra, which it is, but Vogel says this is not always the case with their commissions. Sometimes, once the space is designed, the client decides not to specify Vitra furniture, but in this case Vogel and the Vitra team were in charge of the fit out from beginning to end. “This project is a complete work – in German we would say it is ‘round’,” she says. “We get the perfect result.”

%22 %466 %2012

Design Post examined

Why buy a stand at a trade fair when you can stay year-round next door? Cologne’s Design Post is the super-showroom making it happen 

Like any huge trade show, Orgatec is great for doing a lot of business in a short time all under one roof – but it’s a hard slog. Miles of artificially lit exhibition halls are enough to drive anyone loopy. Luckily just over the road from the Koelnmesse exhibition centre is Design Post, a year-round showroom for cool design brands such as Moroso, Kvadrat, Moooi and Magis, and a welcome escape for more and more Orgatec visitors every year.

Originally constructed in 1913 for the German post office and used as the postal railway station until the 1990s, this listed industrial building was taken over by Paul van den Berg and Willem van Ast, owners of Dutch brands Montis and Arco respectively, and renovated in 2005 by OIII Architecten. “The owners saw the ruins and had the idea to create a design hub,” explains Agerta Bokking from Arco, “so they started to collect high-level brands to join them.” Arco is now one of many brands installed here; Bokking says the place is perfect because it combines both a permanent showroom and a presence during the fair. “Also we can create our own atmosphere here with light, which you can’t do at the exhibition centre,” she says. Made up of seven adjoining arches, the structure features skylights and floor-to-ceiling windows that flood the interior with natural light, resulting in an altogether more serene atmosphere than its neighbour.

Although Design Post is not officially linked to Koelnmesse, many of the brands here rather sensibly launch new products when shows like Orgatec and imm cologne are taking place, as they are aiming at the same clientele. Swedish brand Lammhults showed its new Comet Sport chair (a smaller, neater version of its Comet chair by Gunilla Allard); Arco unveiled its new Cable Sock, Cable Net and Cafe stool by Jonathan Prestwich, as well as a series of side tables named Utensils; Dutch furniture company Gelderland showed its new Noon sofa by Karel Boonzaaijer; even Moroso saved some new contract fabrics for the
occasion. Many also hold special events and refurnish their showroom space to be more workplace-focused to align with Orgatec. So why aren’t they over at the
fairground instead? Andreas Schäfer, an agent for Gelderland, can think of plenty of reasons, one being the promotion that Design Post itself does for its patrons, including mailouts and architect tours. “Every year there’s new interest, new contacts,” he says, “[Design Post] do a lot – it’s very well organised.” In addition to being a platform for new products during peak fair seasons, the brands also get a showroom for the rest of the year, which for many is their only location in Germany. This also works out pretty nicely in terms of economics, as Schäfer explains: “A year at Design Post is not much more expensive than one week at the fair.”

However there’s no doubt it’s a risky choice. On my visit I leave behind droves of visitors in the Koelnmesse and Design Post is noticeably quieter. Lots of people I speak to say things always pick up a little later on in the day – a sure sign of an artier crowd – and it even opens later to catch visitors on their way from Orgatec into town, luring them with drinks and ambience. Still, for 2012, Orgatec recorded around 50,000 visitors while Design Post estimates that 8,700 people visited during the same week. Though some would argue that those 8,700 people are a refined and more relevant crowd, these companies must have considered the possibility of losing out on new business. It seems that firms are not necessarily here for a vast footfall, but to be associated with the high standard of its residents.

“We used to exhibit at Orgatec but we made the decision to move a few years ago,” says Lars Malm, export area manager for Lammhults. “This show suits us better because the level of brand is higher. Plus, when you compare the costs of installation and paying for the stand just for one week with 52 weeks here…”

Moooi moved in earlier this year (making it the company’s only German monobrand showroom) and though there is apparently a long waiting list, it’s no wonder it has been given a prime location in the rafters at the centre of the building. Moooi’s Laura Ramos Bello-Kluit says it was important for the company to have a strong presence here, and this location came with many other benefits. “It’s a nice initiative. By joining forces with these other brands, we benefit from their audience too. Plus, the natural light shows off the products well. It’s a complete package.”

