Posts Tagged ‘Office Furniture’

A USM window on the world ….. or at least on the Berner Oberland.

February 19th, 2014

If you visit the Bussalp restaurant above the Swiss resort town of Grindelwald you can experience a curious, inconspicuous, almost underwhelming, piece of furniture design history.

USM window fittings.

Just don’t expect steel tubing and chrome plated brass balls, that all came much, much later……

usm window handle

A USM window fitting in the Bussalp restaurant, Grindelwald.

The story of the USM Haller modular furniture system starts in 1885 in the Swiss village of Münsingen with the establishment of a locksmith and ironmonger business by Ulrich Schärer, a locksmith and ironmonger business that slowly transformed itself into a producer of window hinges, fittings, locks, handles, etc.

Originally based in small facility near Münsingen railway station things went well for the Schärer family’s business, or better put very well, and in 1961 Paul Schärer, grandson of company founder Ulrich, could afford to commission the local architect Fritz Haller to build them a new production hall on the edge of Münsingen.

And then an administration pavilion next door.

And then some filing cabinets, book cases and general office furniture for the new administration pavilion.

The clou – production hall, pavilion and furniture were all constructed according to the same flexible, modular system. Just at different scales.

The office furniture system that Fritz Haller developed for his USM pavilion was intended as being simply for USM, a classic case of site specific design. Fate however in her fickle way had other plans for the two and so it came to pass that ever more people began enquiring if they too could have the furniture. As a result of such requests, and for all the increasing regularity of such requests, in 1969 the decision was made to start producing the USM modular furniture system as a product in its own right.

For over twenty years USM produced window components and office furniture parallel, before in 1992 production of the window elements ceased and the company concentrated 100% on the USM Haller system.

Consequently, those window handles and locks in the Bussalp restaurant almost certainly belong to the last of their kind. Rarities, so to say.

As such, should you find yourself on the Bussalp do enjoy the stunning view of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, do enjoy the wine, enjoy the cheese fondue, but before you enjoy sledging back down to Grindelwald, do take a couple of minutes to enjoy the window fittings, handles and locks in the restaurant.

For without them there would be no USM Haller sideboards, USM Haller highboards, USM Haller filing cabinets……….

first usm factory münsingen

The first USM factory in Münsingen, Switzerland. Left hand side factory, right hand side the Schärer family home.

usm window lock

A USM window lock in the Bussalp restaurant, Grindelwald.

usm window on the world

A USM window on the world ..... or at least on the Berner Oberland. Or to be honest, metre high snow!

 

Tidy Desk vs. Untidy Desk. Or, Thank You Prof. Vohs!

November 4th, 2013

Among the more memorable moments in our long, if troublesome, tenure at and of (smow)blog is the day we took possession of our new 1m x 2m USM Haller table.

Less on account of the object and more on account of the looks of fear and trepidation that crossed the faces of those forced to share an office space with us.

“Given the chaos created on their Eiermann Table“, their pained expressions screamed, “what will they achieve with 2 sqm of finest Swiss fabrication?”

The answer was as swift as it was explicit.

Within a day the pristine white surface had vanished under a mountain of notes, brochures, loose change, books, receipts, invoices, bent paper clips, train tickets and dirty crockery.

Just as Prof. Kathleen D. Vohs from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota would have, hopefully, predicted.

In the recently published, peer reviewed, paper “Physical Order Produces Healthy Choices, Generosity, and Conventionality, Whereas Disorder Produces Creativity”1. Prof. Vohs and her colleagues explore the relationship between the level of workspace chaos and a series of behavioural attributes, and discovered that, “Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition, which can produce fresh insights. Orderly environments, in contrast, encourage convention and playing it safe.”

And that “…orderliness seemed to encourage a general mind-set for conservatism and tradition, and disorder had the effect of stimulating the desire for the unknown.”

Or, put another way: Chaos promotes creativity. Order stifles.

A phenomenon which can also be witnessed, less scientifically but more entertainingly, at http://famousworkspaces.tumblr.com

We can particularly recommend Steve Jobs circa 2004, Mark Zuckerberg – even if we don’t believe for a minute that he really works under such conditions – and Albert Einstein, whose desk leads us to surmise that e=mc2 can also be understood as “creative output= volume of paper on your desk x speed of light squared”

Quite aside from the quiet satisfaction we understandably take from the paper, there are a couple of interesting point raised by the research.

The first is, do we now have recourse to sue all those librarians who have so obviously hindered our development over the decades with their dogma of orderliness?

Secondly, what does that mean for those who work, creatively, from a small home office, yet occasionally want to invite friends and family to their home. Must one tidy up? Should one tidy up? Should one take pride in displaying, like some especially vain peacock, ones creativity? Or should one rather invest in an object such as International Marianne Brandt Contest 2013 Public Award winning 2tables by Anna Albertine Baronius, the ever wonderful Heimlicht by Leoni Werle or, for the only mildly creative, Sphere Desk by Hella Jongerius through Vitra. So desks which allow one to quickly and easily hide the chaos.

