"We have recently seen many offices that try to evoke a kind of forced playfulness," says Sam Hecht, founder of London-based Industrial Facility. "Slides, chill-out zones, ping-pong, or a kind of home-like interior. We were very suspicious of this."
For his own take on the flexible office system, Hecht and his partner, Kim Colin, adopted a more nuanced approach to getting employees to think fondly of their office—and not view them as places of mandatory drudgery. Locale, for Herman Miller, uses modular pieces that easily adjust in place and height to create what Hecht calls neighborhoods.
"We all travel from our own home neighborhoods to a place where we can collaborate in person," Hecht tells Co.Design. "So we thought, why not design an office landscape that behaves like a good condensed neighborhood, whose purpose is efficient, energetic, and pleasurable in being together."
Locale consists of a series of large, round desks that connect to a physical, static base. While working on another project with Danish clients, Hecht and Colin discovered that offices in Denmark come equipped with desks that can adjust in height. "Adjustment for them is an acknowledgement of the individual," Hecht says. "But it also allows for a more reasonable method of collaboration. It means you don’t need to search for a chair or to lean over someone."
That feature is now key to Locale. Height-adjustable tables and mobile screens and whiteboards give workers freer range of motion than traditional desk systems—with the aim of spurring more collaboration. Says Hecht: "Locale’s design comes from the idea that spontaneous interaction is relevant to both productivity and pleasure."
This thesis is almost identical to that of Public Office Landscape by Yves Béhar, another new and flexible office system for Herman Miller. Béhar’s system, which is also modular, intends to turn random bursts of inspiration into constructive creative discussion. But unlike Public Office, Locale taps into another burgeoning trend in the workplace: the standing desk. (Sitting at work, as we all now know, may be worse for our health than ever imagined.) But at the very least, Locale should inspire users to sit up and take notice of their coworkers.
Locale will be available through Herman Miller this winter.