FX publishes extracts from The Furniture Practice Report on Milan Design Week, and Copenhagen’s 3 Days of Design and Trends and Traditions
Trends & Traditions by Ed Hoban, associate director and head of workplace
At just seven years old, Trends & Traditions is a relative newcomer on the design fair circuit, but it has quickly become one of the most unmissable events of the year for TFP. This year, workplace design was front and centre.
Talks focused on work-life balance, engagement in the workplace and sustainability, as speakers addressed how we can encourage consumers and producers to embrace new, greener materials. An emphasis on well-being and mental health was set from the start, with a talk by philosopher Morten Nødgaard Albæk on how to create a meaningful life. Across exhibitor stands, there was an emphasis on flexible furniture built for collaboration, comfort and adaptability.
Designing the experience, rather than just focusing on the space, will be key to creating places where people choose to be. Image Credit: HOLMRIS B8
EH: Trends & Traditions’ theme, Engaging People, sparks important discussions around co-creation. How would you define the practice of co-creation within the context of interior design, and specifically the design of workplaces?
ZH: For me, it summarises the essence of collaboration when diverse people work together to develop a solution they could not create on their own. Each participant is an expert in their own field and therefore looks at the project through a slightly different lens, which results in a more robust ideation process. Designers bring technical knowhow, clients are experts in their culture and business needs and workplace consultants lead the integrated process: they challenge the archetypes and data and look for solutions in the white spaces (the unknown, unmet user needs).
EH: Workplace culture has gone through some significant changes. Do you think we’re in a paradigm shift where things will never quite go back to how they were?
ZH: We are at a tipping point, it would seem. We still need technology to catch up with the needs of this new way of working – for instance we need tools to support physical and digital connectivity. We almost find ourselves in the situation where we’re trying to work in a new way with digital tools but in reality we are still stuck in ‘analogue’.
EH: Do you think that the pandemic has just accelerated a path that we were already on?
ZH: Personally, I feel that it has accelerated things by five to seven years. Where organisations may well have taken a little longer to get to the same point, they don’t have that luxury now. So what we’re seeing is not a complete disruption in the way we used to work but I’d say an acceleration along a path on which we were already headed.
Zoe Humphries, workplace experience director at Cushman & Wakefield, talks to TFP about the opportunity for businesses to reengage with their employees in order to discover exactly what they want out of their office experience
EH: How do you start a co-creation project, who is involved and what is important for success?
ZH: The most important thing for the success of these workplace design projects is to get people engaged early, and that should involve representation from all levels of the organisation. The process has to involve meaningful discussions about employee needs, and because employees are deeply involved in this process, they become advocates for it. As advocates, they ensure that what has been created is actually implemented into the organisation.
EH: How do you measure the success of a co-creation project?
ZH: The measures are different for every project, but the important thing is that you set the key criteria at the start of the project. These may be tied to the company’s mission or the specific business targets they have set. Other metrics that might be employed could be around sustainability, well-being, et cetera.
EH: What changes and trends in workplace design do you envisage over the next few years?
Zoe: That’s the billion dollar question and I’m not sure anyone has the answer but I think there are a number of forces at play that will impact future designs. One of the biggest unknowns is how will organisations define the workplace in the future? Will they extend their duty of care beyond the office? What will constitute the spatial ecosystem that we will be designing for in the future? Designing the experience, rather than just focusing on the space, will be key to creating places where people choose to be, with tailored solutions to support diverse needs and users. In the future, designers will need to co-create the new workplace experience with the full spectrum of stakeholders (IT, HR, RE, facilities and employees, consultants) to ensure its success.
Milan Design Week by Matt Davies, director of sustainability
Milan Design Week and its Salone del Mobile have become synonymous with forward-thinking in design. This year, for its 60th edition, organisers of the Salone addressed today’s most urgent issue: that of protecting our planet. Furniture designers, manufacturers and specialists now have little choice but to put sustainability at the forefront of their practice and the Salone’s theme, ‘Between Space & Time’, laid emphasis on just how little time we have to save the precious space in which we live.
Sustainability is crucial in the race to save the planet we live in. However, and with recessions looming, there may be a risk that sustainability practices may take a backseat. Image Credit: GIANLUCA VASSALLO
The big guns were all in evidence with new products from Tom Dixon, Patricia Urquiola and Lee Broom together with exhibitors that caught TFP’s eye, namely Arper, Moroso and Kvadrat.
MD: Kvadrat’s collaboration with Really represents exciting advances in sustainable practices in the industry. Could you tell us more about what inspired the collection?
WME: The amount of waste produced across industries, and especially within textiles, sparked the idea of Really. Another reflection was the need for new, quality materials and the growing market for design commodities was also a big factor. These three things came together to inspire us.
MD: What challenges did you face when creating the collection and developing the concept of Kvadrat Really?
WME: One of the issues is the sorting of textiles. You have to know what’s going into a product to know what its aesthetics will be, and textile recycling has not been based on this idea. Clothing has been sorted by category: jackets, shirts, trousers. The rest has been incinerated, gone into the car industry as insulation, or it has been used as road filling. It’s quite a new game working with waste textiles to engineer a totally different product for the furniture industry. The other issue is colour. Colours in a waste stream are different day to day, and you can’t curate a fixed recipe. It’s important we avoid the dying process, which is very polluting. We have managed to produce a new colour for this collection which we call cream, and which is similar to a sandstone colour – white is an especially difficult colour to produce from textile waste.