Thirdly can we now, by extrapolation, understand the harm of urban gentrification in a new light. It is potentially not just that affordable living and work space becomes rarer through gentrification, but environments vanish that genuinely nurture and support creativity. Thus making our cities culturally poorer. Similarly street art can be seen as not only creative in its own right, but as encouraging creativity.

And finally, as tablets and similar forms of mobile technology become increasingly important in ever more people’s every day reality, how should Prof Vohs’ research be understood in conjunction with research showing that most ipad usage is in relatively disorderly locations – in bed, at the kitchen table, on a sofa. Do we make different decisions when using our tablets and smartphones in such locations compared to when using them in more “conservative locations? Are we, for example, less generous when we write a restaurant review in a disorganised location than in an organised? Or in terms of, for example, online shopping, do we take more “risks” when shopping on a mobile device, are we more receptive to new ideas, do we shop less conventionally online than we would in a neat, tidy store with a neat, tidy sales person?

But perhaps the most important take home message from Prof. Vohs’ truly excellent research is reserved for all suffering under the burden of a tidy desk, an orderly work environment.

There is hope.

Just mess your desk up a little.

If anyone needs any tips or advice, just get in touch……..

1. Kathleen D. Vohs, Joseph P. Redden, and Ryan Rahinel 2013. “Physical Order Produces Healthy Choices, Generosity, and Conventionality, Whereas Disorder Produces Creativity” Psychological Science 24(9) 1860– 1867

usm haller table

Can't imagine much creativity will occur at this USM Haller table workspace......

new at smow: USM Haller for beginners

July 6th, 2009
USM Haller sideboard

USM Haller sideboard

System USM Haller is a storage and display system for all. We know that most people only come across USM Haller units in lawyers and accountants offices, doctors surgeries or museums … but that is, if you will, a historical relic based on the traditional distribution system.

The times my have changed but system USM Haller remains the reliable, versatile and practical system it has always been.

Many new customers, however, have a problem understanding what is and is not possible with USM Haller.

And while we at smow have the official USM configuration software – our customers don’t.

Therefore, to try to smooth the process a little and make USM Haller more accessible and easier to understand, the (smow)techies have designed an easy to use guide to the basics of USM Haller.

At USM Independent you will find a “fail-proof” overview of which elements are available in which sizes, as well as a clever interactive colour guide and a description of some “standard” configurations.

USM Haller as seen at DMY Berlin

USM Haller as seen at DMY Berlin

The beauty of USM Haller, however, is that you don’t need to accept “standard” you are free to decide how your unit is designed … as well as how you extend and adapt it over the years.

For all who are new to USM Haller the smow USM Independent is the perfect starting point for experimenting and exploring.

And once you have an idea of what you need, simply contact us at smow with details of your requirements and our experienced USM team will prepare a detailed offer.

Further images of system USM Haller in action can be found in the (smow)flickr gallery.

smow design spring gems: bao-nghi droste

June 19th, 2009

We at (smow)blog we have often mentioned Vitras Net’n'Nest office design concept – one the one hand because we like it and on the other because as an official Vitra partner we at smow like to draw attention to new developments and products from Vitra.
We have, however, never made a secret of the fact that one can – if one wants – mix and match furniture from various producers.

Adenike by Bao-Nghi Droste

Adenike by Bao-Nghi Droste

Which was pretty much our third thought upon seeing Adenike by Heidelberg based designer Bao-Nghi Droste at DMY Youngsters in Berlin.
Our first thought was what a fantastic object.
Our second was then, hhhmmm wonderful design, but with the padded surface it is a bit impractical for writing and drawing.
Then we spoke to Bao-Nghi and realised that our interpretation of it’s usage was incorrect.
Although the upper surface is solid enough to allow one to write on it, Adenike should be seen more as temporary work or meeting island. Or simply as a place to withdraw to from a group work situation in the same room and either do some work by yourself, or just read a paper and relax.

Adenike in action - Three designers discuss an object.

Adenike in action - Three designers discuss an object.

The first thing you notice, or better said don’t notice, when you approach Adenike is how it draws you in. You automatically lean on it, use it, interact with it. But because of the quality of the design you don’t notice, it feels natural, feels good.

Adenike has enough space for 4 or 5 people to comfortably work around it, and with it’s own in-built lamp is perfect for checking proofs, finalising documents or even playing poker to wile away a slow afternoon. Sorry to encourage a creative brainstorming session to ensure your company maintains the commercial high-ground.

