From Stockholm for SDW, to Milan for Salone, to London for Clerkenwell, to New York for ICFF ... and now we're in Chicago for NeoCon! We've been simply everywhere this year, seeing the latest and greatest in contemporary design from across the globe. If for nothing else, the buzz and bustle of the international design scene indicates that never (and we really mean 'never') has the need for intelligent design solutions to empower all manner of end-users been quite so high. A spirit of innovation has always been core to the creative pursuits of A+D, but over the first half of this year it's becoming all too apparent that the A+D community has rediscovered something we thought we'd never see again ...
Throughout the past thirty years, the penetration of the Internet worldwide ensured that the concept of a 'globalised world' and a 'globalised market' became an indisputable reality. And, also over the past thirty years, the strengthening of emerging economies throughout South-East Asia, India, South America and Eastern Europe has resulted in a wholesale proliferation of mature economic sectors, forward-thinking global workforces, and buoyant local economies and property markets which all require the intelligent problem-solving solutions unique to the creative visionaries of the architecture and design community. For thirty years, we have learned to become 'confident' – we have all constantly remained in demand as new pockets of activity and need spring up across the globe. And for thirty years, we have learned to become 'agile' – in a state of constant adaptation, hustle and bustle, with all the answers at our fingertips (or, indeed, in our smartphones). For thirty years, that is, we have emailed, IM-ed, tweeted, instagrammed, updated statuses – simply, 'connected' – in a myriad of different digital behaviours that all afford us an enormous potential to multitask both professionally and personally, reducing kilometres of distance and hours of time to a mere handful of pixels and beeps.
And yet, however wonderful these digital and social media revolutions may seem, there is a strong case to be made that they are 'disconnecting' us more than they have been able to 'connect' us together. After all, even in a more purportedly 'interconnected world' a recent US Presidential Election has resulted in more inter- and intra-national division than cohesion; Brexit has severed previously strong political and geographical ties; and meanwhile we read fewer newspapers, watch fewer newscasts, and instead consume algorithmically tailored content to our activities online which only reaffirms our worldview. No questions asked, no challenges made. Filtered, coddled, bubbled – whatever you want to call it – it is undeniable that as each day goes by, our capacity for curiosity dwindles more and more. But for anyone working in a creative field not dissimilar to architecture and design, curiosity is a muscle that requires exercise: unused it becomes limp, weak, inflexible or ... worst of all ... complacent.
Everyday we are hearing reports from our top architects and designers that if we are not careful, we will become 'insular'. And everyday we hear some journalist, fresh out of university with no industry experience (or a wizened scrivener with years and years of experience) drag themselves out of bed at 4pm to pen some wildly caustic article, declaiming "Salone/Stockholm/Maison/ICFF/LDF/etc is irrelevant [...] usual suspects [...] self-congratulation [...] blah blah blah". That is absolute garbage. These events are the spine of our diverse, global, innovative industry. They constitute the only place where the international A+D community can come together, collaborate, be challenged and question each other about the future of our industry. They propel us forward, they give us momentum, and without them we would lack the format to disrupt, experiment and remain curious about our collective practice.
'Curiosity', appropriately, has been the unspoken theme of NeoCon since 1969 – and it was definitely the dominant attitude throughout the halls of the Merchandise Mart over the past three days as passersby wandered between the stands to view the latest commercial interiors product launches, listen-in on the numerous discussion panels, and network with old friends and fresh faces across the world. As the beating heart of commercial contemporary design, this year's NeoCon attracted in excess of 50,000 international architects, designers and C-level Execs, all intensely curious to discover ways we can reimagine the status quo of the workplace, hospitality world, retail environments, and education and health facilities. Nowhere, Team P4 are very happy to report, was this more apparent than on the third floor of the Mart where UK-based brand Boss Design kicked off the event with a new permanent suite to showcase their extremely innovative (...and ultra-curious) designs.
One of the highlights for NeoCon this year which caught many a curious eye was Boss Design's MYRIAD. Responding to the growing need for design systems to celebrate flexibility – across a whole host of different sectors and environments – MYRIAD's diverse selection of upholstered modular seating empowers end-users with an inspiring degree of autonomy and control to tailor meeting areas, private collaborative huddles, breakout zones and even islands for those all-important creative collisions we all require to keep sharp. Comprising eleven linkable seating units, three privacy screens, and adaptable tables (all with integrate tech facility), MYRIAD allows us all to become designers!
With a high degree of customisable options, an extensive selection of upholstery textiles, configurations and finishes across legs and hardware, allows MYRIAD to have a significant level of impact to integrate with any space. Also allowing these individual components and connected 'huddles' to be linked, mixed or reconfigured, this seemingly infinite flexible design can provide open zones for collaboration, areas for concentration, focus and retreat, as well as create islands to enable touchdown connectivity. Whether with or without seat backs, using or not using the integrated power modules, MYRIAD has realised a design system which celebrates the 'work anywhere ... work everywhere' philosophy.
Straight after winning the Best of the Best Red Dot Award for 2017, and also taking home the prize for the FX International Design Awards, TRINETIC was definitely turning heads at NeoCon over the past few days. Now internationally recognised as the most advanced seating design to achieve a high degree of ergonomy, TRINETIC was applauded in Chicago by the A+D elite for redefining user experience. In their own words, "it was this pioneering form and intelligent engineering [in Trinetic] which has resulted in the world’s first fully certified task chair that provides dynamic support without the need for manual user adjustment."
Whether for foyers and lobbies, breakout spaces or accompanying desking suites, Boss Design's ARTHUR provided a unique element of surprise at NeoCon. Celebrating informality and formality hand-in-hand, this collection of compact sofas and large or single seaters are available in a range of upholstery finishes (matte or textured), high or low back options across a striking hardwood frame with a separate timber underframe. Complemented also by the brand's renowned AGENT Collection of versatile seating options for meetings, boardrooms, breakouts or informal visitor spaces, Boss Design showcased that comfort and productivity can (indeed, should!) go hand-in hand. Whether for hospitality spaces, technical facilities, healthcare environments or the most cutting-edge commercial offices, both AGENT and ARTHUR confirm Boss Design's undisputed position at the forefront of handcrafted manufacturing capabilities.
While roaming the halls of Chicago's Merchandise Mart, Boss Design's President – Jeff Thompson – told us that “in just three years, our showroom at the Mart has tripled in size to accommodate these extended collections. The Boss Design brand is fast becoming a firm favourite amongst designers and specifiers who appreciate the leading-edge design and handcrafted manufacturing expertise provided by a global leader, whilst benefitting from the local service now available to customers across North America and beyond.”