industrial facility: locale for herman miller’s living office
all images courtesy of industrial facility
at NEOCON 2013–the international event for the contract furniture industry–a common theme which resurfaced was the ability for office products to seamlessly shift from functioning as individual work spaces to open-plan environments. industrial facility‘s (sam hecht and kim colin) ‘locale office’ for herman miller is evidence of this, a system formed by a number of elements which encourages unexpected interactions, allowing employees to freely transition between private and collaborative activities.
the system is composed of a centralized structure with cantilevered elements whose heights can easily be adjusted
‘locale’ expresses subtly curved components connecting areas with a visually and physically softer flow of lines; the sinuous forms provide a less rigid feeling office environment, accommodating a range of work styles and tools. this is a result of a centralized structure that features cantilevered surfaces whose heights can be easily adjusted via the push of a foot paddle, giving individuals the flexibility to either sit down for focused jobs, or stand up to communicate in a more efficient manner with colleagues. outside of height adjustability, mobile tables, screens and easels, offer a flexible office setting, quick to change for any given situation.
the heights of the cantilevered parts are easily adjusted via a pedal
‘we often talk about how social networks behave given current technology, where close relationships are not based on physical proximity, but instead on similarity of purpose or interest. you might make an alliance in a social network with someone who is very far away but very close to you in other ways. they are great spatial condensers in this respect. locale is a physical manifestation of this principle, where the most relevant participants are kept close and communication is fast and frequent.’
kim colin, industrial facility
the curved forms offer a less rigid feeling office space
‘one could argue that collaboration is a buzzword right now, that it’s going to go away, but we don’t think so. people are collaborating globally, empowered by digital networks, but the most ambitious businesses still need productive, collaborative physical environments.
the offices we visited during our research—places where people want to work – are open-plan, transparent, and buzzing. ‘locale’ brings different parts of the office in proximity so you shouldn’t have to go away to talk to a colleague in a more conducive setting. Instead, you can raise a table, stand, and discuss, or move nearby to sit at a low chair and table in front of a mobile whiteboard – you don’t have to move to completely separate spaces to accommodate varied work styles. to maintain highly qualified, talented workers, companies need to provide space that better connects them to each other and brings more promise to the open plan’.
sam hecht, industrial facility
the adjustable heights of the cantilevered components allow individuals to either sit down for private work, or stand to easily communicate with colleagues
‘locale’ makes working together more productive and pleasurable by intelligently organizing the office into social clusters that allow for free movement, variety, and adjustability. ‘locale’ took over two years to develop with more than 40 engineers. during this time, the conditions of work in terms of atmosphere and attitude have shifted, so it was important that we leapfrog any old conceptions of the modern office and design a new place based on our understanding of the current social and cultural changes.’
don goeman, herman miller’s executive vice president of research, development, and design
‘many offices try to evoke a kind of forced playfulness—slides, chill-out zones, ping-pong, even a faux home-like interior. to us, these are stylistic changes, while ‘locale’ is designed to accommodate a paradigm shift. we find a lot of value in our own office, which is small, highly efficient, and considerate. each of us is from a different part of the world, and we are collaborating constantly about ideas, methods, and opinions,’ continues don goedeman.
‘our work is never created in cultural isolation, and therefore our office behaves like a good, condensed international neighborhood, which is efficient, energetic, and pleasurable. we often talk about how social networks behave given current technology, where close relationships are no longer based on physical proximity, but instead on similarity of purpose or interest. you might make an alliance in a social network with someone who is very far away but very close to you in other ways. they are great spatial condensers in this respect.
‘locale’ is perhaps a physical manifestation of this principle, where the most relevant participants are kept close and communication is fast and frequent. ‘locale’ is also informed by an urban idea and the way a thriving english high street serves the much broader city by arranging local variety and activity and services along one street. ‘locale’ is similar in that it organizes the office into clusters of activity along the workbase, a linear architectonic element that helps give definition to the open-plan office.
you can compose different clusters out of distinct functional modules, and the result is that disparate functions of the office will reside comfortably together. the library, the social setting, the working desk, and the meeting table can be close by, within one cluster.’
‘useful mobile pieces (height-adjustable tables, screens, easels, storage, refreshment) can be pulled up to customize the group and individual settings off the workbase, making for richer compositional and functional variety. spontaneous interaction is very relevant to productivity, and ‘locale’ encourages this in the open-plan office without relying on broader architectural-scale social devices (like open stairs and community eating areas). we spent a lot of engineering energy getting rid of table legs so you can work more freely around large, height-adjustable, cantilevered tables, and to create a mobile table and accessories program to accommodate the individual and the group in a porous environment.’
easels and screens along with mobile tables add to the flexibility of ‘locale’
welcome to ‘living office’
‘locale’ is part of a broader program of herman miller, entitled ‘living office’. it should help people customize their methods, tools, and places of work to express and enable shared character and purpose.it is based on what is fundamental to all humans and evolves continuously in response to change. it is a more natural and desirable workplace that fosters greater connection, creativity, productivity, and ultimately, greater prosperity for all.’
brian walker, CEO herman miller
the herman miller publication ‘welcome to living office’ highlights a few aspects that define the new era, the era of ideas: with the ongoing optimization of production and information sharing, the demand for ever more innovative solutions increases. as business cycles accelerate, the global focus of work shifts to the successful generation and deployment of new ideas.
democratized business capabilities and digital interconnectivity are driving an organic model of organization. individual work functions are necessarily diverse and interdependent.
in the new landscape of work, creativity and idea generation drive value, and humanity is the distinguishing capability. processes don’t create ideas, think up new products, or maintain relationships, people do. tomorrow’s enterprise should be based on the fundamentals of life, not industry. in the new landscape of work, a dynamic equilibrium of shared passion and profit delivers greater performance and value for both individuals and organizations. by offering a new vision for management, tools, and places, ‘living office’ generates this mutually reinforcing engine of prosperity.
highly networked and increasingly human, today’s technology engenders ultimate connectivity.digital tools enable a virtual experience interwoven throughout the landscape of work. to succeed in the new landscape of work our tools and technologies must evolve from individuals and information management, to include groups and creativity. these solutions should be so naturally guided and interwoven throughout our physical experience of work that we barely notice their presence.
work is no longer tied to a discrete location—it happens anywhere, at any time. yet offices struggle to reconcile what they were with what they are becoming. tomorrow’s offices need to attract, nurture, enable, and retain the talent that will drive innovation and execution, and bring an
organization’s strategy to life. through an optimized variety of settings a ‘living office’ will give individuals something that cannot be had anywhere else: a spiritual connection to work and colleagues; a platform for increased productivity and effectiveness; and, a more naturally human experience of interaction and creation.
welcome to the ‘living office’ by herman miller
no matter what kind of job you do, whether alone or together with others, this is how work gets done. in every workplace around the world you’ll find people engaged in the following 10 activities (– see the gallery below for close-up images).