In addition to beautifully fulfilling it’s intended function Adenike is also a well crafted piece of furniture; you genuinely don’t need to be a carpenter to appreciate the craftsmanship of the joints.

And so after chatting with the extremely amiable Bao-Nghi and testing Adenike, we came to thought three.

Adenike

Adenike promotes a good working atmosphere

Adenike is perfect for all whose work involves occasional group discussions and/or short bursts of group consultation. Or for those who after a long sitting session creating something, want to stand to check the outcome of their work.  And so a wonderful addition for any office looking to base it’s layout on the principles of the Vitra Net’n'Nest concept.

Adenikeis currently not is serial production, and so if you are interested you will need to contact Bao-Nghi Droste direct.

Designed for work: smow and office furniture

March 25th, 2009

In a recent article wired magazine presented their own take on the evolution of office furnishing.

From the introduction of the vast, cattle-shed like offices that characterised early office design through the cubicles and “virtual offices” of the 1980s and 90s and onwards the text makes one thing clear: Too many office workers have suffered through bad office design concepts.

But one needn’t work from home in order to benefit from the advantages of a convivial and stimulating office environment.

System USM Haller

System USM Haller

The Swiss designer USM Haller has been producing its patented – and in the MoMA New York displayed – System USM Haller furniture for over 40 years. Centred around the USM Haller ball the units are not only infinitely expendable but can be designed to suit your individual requirements. And then re-designed as your requirements change. In addition USM Haller tables are available in range of sizes and colours. Or alternatively the Eiermann Table from Lampert also fit wonderfully with System USM Haller units.

Tolomeo Tavalo from Artemide

Tolomeo Tavalo from Artemide

The Italian lighting designer Artemide has been producing high quality, stylish lighting systems since 1958. With it’s floor lamps, table lamps and hanging lamps Artemide has established a reputation for excellent luminescence in timeless designs that fit just as well in a reception area, office or conference room.

Among the pioneers of office furniture design were Charles and Ray Eames and George Nelson and many of their classic designs remain in the Vitra collection – including their Aluminium Series of chairs which offer outstanding quality and versatility with the minimum of material and fuss.

Headline by Bellini for Vitra

Headline by Mario and Claudio Bellini for Vitra

And while Vitra “adopted” Eames and Nelson through the collaboration with Herman Miller, the company has established it’s own reputation for high-quality office furnishings. Through, for example, collaborations with Mario and Claudio Bellini, including the award winning Headline Chair or Jasper Morrison with his ATM range onto its new Net’n'Nest concept Vitra is one of the most active and innovative office furnishers on the market.

In addition smow stock the Foster Series of desk accessories by Sir Norman Foster for helit.

And with many items in stock and available for immediate worldwide delivery, you may be able to write your own chapter in the development of office design quicker than you imagine.

“Net ‘n’ Nest” concept from Vitra: The future shape of office design

January 22nd, 2009
The colourful future of "Net 'n' Nesting" (Photo: http://www.vitra.com)

The colourful future of "Net 'n' Nesting" (Photo: http://www.vitra.com)

For the creative bosses at Vitra the days of the large unified office space are numbered. Not only are the working conditions in such environments not ideal for productivity, but much more each employee and every visitor has a feeling of surveillance, exploitation and treadmill.

A more inspiring and positive atmosphere, however, promise Vitra from their playfully named “Net ‘n’ Nest” concept. Here the connection between individual work and rest areas and the possibilities of communicative and open collaboration are placed in the foreground – and all in space saving styleee. The “Net ‘n’ Nest” concept originated with a detailed analysis of office work flows and was further refined with professionnel monitoring in customers offices.

“Netting” is used to define the space that is created within the office system, and which is suitable for team work and meetings and which is intended to promote communication between employees. “Nesting” in contrast is the term for those areas of still, concentrated work. For Vitra CEO Hans-Peter Cohn it is important that there are spaces for relaxing in which expressive colours dominate and extend a cozy living room atmosphere; as well as areas with more restrained colours and a puritanical design to promote relaxation and concentration.

NesTable from Vitra

NesTable from Vitra

The “Net ‘n’ Nest” „ concept was first presented in 2006. Since then designers and architects have worked on versions intended to connect the Netting and Nesting components in a ever more space saving fashions. In the future moving from communicative team work to concentrated individual work should not necessarily involve moving room: Ideally the work place should allow for both possibilities. Features such as height adjustable room dividers between the work places as well comfortable office chairs that double as relaxing armchairs are just a couple of examples of the “Net ‘n’ Nest” philosophy.

Worknest from Vitra

Worknest from Vitra

Among the Vitra products in the smow collection with which to begin “Net ‘n’ Nest” in your own office we can recommend:

- Office chair Worknest

- BaOBab Table

- NesTable

- Lounge Chair Amoebe

- ATM Mobile Unit