A third in our series on Global Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Marketing.
Next year (2019) will mark a century since the opening of the Bauhaus, Germany’s iconic interwar design and art school that introduced and popularized modern design for decades to come. Much of this all-encompassing field has since been a reaction to the production of that school and its spiritual peers. In the same way that jazz and responses to it created modern popular music, responses to modernism have shaped the last century of popular design by taking its ideas of both radical simplicity and mass appeal to their conceivable limits (think IKEA). These concepts have weaved their way into every facet of life and, more recently, to the interior of the workplace.
The days of labyrinth mazes of drab felt-lined temporary walls and grids of individual cubicles that multiplied at the end of the last century are now fading, allowing both the modern and communal to rise in their place. While the very concept of an individual workspace has left some offices, in most it will simply be a drastic restructuring -- an elimination of full cubicles in favor of compact, capsulated desks that are mobile. This way, an employee can work individually or collaboratively in one of many open, well-lit areas nearby. Temporary walls continue to provide a barrier from noise and unwanted attention, but they’re now produced in material such as glass to provide a seamless continuity – and privacy – to the existing structure.
Most importantly, workplace design is evolving to combine modernist sensibilities with universal human needs. Wellness, ease, flexibility, talent and creativity, collaboration and engagement are increasingly coming to the forefront of structural considerations. This new – perhaps even modern – understanding and approach to productivity has encouraged more traditional industries like financial services, pharmaceuticals and healthcare to embrace a new workplace concept.
One company at the forefront of this evolution is Teknion, a Canada-based workspace design supplier. KSW Consulting recently visited their Los Angeles showroom (in photos), which remains true to the multi-use, multi-functional modern design. The space boasts floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the city with natural light permeating an open concept workspace divided into zones. These spaces are separated by massive, transparent metal sculptures or walls of glass, and dotted with furnishings that combine light wood finishes and well-appointed upholstery. Each section includes options, such as retractable desks, benches, sofas and ottomans, that can theoretically work for any client. Each piece acts as both a functional part of a modern workplace and a small sculpture.
Teknion can produce its showroom with only its own products in part because of an innovative business model that prioritizes flexibility and customization. The company sources components internationally to prioritize quality, but since those components are always prepared ahead of time and the company’s factories are all in North America, they control their lead times, design choices, and economies of scale. Teknion can produce unique finishes for a small, creative client that may need just five pieces, but they can also produce that same product with the same finish 10,000 times over for a larger client looking to fill a larger project. Because of their flexibility, Teknion is able to tackle unique problems – such as producing a non-Pantone colored finish – for no extra charge. This has been true for their projects with The Da Vinci School in LA and outfitting select design and structural interiors inside a major technology company's headquarters in Cupertino.
Teknion’s core competencies of customization and scaling are a direct result of their focus on controlling their own relatively centralized manufacturing, something that allows them to act logistically in North America while selling globally to clients throughout the world. With that level of control, Teknion is able to bring any office in the world to the forefront of the modern workplace movement – one that prioritizes form, function and flexibility.
To learn more about design and the changing workplace, check out these great articles.