The ultra-minimalist new office of Junta de Castilla y León – the advisory board of Castile and León, an autonomous region in northwestern Spain – appears to differentiate itself defiantly from the traditional architecture around it. One of its starkly monolithic perimeter walls stands right opposite a 12th-century Romanesque cathedral with ornate domes. These butter-smooth walls zigzag wildly at jagged angles, seemingly unsympathetic to the neighbouring buildings’ crumbly aesthetic.

Contemporary architecture rarely gets a look-in in Zamora, an ancient and conservative walled city that boasts the most Romanesque churches in Europe. However, the greater culture clash is not the new building’s walls, but the entirely glass-fronted, two-storey, ice-cube-like building that stands within them. This inner sanctum, flanked by two courtyards, is hidden from view from the outside unless you are viewing it from above. It’s fronted by two layers of glass, which shoot up directly from the ground; the outer one wraps right around the building at full height, forming a horizontal plane that creates a cube. The cavity between the glass walls is ventilated in summer so that the interior is kept cool, while in winter the solar heat trapped within it helps keep the building warm. The double-layered facade is similar to a trombe wall – an idea first developed in the 19th century in which a sun-facing wall is separated from outdoors by
glass, letting in solar heat which is then released into the building’s interior.

“It’s as if the building’s walls are made of air,” enthuses Alberto Campo Baeza, the architect who designed the project in collaboration with four others. Indeed, it’s very ethereal, an impression reinforced by the fact that it appears to lack a frame to support its glazing. Rather innovatively, the glass sheets are joined
solely – and apparently seamlessly – by structural silicone. Bridging the two vertical skins of glass are rectangular glass panels (attached to the former at right-angles) that give the walls greater rigidity.

From the outside, the building at the core of this structure – which, says Baeza, houses a “simple, clear interior with open-plan spaces and private offices for senators requested by our client” – is barely visible, veiled as it is by the glass facades and several slender, white columns behind them.

Yet while the project seems confrontationally futuristic in the context of Zamora’s medieval architecture, Baeza insists this isn’t so. In fact, the building turns out to be paradoxical: cutting-edge, yet inspired by past architecture and local context. The office was primarily influenced by arch-modernist architect Mies van der Rohe, specifically by his (unbuilt) Friedrichstrasse tower, designed in 1921 to be Berlin’s first skyscraper. This was to have fully glazed external walls supported by a steel skeleton that would free the outer walls from their mundane, load-bearing function.

But while Baeza’s muse may have been a modernist, the Spanish architect’s ideas are closer to those of postmodernism, given his passion for history and local context: he believes strongly in fusing contemporary architecture with historical influences. “It’s important to realise that new architecture in a historical city is living history,” he stresses, citing the fact that, for example, “Rome simultaneously has the Pantheon, Bernini and Zaha Hadid [her Maxxi museum of 21st-century arts].” Even so, contemporary architecture mustn’t slavishly imitate buildings from the past as this results in unimaginative pastiche, he adds.

Baeza uses lofty language – he has a penchant for ancient Greek and Latin terms – to explain his beliefs. His name for architecture that values the historical but avoids mimicking it literally is Mnemosyne (the personification of memory in ancient Greek mythology and the mother, by Zeus, of the nine Muses). And he describes architecture that directly imitates past buildings as mimesis (the ancient Greek word for imitation). In a recent article entitled Mnemosyne vs Mimesis: On Memory, Baeza quotes from architecture professor Reinhold Martin’s book, Utopia’s Ghost, which champions postmodernist thought and the acknowledgment of architecture from the past.

In fact, it turns out that Baeza’s Zamora project – modernist inspirations aside – embraces history and local context, too, albeit in a very abstract way. “The perimeter walls are made from the same stone [sandstone] as the cathedral,” he explains. “Zamora is traditional but, from the outside, I think our building looks like a medieval wall.” The jagged, idiosyncratic outline of the 12,100sq m site is determined by the shape of its former occupant: a convent’s kitchen garden. He refers to the site as a hortus conclusus, Latin for enclosed garden – although it is not much of a garden in any other sense, since nature is kept truly at bay with its stone paving and scarcity of trees.

Given the project’s radically modern aesthetic, was it difficult to get planning permission? “It was the result of us winning an open competition in 2007, and so we didn’t face any difficulties getting our design approved,” says Baeza. “And our client gave us enormous freedom. The building has been well received by the city’s population.”

