Systems alert

Every two years, the office furniture market is flooded with new designs, some in prototype and some in finished form. Almost one year on from the last Orgatec – Cologne’s office furniture extravaganza – how many of those new systems are available to the UK specifier? Vitra’s Ad-Hoc office system designed by Antonio Citterio with Glen Oliver Lw attracted considerable interest in Cologne but has only just been launched in the UK (in a series of select gatherings held at Vitra’s Grosvenor Street showroom).

Similarly, the Samas Group’s new system, Dynamics in Working, which combines old ways of working with the concept of hot-desking, will not be available to the UK market until October.

And despite its many admirers at Orgatec (and more recently at NeoCon in Chicago), President’s Kyo system by FM Design is still not in production. However, two British systems launched at the same time are enjoying success: Artemis by BIB for Desking Systems has already been installed at the new London headquarters of OFLOT – the regulator of the National Lottery. This was a fast-track refurbishment project undertaken by Network Design Group which required the furniture to be delivered in just four weeks, undoubtedly a factor in the selection process. Additionally, partner-in-charge Bill Tonge felt that “Artemis has a timeless quality and was the best-looking system in the price range”. Meeting tables, storage units and more than 30 VDU workstations were installed in February. Although shown at Orgatec with colourful laminate worktops in plumb and blue, the client has opted for a steamed beech veneer.

The first UK installation of Asher’s Ad-lib system by PSD is the new premises of Smith & Nephew Healthcare in Hull. Ad-lib is based on the bespoke principle which allows workstations to be built up level by level to suit different ways of working. It is equally suitable for simple workstations or more complex system configurations. Smith & Nephew was assisted in the furniture selection by project management consultant Lawn-Smith and chose a range of workstations, storage facilities and desking. “We were able to choose what we wanted,” comments managing director Jim Dick.

Of the new American systems, Haworth Castelli’s 3D seems to be forging ahead. The system is based around a structural pole which houses the cabling and is aimed at computer intates, felt duty-bound to be radical. “I knew they wouldn’t like it, but someone had to suggest something different,” he says. His idea for a moving event instead of a fixed site didn’t even make the rejection pile.

In fact, humiliation piles upon humiliation – his was one of the only two of 61 submissions to end up in the “non-conforming” box. The other was from a Mrs H Stirzaker from the Midlands, whose submission consisted solely of the words “sites in the Midlands should be considered”.

Non-conformism is where Potter is at. In the Sixties he was wearing kaftans while everyone else wore nylon shirts, and today he turns up at meetings in Marks & Spencer suits which don’t go down a treat with his Nicole Farhi-clad clients. And he always drinks Rioja when everyone else is on the claret. “I often get head-hunted by big design groups, but I like doing my own thing,” says the free-spirited Potter.

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