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Left to right: onoffice's former editor James McLachlan, Luke Pearson and Tom Lloyd Edge, a table masquerading as a desk. Or perhaps the other way around
05 May 2015

onoffice in conversation with PearsonLloyd

Words by 

onoffice eased along the launch of Modus' Edge table with a special 'in conversation' event with its designers, PearsonLloyd: here are the highlights

What has been the genesis of this product? I understand that Edge is not a new idea.

Luke Pearson: About 12 or 13 years ago we were working for a client and they asked us to do a very simple table. We came up with the idea of this modular perimeter frame that would also allow different sizes and different heights of table to be developed.

As soon as we had come up with the original notion of the extrusion, we realised there were a lot of permutations that were possible – a lot of different configurations where we could go from a very simple table up to a desking system.

With Modus over the last two years, we have developed this early idea into a fully fledged family of products. In this room we have the tables; and then upstairs we have the light desking system dealing with cable management and screens; and later on, a range of upholstery and storage products, which all use the same system.

I gather its original incarnation was a little ahead of the curve – so what has changed in the workplace in the past ten years?

Tom Lloyd: A decade ago, you either had desking, or you had meeting tables. The idea of touchdown or light benching products didn't really exist. Then out of the desking market came what we today know as the bench, which tends to be an engineered product often made from down-speccing a desking system.

In this case we have started with a table and taken it towards being a functioning working space.
The one thing that's really come about in the last two years is this culture of shared tabling – team tables or touchdown spaces – that did not exist a decade ago. Edge acts as a bridge between a classic meeting room and desking arrangements. It does feel like it is a much more appropriate product than when we first designed it.

Has technology been the driver for those changes?

TL: We all know what we are much more mobile. We are not tethered to our desks by technology and there is a much more free sense in how you specify workspaces. This culture of tabling has emerged as a slightly more humane form of workstation. It is explicitly a table first, which is then dressed to take the functions of cable management and of screening.

I presume that by stripping away the detritus it has reduced the cost?

TL: Yes, it is a very cost-effective product. If you take a desking system and try to make it simple you will still have all the built-in costs of what that desking system was originally designed to do at its most complex. But Edge is very stripped back.

Is the linear shape of a table really conducive to collaboration?

LP: There will always be a place for the table (rather than perhaps a desk) to be a great meeting point, and Edge has a very light touch, in the same way that people are very happy to sit and meet in a cafe.

You have a comfortable posture as you are sitting at it, but it's also about scale: you are facing people and interacting, whether in an analogue or digital way. We're not talking about enormous numbers of people – we're talking about small groups of people who are sharing information and having a dialogue.

Tom, when onoffice spoke to you at Orgatec, you said that no one is designing desks anymore. Why?

TL: I think one of the reasons is that no one can make money from making desks anymore. The desk has become a commodity, if you like.

The market has driven down the price. And so it becomes less and less easy to differentiate yourself. I think that's why Edge is a bit of an interesting product for us, as it is not just workplace furniture. It is just as likely to be found in a kitchen as it is in an office.

The mechanical quality of the office is, luckily, beginning to die. People are much more interested in the texture of textiles and materials and finishes. It is slightly more joyful to design office spaces now than it was ten years ago.

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