All systems go!

With adaptability crucial to today’s office furniture, Nicky Churchill finds out how manufacturers get down to business

SBHD: With adaptability crucial to today’s office furniture, Nicky Churchill finds out how manufacturers get down to business

UK offices are changing, led by international companies importing international standards and UK finance houses demanding a hi-tech working environment to compete with their international counterparts. This has resulted in the evolution of the white-collar workplace – changes in technology, staff hierarchy, office layout and, inevitably, office furniture requirements. The role of the specifier is to respond to this development in a cost-effective and efficient way. Managers are now integrated into the open-plan office, and the cellular office has become something of a luxury. But executives with their own offices will still require the “status” desk to distinguish them from the masses.

Adaptability is the key. It is undoubtedly more cost-effective for the specifier to satisfy both the open-plan office and varied managerial requirements with one office furniture system. Components can be shared and re-used as necessary. The different roles within the office are often defined by using details such as a different finish on the worktop or a different leg detail. The privacy commanded by managers sitting in the open plan can be satisfied by adding desk-mounted screening and storage, while managers with their own offices can be supplied with a cable-managed “managerial” desk for their new technology.

In response to the evolving office, manufacturers are designing office furniture to be more adaptable. Here we focus on new systems which aim to satisfy these current trends. m

SBHD: Bisley Office Equipment

The Wings range of desking and storage was originally designed for the European market, and its success there has now encouraged Bisley to introduce it to the UK. The system has a limited range of components, which makes it easy to specify and to reconfigure, and there is a variety of different shaped worktops available. Surprisingly, cable management is an optional extra, as are third- level screens and modesty panels. Wings satisfies both the cellular and open-plan office, but at the moment there is no capacity for overhead storage.

SBHD: Finish/HNB

Finish/HNB’s Optima is a cable-managed screen-hung system aimed primarily at the open-plan office. The design is based on a frame structure with clip-on panels and is remarkably versatile, with the capacity to evolve with the changing needs of the office. Unlike many of its competitors, Optima can be specified as a 720mm-high desk with cable management, and the structure will accommodate a 13 amp plug. The finishes are varied and include fabric, timber, glass panels with timber, painted worksurfaces and associated storage components.

SBHD: Desking Systems

Artemis, designed by UK design consultancy BIB, is a radical departure from existing product ranges by this British manufacturer, and justifiably it caused quite a stir at its Orgatec launch in Cologne last October. The design centres on the three different leg options – T-leg, panel and plain. This allows you to specify the leg according to the status of the worker or the task to hand, while still achieving continuity within the office – heavy cabling at one end of the workstation and a plain skeletal leg at the other. BIB has also designed a “rotalink” circular desk for use as a link table or a free-standing workstation with integral cable management. Other benefits of the system include different height worksurfaces, desk-mounted screens, and sliding tops which allow access to cable trays in any configuration.

SBHD: Castelli

The basis of Castelli’s new 3D system is a structural pole, which accommodates vertical cabling, acts as a fixing point for the work surfaces, screens, and leg brackets and can be built up to take full-height screens. Horizontal cabling is provided in a steel cable tray accessed by the sliding worktops. 3D has been designed both for the solo office and open plan, and the finish options fulfil both requirements. However, as a concept, it works better in open plan than as a solitary workstation up against the wall – mind that gap!

SBHD: Knoll

Hannah Options is a development of Knoll’s Hannah system, designed by Bruce Hannah in the late Eighties. Regarded by many as a `heavy’ system, the new Hannah introduces a cable-managed beam which replaces the under-structure of the original system. New elements have also been introduced above the work surface to give greater access to cabling, and new veneers, laminates and metal colours are in the pipeline. The result is a lighter looking system all round, and one that is more cost-competitive than its predecessor. Specifiers are able to combine the old with the new to satisfy different tasks within the office.

SBHD: Herman Miller

The Rubner Group, designed by Karl Heinz Rubner, takes its shape from the trestle table and, as such, alludes more to the studio than the open plan. But technology has been catered for with a double beam assembly for the wire management, sliding tops to give access to the cable dump, and adjustable feet which also bring the up cables from the floor. (How you actually get the cables to the worksurface is another matter altogether.) But in the open plan, the privacy screens let the system down. Although they are designed to take trays and accessories, there is no capacity for overhead storage. This is available in a complementary range of pedestals and storage cabinets.

SBHD: Marcatr

Extra Dry, designed by Mario Bellini with Claudio Bellini, is both a panel-based and free-standing system, with that characteristic light Italian designer look. The worktops and linkage units require minimal metalwork for support, either in the telescopic brackets (for height adjustability) or the individual supports (with a touch of `Arad-esque’). For the open plan, storage bins hang off the upper panels. The managerial office has a smooth painted finish and textured glass screens.

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