Ask An Expert: The Evolving Office With Peter Stathis
We caught up with industrial designer, Peter Stathis, for a Q&A session about the future of office design. This just in time for NeoCon 2017, where we expect to find the latest trends on display, but Peter offers some professional insight on the bigger picture and the future ahead.
Peter Stathis has collaborated with Mockett on dozens of projects over the years, and he never ceases to amaze with every new design and his higher understanding of the relationship between form and function. He is highly regarded in the design community as one of the great minds of the modern era with numerous awards and honors industry-wide, and it is our privilege to share with you what we learned. Please join us at NeoCon 2017 where we will exhibit some of the newest concepts touched on in this interview on display. Below, Peter will cover what brought us here, where we are going, and how we are going to get there. Enjoy!Doug Mockett: Where is office furniture design heading?
Peter Stathis: Up until recently, the sheer size of workstation computers and the necessity of hardwired power and data networks meant “work” was largely static and place-based. Office furniture sought to enhance an individual’s performance by creating an “optimal” ergonomic situation, ensuring a measurable degree of productivity and wellness while workers were essentially tied to their desks for much of the day. With the proliferation of Wi-Fi over the past decade, work and workers have become untethered from their desks, and office furnishings as we know them are lagging in response to this lighter, less regulated and much more individualized notion of “workplace.”
DM: What are the key components driving workplace design right now?
PS: The design of today’s offices is largely driven in response to two main factors - speed and mobility. Today’s new enterprises are built to grow fast, often outpacing the facility changes necessary to support them. This is why many offices relegate workstations to simple, plain desktops, easily added to and immediately reconfigured as needed, and where everyone becomes their own facility manager, troubleshooting their own workstation productivity needs in order to not interrupt the pace of the work at hand. And as mobile devices and cloud computing are redefining work from a place-based activity to a space-based activity, the “plans” of our open plan workstations now extend far beyond the walls of our offices themselves.
DM: Is our current direction laying the groundwork for something different down the road, and how are we preparing ourselves to embrace this imminent change?
PS: Historically, office furniture manufacturers had a great role in shaping how “work flow” occurred within the office. Over the past century there has been a complex evolution in office furniture design, largely driven by new means of communication. Last century introduced Taylorism, favoring a linear, hierarchical and “factory-like” transfer of information amongst workers and our office furnishings reflected that. Today, the gains in the miniaturization of computer hardware and sophistication in communication technologies have introduced unprecedented cross-communication amongst workers. This is reflected in today’s office furnishings, designed to support a more inter-connected and complex employee work flow, with work and workspaces organized more like today’s social networks than yesterday’s production factories. And like our digital social networks have redefined “friends,” our concept of the office as a singularly physical space necessary to insure productive communication will certainly continue to atomize to where the “office” will need to be similarly expanded.
DM: How is functional design managed to work with aesthetic properties in mind and without losing sight of the overall design?
PS: Traditional office protocols have become relaxed. And with that, so has the overall character of the workplace environment. We now use the same tools and technologies to animate our private and business selves. We are working at any time – from any place. As these two once separate realities blend, the functional needs and cultural signifiers from each are also blending and this can be seen in the “domestication” of today’s office furnishings, juxtaposing aesthetic elements and performance attributes from both home and office.
DM: How is the way we’re working influencing basic design principles? Please also explain the importance of technology in furniture design and how that relationship is growing.
PS: From the rise of the “electronic office” at the end of last century to today’s virtual office, systems furniture is proving to be less influential in helping organizations get things done. In fact, in many instances, complex furniture systems are too much, too early for growing enterprises. Technology and business communications are now moving faster than the social order of most workplaces and office furnishings now must react to this new type of productivity.
Want to keep the conversation about furniture design? Meet Peter Stathis at NeoCon on June 12, booth #7-9030.
Learn more about Peter Stathis at http://peterstathis.com/