For all its historical allusions, the project fuses the past and future, he continues: “The glass box represents the future. The glass sheets have been used reflect the latest technology; at 600x300x12cm they are the largest size of glass that it’s possible to make today.” By contrast, in a further nod to the past, the project revives an ancient custom of engraving a building’s cornerstone with the date it was laid. The one at this office bears the words “Hic lapis angularis Maio MMXII Posito” (this cornerstone was placed here in May 2012).

The building’s ultra-minimalist, all-white interior is less remarkable than the envelope that surrounds it, although it is pleasant for being light-filled, thanks to a grid of porthole-shaped skylights on the ground floor. Some of the furniture was provided by Spanish firm Sellex, but Baeza says that “because of our economic crisis, we reused furniture from the client’s previous office, only adding new furniture sparingly.”

At present, there’s no staff canteen, but Baeza hopes a “cafeteria” will be installed on the roof: “It would be great if people could enjoy the views from there.” Given the building’s potential for spectacular vistas of Zamora’s Romanesque architecture, this addition would surely further Baeza’s aim of fusing past and present.

When the previous tenants left Allens Linklaters’ new Melbourne HQ, they left nothing more behind than the grey carpet – the perfect clean slate. BVN architecture was appointed to develop a simple and sophisticated new workspace for the international law firm, which was relocating to a seven-storey space in the city’s landmark skyscraper, 101 Collins Street.

First off, a central stairwell was cut, connecting floors 35 to 40. Not only did this create a feeling of a building-within-a-building in the 57-storey skyscraper, it made for a more integrated, sociable space: “Otherwise, people on different floors do not see one other,” says Ninotschka Titchkosky, lead architect on the project.

“Mergers and acquisitions or tax lawyers will work together on the same deal, and come together to problem-solve,” Titchkosky continues, highlighting the
need for a workspace that was custom-designed to accommodate a project-based working practice for the firm, in which teams are more closely connected. In its previous premises (at the other, more “corporate” end of Collins Street) offices were all sorts of sizes, ranging from 9sq m for a junior practitioner to 25sq m
for a senior partner. “This meant that moving people around was problematic; there were hierarchy and status issues, and meetings tended to take place in people’s offices,” says Titchkosky.

The new space offered up the opportunity for a new format. Offices are now grouped into clusters around central secretarial workstations, and office sizes have been standardised, with two junior lawyers sharing an office of 12sq m, and all other lawyers occupying a standard office size of 10sq m. “The standardised model allows for really good breakout spaces and shared meeting areas, for the same total floor space,” says Titchkosky. “This is the trade-off.”

BVN worked closely with a design committee of eight group partners, mocking up different-sized offices to test, and undergoing a whole range of prototyping, to bring them on board. There was then was a “town hall” meeting with the rest of staff. “The consultation process was interesting,” says Titchkosky. “A lot of the time, firms have a desire to be more creative and want to be pushed, but they are also sophisticated strategic and logical thinkers and want to see the evidence that a new design works and makes sense.

“The majority were excited about the design concept, but some were used to creating a world within an office, hanging up ten shirts” – for privacy, presumably – “and holding all their meetings there.”

The artwork incorporated into the building also greatly lifts the space. “The concept of having an art-gallery feel to the offices came from the fact that the firm had an extensive collection of Australian art, and the feeling that this was a strong part of their brand, a differentiator,” says Titchkosky. “The idea of the workspace being a showcase made sense, as some of the collection hadn’t been seen in a long time.”

On the client floor, the concept has been ramped up; clients can come in and sit on benches to look at the art as if they have entered a gallery space, but the collection is also hung throughout the floors and within shared spaces. Managed by the firm’s own curator, it gives each floor a slightly different feel.

Talking about the inspiration for the rest of the fit out, Titchkosky says that “in the user-group interview, the term ‘clear thinking’ came up a lot. We wanted to come up with a space that was calm and uncluttered, where you can carefully think about solutions.” The team looked at a lot of art galleries, examining how they break up and manage space. Wide timber floorboards – inspired by Titchkosky’s stay at the Nimb Hotel, Copenhagen – help to add character to the space. Supplied by Dinesen, they are cut from Douglas fir with a lye and white soap finish, and along with the white walls, they have been used throughout to tie the project together. “They bring texture and warmth to the interior, without being busy, which is important,” says Titchkosky.

Manoeuvring 15m-long floorboards to the top of a skyscraper, and making them lie flat across large surface areas in the steel-and-concrete-slab building, was a complex element of the project. BVN looked at craning off part of the building’s facade to get them in, before it was sensibly decided to cut them and transport them in the goods lift instead.

