Designing systems office furniture is like creating a blank canvas — others ultimately assemble and configure the parts you’ve designed into what is seen and used. You create a product, articulate how it works as a system and then release it to the market. The market will then use the system to transform your product into what it needs — the better the system the more seamlessly it transforms, all the while maintaining the core elements that make the system distinct with a clear identity. That is how it works and it’s amazing how many times, the first order for the product is something you hadn’t considered.
Cern was launched 2 years ago as a table, the intent was to create an intelligent table for smaller workspaces. The name came from the sealed loop around the perimeter of the table to integrate power delivery.
Cern Table 2015
Due in large part to its scale and finish offering (it was developed with solid wood legs) it also worked very nicely as a private office desk and was often shown that way. And so a year after its launch Klaus Nienkamper said to designers at Fig40, “… you know, we could really use a collection to support this Cern table.”
And that was it — from a simple table for collaborative spaces came a complete furniture collection for private and open offices. Fig40 spent the next 6 months addressing opportunities and seeking the right product extensions to what was the Cern identity. In June 2017, we launched CernOffice and won a Silver award at Neocon for Casegoods.
The collection logically began with a simple credenza. It then moved to an adaptation of that credenza to a desk-supporting credenza and then into a desk-supporting pedestal bringing further practicality and "deskness" to the table. These then led to supporting more than one table from one piece of storage creating collaborative private office furniture with a desk on one side and a table on the other.
Along with the credenzas, shelving units were developed , some based on the credenza and some freestanding and both at an architectural scale . Their scale enables the delineation of space and allows for a measure of control over public and private zones in an open office space without calling a contractor. They also offer varied levels of space division with shelves that can be open through or fully enclosed. This openness transforms a "walled" enclosure into a more organic one.
In contrast to the larger scale, Fig40 developed a collection of smaller pieces. The first was a bench to support more casual use at the tables. The next were a collection of concrete desk accessories and a coat rack. These are made using excess concrete from the manufacture of fireplaces, and cast in ductal, a high performance concrete with a superb surface finish.
Cern Concrete Accessories
The driving idea behind this whole collection is really, what do you do when you come into work? You put your bag down, look for somewhere for your keys and phone, hang upon your coat and get to work. While at work you have time for ‘heads down’ and you have time when you meet with others. Walking through these elements of a typical day informed the choices Fig40 made through the development of Cern. The result is a collection of capable furniture with a calm, residential feel.
Fig40 designed a system that enabled a table that became a desk and then a complete furniture collection. It can be hard to know at the outset where systems furniture will end up, but to remain focussed on the design of a solid system, it will be sure to allow whatever it needs to be.
This article was written by Fig40 and first appeared on Medium