Orgatec remains the best show in Europe if you’re interested in working environments – and some 63,000 trade visitors were – an increase of 15% from the last show in 2016. According to Katherina Hamma, COO of organiser Koelnmesse, it has “successfully transformed itself from being solely a product showcase to an issues-focused business event… firmly embedding the sociopolitical importance of modern working worlds in decision makers’ thinking”.
The central theme - ‘The future of work’ - was supported by a strong event and congress programme, which “addressed relevant issues emotionally and provided a whole sector with new sources of creative inspiration.” But we were there for the products…
...all look the same - or do they?
Storage 'Room Dividers'
’Grid’ has been hugely successful in the UK (Icons of Denmark) – and a large number of exhibitors displayed very similar copies, which there is little point in showing. We were more interested in alternative styles and approaches... including integration with the workplace
Inwerk had a very interesting system called ‘Masterbox’’ – essentially a series of metal boxes with a nice chamfered edge detail that can be safely stacked or reconfigured using magnetic pads.
The vocabulary is extended with seat pads and other components to create breakout areas.
Good for air quality, good for acoustic diffraction and good for the soul… plants are definitely back in the office!
Many exhibitors featured plant displays or large green installations, in an attempt to capture the zeitgeist.
Surprisingly few exhibitors really emphasised their environmental credentials, or the recyclability of their products. However, there were signs of thoughtfulness, particularly in Orgatec’s ‘Materials Culture’ area.
Framery remains something of a benchmark for acoustic isolation, closely matched by Studio Bricks who brought their version of the UK phone box to the show. Abstracta achieves similar standards. New booths by Assmann impressed aesthetically, and Koplus’s strong steel-framed booth works well and is relatively light in scale and cost. We loved Inwerk’s lighting and electric stools, too.
Breakout / Lounge Seating (and beds)
There were an overwhelming number of upholstered products at the show. We were looking for real quality in upholstery; no puckering, wonky seams or loose threads! We have already mentioned Profim; we were also pleasantly surprised to discover Croatian company Prostoria...
...and to find Spanish maker Point.
Muuto remain a favourite for quality and refinement…
…and here are a few more ‘eye-catchers’…
Interstuhl introduced ‘Hub’ lounge seating – a welcome addition. But their star was a pretty new task chair called ‘Pure’, which eschews complex mechanisms for flexible materials that create the perfect blend of flexibility and user support..
Okamura introduced ‘Finora’ – with a more traditional but highly intuitive syncro mechanism and fine styling by Italian partners Guigiaro Design, who bring echoes of their work in the automotive field.
Abstracta have some really interesting ideas on acoustics. Why put acoustic tiles on the wall when the lighting and furniture itself can be given absorbent qualities? They featured a large table using layers of cork in the substrate – which was demonstrably effective.
Alea dared to be different. Their exhibit was a thing of beauty; rather than try to show a mass of products they featured a perfection of lovely finishes inside and out of stunning double-glazed meeting pods.
They point out that most of their output consists of specials; a truly design-led approach.
Kokuyo’s stand featured a wonderful suspended/exploded model of their new gliding seat mechanism, backed by a stunning split-screen video animation…
…behind the screen was a ‘test centre’ in which the visitors could experience the seat mechanism, which ‘floats’ in all directions.
In common with many of the larger exhibitors, Assmann’s centrepiece was an area for generous hospitality, but they were prepared to have a bit of fun too – featuring their VW bus which will be touring Europe and ending up here in the UK.
Interstuhl had a massive stand, again with an emphasis on hospitality, but featuring a wide range of work settings, including many new product ranges such as ‘Hub’ lounge seating.
Profim’s stand looked rich and luxurious, using bold colours and velvets, dressed to contextualise their seating products. We were very impressed with the quality of their pieces; master upholstery combined with cohesive design.
Unifor left plenty of space around their finely-detailed products, which served better to emphasise their refinement and confidence.
Lapalma too demonstrated a refinement of detail in everything they showed.
Spanish maker Actiu really feels like a Company that is going places. We liked the quality of everything we touched. The stand itself was not that exciting, but some of the products most certainly were, with thoughtful products that score on form and function.
The ‘Carbon Fiber Chair’ was simply stunning, and we were hugely impressed by the new ‘Talent’ tables – nesting mobile flip-top tables that can be height-adjustable. These are very well thought-out; there is even a dry-wipe surface option so the table can be used as a whiteboard – very agile!
But it was really exciting to see how they were integrating technology in workplace furniture; they were the only exhibitor really looking to the ‘future of work’.
An integrated desk sensor measures light, noise, air quality, humidity and temperature, feeding back to a bespoke user app and also to the FM team for holistic workplace monitoring.
They’re also working with chair sensors; the app guides the user in real time to help them achieve the best levels of postural support.
This was an area dedicated to smaller designers and craftspeople; a welcome relief from the corporate sell!
If you need any further information or help specifying these products, please call us on 020 3815 9400.