“Since occupying the space, the design has filtered right through the organisation,” comments Titchkosky. “Employees have taken it seriously, and the space is maintained immaculately. The attention to detail in the finishing touches they have bought to the space have really set it off, right down to the hand-made grey Japanese teapots bought to complement the fit out.”

With the move, the firm also had a new part of the city to look forward to. The eastern end of Collins Street, Melbourne’s main boulevard, is known as the “Paris end” for the high-end mix of designer shops, restaurants, clubs and theatres that sit alongside office accommodation. The building also backs on to Flinders Lane, home of BVN’s studio as well as a plethora of after-work restaurant and bars.

As an added incentive towards teamwork, the architects made sure that the breakout spaces in each floor make the most of the building’s enticing views over Melbourne’s Botanical Gardens and Yarra River. Titchkosky confirms that it’s all going to plan: lawyers are being lured out of their offices, and into shared spaces and project-based working. “For younger team members especially, it has made the workplace a more interesting and dynamic place to be.”

On 29 November, onoffice and B&B Italia will host Designing for the Media, a presentation and panel discussion delving behind the scenes at the BBC and Channel 4 headquarters. We will hear from Helen Berresford, head of ID:SR, and Claire McPoland, interior designer at HOK, who will present their recent landmark projects for these leading broadcasters and explore the rollercoaster that is designing a workplace for a media giant.

If you’d like to come along and hear from these leading industry figures, and enjoy a prosecco or two with us, please rsvp to [email protected]

The talk will start at 6.30pm on Thursday 29 November at B&B Italia, 250 Brompton Road, London SW3 2AS

Invitation Designing-for-the-Media

The British Council for Offices is urging practices to get their entries in soon for its Regional Awards, with the deadline for submissions on 30 November. Each year the BCO selects the best workplace projects completed in five regions across the UK, which then go head to head for the National Awards. This year’s regional winners will be announced in April/May 2013.

At the 2012 National Awards, 7 More London Riverside won the Innovation Award after being nominated for the London & South East regional award. The Best of the Best and the Fit Out prizes were given to K&L Gates’ offices at One New Change, London, fitted out by Lehman Smith McLeish, after winning the London award. Virgin Money in St Andrew Square, Edinburgh, won the Scotland regional award for best Refurbished/Recycled Workplace and then went on to win the National Award in the same category. The Greater Manchester Police Force Headquarters did the same in the Corporate Workplace category.

Regional categories are Corporate, Commercial, Fit Out, Refurbished/Recycled and Projects up to 2,000sqm. Judges choose nominees for the Innovation Award from regional entrants. Projects must have been completed between 1 January 2009 and 1 November 2012. To download an entry guide, visit

%01 %464 %2012

100% Design

100% Design went off with a bang this September, drawing over 25,000 visitors with a brand new format including a dramatic light tunnel entrance, a web-like auditorium designed by Paul Cocksedge and the new 100% Office section – the first dedicated workplace design show for LDF. Big brands and emerging designers alike took part, showing an impressive array of products, and here we’ve selected three of our favourites…














 Swedish designer Camilla Schlyter’s Stealth desk has a piano-like shape, its hooded partition creating more of a sense of privacy in open-plan workplaces. Multiple desks neatly tessellate to create a more dynamic alternative to the usual straight lines of workstations, and, in common with Ragnars’ other desks, Stealth is height-adjustable, so users can easily switch between sitting and standing.

David-Irwin Deadgood















Emerging designer David Irwin launched four new products including the EXTL lights for Deadgood (above, with Irwin’s Working Girl table), faceted aluminium pendant lights finished in matt black anodised lustre, and three products for new Brooklyn-based brand Juniper: the M lamp, a wireless light inspired by a miner’s lamp; Cross side chair, a walnut chair with a wool upholstered seat; and Alvin desk and chair, made in tubular steel and maple.

Bill-pod JDD















School friends James Mercy and Joe Duffell only started furniture design company JDD (Joint Design Direction) in 2010, debuting at 100% Design. Now it is an international brand with clients like Unilever and Google, the latter of whom approached them to design some special pieces for its Ireland office. JDD showed two of these designs, the Bill and Ben pods, at this year’s show, intended for use in breakout or relaxation spaces, in-between desks or even in the canteen. According to the pair, the products represent what JDD is all about: adaptable, flexible products delivered in bold colours and geometric forms.

newsletter 2015