Reinterpreting office spaces

Reinterpreting office spaces

Stuttgart-based Ippolito Fleitz Group reinterprets office spaces with various symbolic gestures for an exhibition design

Exhibition design, Ippolito Fleitz Group, Reinterpreting office spaces
Interior design Ippolito Fleitz Group Identity Architects Photo Philip Kistner

Amongst the complete gamut of spaces covered under the commercial segment, one that is seldom looked into is exhibition design. The right tools and elements play a big role in connecting with the visitors. The ORGATEC fair in Cologne invited the German-architectural firm, Ippolito Fleitz Group, to design a special exhibition presence for the fair, entitled ‘RE/WORK – Moments of Inspiration’. The exhibit, with a footprint of approximately 500sq-m, reinterprets various zones in an office and explores the question: what role does the classic office play in our rapidly changing work world?

While the fair exhibitors presented finished products and concepts, the firm’s role at the ORGATEC was that of interrogator. “Does the office still make sense?” was the underlying question and starting point for their concept. The designers answered this question with a resounding YES. Space provides a tangible counterbalance to the digital technologies that increasingly have come to dominate our working life. It is, and remains, a carrier of identity, the means by which one identifies with their employer and their work. With this in mind, RE/WORK was conceptualised with eleven places, situations and communication scenarios. The exhibition presence was developed in close cooperation with the Group’s technical partner Zgoll: Konferenzraum.

The exhibit extended an invitation to reflect through ironic statements and questions that are printed in large letters on the wall panels of the façades. The individual scenarios across the stand are zoned using different floor materials.

Welcome desk

The reception area is the calling card that establishes a first point of contact with visitors. The RE/WORK reception desk welcomes visitors with two strong contrasts: an oversize display that hangs above a green counter with an ornamental plant mosaic designed by Art Aqua.

Conference room

Video conferencing and telepresence are now an integral part of everyday life at many companies. The designers show the conference room as an overlay of real and virtual with a long conference table bisected by a wall. Both wall surfaces display video presentations of the opposite side. The real table is continued in the video image, enabling interlocutors to meet at eye level – in a shared, virtual space. One half of the table is equipped with all the latest technology, including retractable microphones, a multiscreen video projection and air-conditioned office chairs from Klöber. Grouped around the more minimalist half of the table are chairs from Arper with a large screen set into the wall. A sideboard opens up to reveal detailed solutions for presentation technology from Zgoll.

The executive’s workplace

How does modern leadership function? How and above all where does the boss sit? Are insignia of power still important today? With the keypiece table from Walter Knoll – work desk and conference table in one – the designers show how hierarchies can be dissolved. Its tapering shape enables dialogue partners to sit at different distances from each other. Thus, a consciously selected seating position establishes the relationship between the interlocutors. In combination with the lead chair the design shows how materiality has become a modern symbol of leadership.

The lobby

The lobby is an intimate waiting environment with Bao armchairs and an Ameo table (both from Walter Knoll). The table is topped by a touchscreen, which shakes the visitor out of passivity, animating him/her to active interaction. The adjacent transparent OLED screen shows what touchscreen technology is capable of: different floorplans can be selected and a real model of the building is superimposed over them.

The kitchen

The most important part of the office is the coffee machine. The designers have taken this realisation to a whole new level. A quick break, pausing for a chat: one would really prefer to be sitting in a café out in the outside world – and preferably in Italy if they had to choose. Hence, the display created a similar set up around a mobile coffee station. Plants and coffeehouse-like furnishings create a piazza feel. Three ceiling plates conceal directional loudspeakers, beneath which different sound landscapes unfurl – from street café to jungle sounds or classical music. Coffee is served in specially designed paper cups. The different role descriptions printed on the side of the cups help brings visitors into conversation in a playful way.

Knowledge base & silent retreat

The library is symbolic of a company’s collective knowledge bank. The firm’s think-tank is simultaneously a place of retreat. It is constructed using a freely configurable shelving system, which forms a protective carapace around its occupant. An 808 chair from Thonet throws a further protective mantle around the sitter. A moment of surprise is provided by a video projection upon the chair’s seat, in which a virtual cat springs onto the lap of the sitter and makes itself comfortable.

The pressure cooker

When decisions have to be made quickly, companies require a place that supports such intensity of discussion. Punching bags define the space and translate the direct sparring of ideas and opinions. The furniture provides little space to spread out, as one wouldn’t want to sit there for long. A wall of water symbolises dynamism and the passing of time; the gentle whisper of the water and its cleansing nature ensure a cool head is kept at all times. Digital whiteboards ensure that doodles and spontaneous ideas can flow straight into digital communication channels.

The work desk

What transforms an office desk into ‘my’ workplace? The designers approach this question by taking a direct look at the desk and what is stored on it. Users personalise their space using objects and by configuring their layout. The exhibit shows this appropriation process through a collage of wild finds from everyday office life, pedantically organised and meticulously arranged according to colour. In the accompanying projection we see shots of very different types of real desk organisation – from the chaotically cluttered to the severely austere. How this individuality can be reproduced in non-territorial office structures remains open.

The workshop

Microsoft’s Surface Hub is a state-of-the-art hub for, well, almost everything. Since the future of conference rooms will likely be governed by this, or similar, technical marvels, the designers deliberately place it in the workshop against a collage of sensual materials and the tools of traditional trades. The intention is to show how to bring together design and execution.

The home office

The possibility of working from your home office is already reality in many sectors. When working within your own four walls, it makes sense to separate business and pleasure or – if space does not permit such a luxury – to allow them to flow together. The Pegasus desk from Classicon fulfils the requirements of the latter by integrating all the necessary technology, making efficient use of space, while creating a homely feel through its materiality.

A little corner housing a golden photocopier is a personal homage to the copying room, which has become synonymous with interpersonal surprise encounters in the office. When a visitor presses the copy button, he receives a DIN A3 format poster as a tongue-in-cheek giveaway, asking “Do you have fun at work?” And, hopefully, the answer is yes.

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