A ball drops on a foosball table and six players ready their tiny, rod-mounted teams in order to shoot on not two but three different goals. This is the Y-Kicker by Ben Beyer, just one of the experimental design objects showcased in “Plant 10.1,” an installation at Orgatec 2018. This year the office design trade show, which takes place every two years and ran October 23–27 in Cologne, Germany, had the dedicated tagline of “new visions at work” – and “Plant 10.1” was perhaps the most experimental personification of this theme at the fair.
Presented by consultancy firm Detecon International and creative agency Orange Council in collaboration with the artists’ group Freeters, “Plant 10.1” was organized to promote positive change and innovation in the office environment, under the hypothesis that “existing, rigid organizations are disintegrating and flexible and agile structures are taking their place.”
“The goal is to create office environments that are truly innovative and inspiring,” explains Tanja Milenkovic, a consultant at Detecon who works with powerhouses such as electronics firm Bosch and car manufacturer Volkswagen to implement a more future-forward and agile working environment.
Companies must have more adaptability to both survive and keep up with the market.” The Y Kicker, she notes, “is a completely different kind of collaboration. Agile thinking is often about rearranging your mindset so that it is up for change.”
“Plant 1.0” presented seven working environments—spread out over 600m²—geared towards meeting the diverse needs of the average company. Those were: the self-explanatory Co-Working, Presentation Spaces, CreativeSpace and LivingRoom, as well as MiniHome, an old circus wagon transformed into a mobile home; PlayGrounds, focusing on sport and play; and HochSitz, dedicated to unusual seating.
In one corner of the installation, visitors lounged on Transformer Part 2, a seating system complete with shelves, armchairs, drawer tables, rocking chairs, and acoustic sofas designed by artists Silke Mattern-Specht and Frowin Schwer for Deutsche Telekom. Each piece in the collection repurposes old file cabinets—remnants of the pre-digital age. However, beyond the literal rebirth of an obsolete object, Transformer Part 2 was conceived to evoke thoughts about facing one’s past and old habits, breathing in new life, and surprising transformations.
At the beginning, there is, of course, resistance—something is unusual, not the way it is supposed to be,” says Milenkovic on agile methodology. “However, sooner rather than later you realize, yes, this does actually make sense.”
While many companies now have gyms, an unusual rocking chair by artist Frowin Schweer and architect Sebastian Keller isn’t exactly what you’d expect with “fitness included.” Schaukelstuhl (Rocking chair) rocks a user’s back almost to the floor.
In another corner, the eye is arrested by a strange adaptation of what seems to be a vintage dentist’s chair—that’s Hirschthron (Deer Throne) by artist Michael Sistig. Easily imagined in a Narnia-like world, Hirschthron has antlers mounted behind its headrest and deer heads sprouting from its armrests. More subtly, it empowers anyone who sits in it—no matter their position in the animal kingdom…or the office hierarchy.