MD: Those issues around aesthetic qualities of circular materials raise the question of whether sustainable practices are yet seen as on a level with luxury. Do you think we’re on the right path towards that?
WME: There needs to be a giant change, and it takes time. The trouble is that sustainability can compromise the creativity of a brand: it’s not only what we want to do, but it’s what we have to do. The luxury industry has also been convenience driven, and that need for convenience filters down through the industry. High-end brands are leading the game, but they are also just the tip of the iceberg: everyone else needs to catch up too. Things are changing, but I’m sometimes surprised about how difficult and slow these processes are – and now we’re looking at a recession, which risks making sustainability less of a priority for businesses.
Here’s an extract from their interview with director and partner of Really, Wickie Meier Engström on sustainable manufacturing and the innovations and challenges of production using waste-textiles.
MD: Kvadrat Really is championing a circular economy. Do you think that’s the most important way the design industry can tackle sustainability?
WME: Yes. Materials are the baseline of this industry, and we are lacking virgin materials especially. The alternative – an eco agenda – uses up our planet’s natural materials, which is problematic even for business because you need those materials to grow fast due to demand. The other issue is how much we are refurbishing, producing unnecessary waste which is currently not used efficiently enough. We’ve learnt that constantly buying new stuff makes us happy, but then we don’t have time to just reflect. Everyone, including businesses, would benefit from producing better products that last longer. Becoming more sustainable would not only benefit the planet, but us as people.
MD: Looking forward, are there any new technologies or manufacturing processes that you’re excited about exploring?
WME: We want to keep working at what we’re doing to make our processes even better. We need a lot of acoustic regulation in homes and work spaces, so we are looking at different compression methodologies to make something that is sound-absorbent but also compressed and rigid. Another point of exploration is how we can reuse the plastic in waste textile streams. We’re looking at this from a new perspective, exploring what 3D shapes we might be able to make. We are also accounting for our energy usage and impact, because even being circular, you have an impact. We want to be able to see where we are and set out where we want to be in three years’ time. It’s so important for businesses to set their own targets and measurements.
3 Days of Design by Jennifer Dunn, associate director, Manchester office
What is life – and what is design – without a little play? The organisers of Copenhagen’s 3 Days of Design reminded us of the importance of freedom in creativity with their theme this year: ‘Remember to Play’.
Helle Mardahl’s showroom at the 3 Days of Design fair
Amidst the seriousness of project deadlines, limitations, and rules and regulations, it can be easy to forget that play is one of the most important aspects of the design process. It is, after all, the curiosity of creative thinkers that opens the world up to new possibilities and solutions for better designed spaces. What’s more, through this process, designers have an opportunity to imagine spaces that encourage play, creativity and connection between people.
Pier System by HAY is a multifunctional storage system developed to accommodate and adapt to modern lifestyle requirements
The fair’s theme had an especially profound, broader resonance following the Covid-19 pandemic, during which we were compelled to find new, imaginative ways to play within a limited scope of human connection and travel.
The festival’s programme was fun-filled and interactive. Landmark occasions included Fritz Hansen’s celebration of its 150th anniversary with a dedicated pavilion built in partnership with Danish architecture firm Henning Larsen. The younger HAY marked its 20th anniversary this year with a preview of new product launches across its flagship store. Throughout the fair, brands revealed the design and manufacture processes behind their collections, offering meet-and-greets with design engineers and craftsmen, and opportunities to explore workshops.
At the same time as providing an uplifting, inspiring theme reminding the industry of the joy in design, 3 Days of Design’s exploration of play crucially put manufacturing and design processes front and centre. What resulted was an inspiring celebration of new and innovative production techniques, from which further ideas and conversations are bound to spring.
At 3 Days of Design, whilst also showcasing their newest product launches, Fredericia celebrated the J39 chair’s 75th special anniversary with a dedicated exhibition set in their beautiful showroom with views across Copenhagen.
Here’s an extract from TFP’s interview with Oliver Scott, associate director at furniture design company Vitra, on how the concept of play will be increasingly important to us in the future, and will even change our relationship with furniture design.
JD: Do you think the concept of play is more important now following the restrictions put on us by the Covid-19 pandemic?
OS: The pandemic has reshaped how we engage with the spaces we live and work in. Over the last two years, Vitra has been publishing a series of e-papers that reflect on these changes and propose solutions for the homes and offices of tomorrow. We already see more focus on creating environments that give enjoyment to their users and greater opportunities to connect with their surroundings. It is exciting to see how this approach will have a positive impact.
JD: How do you foresee playful approaches changing furniture design over the next year?
OS: For Vitra, playful approaches encourage enjoyment and satisfaction when people interact with products and spaces. We are continuously adapting our approach to work and rethinking spaces to best support that. Advancement in technology and design has always driven change and continues to do so. With the changing patterns of work that have been brought on by hybrid work methods, I believe we are in a very interesting and exciting time for both furniture design and the design of the spaces we live in.
Our thanks to The Furniture Practice (TFP), and the key contributors who have shared their insights with us, namely Ed Hoban, head of workplace, TFP; Matt Davies, director of sustainability, TFP; and Jennifer Dunn associate director, TFP.
Their 40 page report covering these three shows including trends, colour direction and product catalogues also includes substantial interviews with specifiers. The full report can be downloaded from TFP’s website thefurniturepractice.com