Orgatec Cologne 2014: Vitra

In comparison to the annual IMM Cologne furniture fair the corridors and halls of the Messe Cologne always seems curiously empty at the biennial Orgatec office furniture trade fair. Until that is one reaches the Vitra stand.

And the crowds.

The almost congenital attraction of Orgatec visitors to Vitra is unquestionably related to the high-calibre roster of international designers responsible for the Vitra office programme. At Orgatec 2014  that programme has been extended by, amongst other works, new collaborations with Konstantin Grcic and Antonio Citterio and a re-edition of works by Jean Prouvé.

Orgatec Cologne 2014 Vitra Konstantin Grcic Allstar office chair Hack table

Allstar office chair and Hack table by Konstantin Grcic for Vitra, as seen at Orgatec Cologne 2014

The general theme of the Vitra presentation at Orgatec 2014 is “Workstyles” and consequently the stand has been subdivided into a series of “Workstyles” each of which presents the works of one designer.

The medial highlight will unquestionably be the “Hacker Workshop” featuring Konstantin Grcic’s Allstar office chair and Hack table.

Konstantin Grcic famously worked with Jasper Morrison before setting up his own studio and so it is somehow fitting that just as the Bröhan Museum Berlin is presenting some of Jasper Morrison’s works from the 1980s that Konstantin Grcic should release a chair reminiscent of the 1980s.

For Konstantin Grcic himself the intention with the chair was simple “I wanted to create an office chair that doesn’t have the typology of an office chairs”, he explains, “to get away from this idea of the office chair as a machine and create something that resembles a chair. And so which is perhaps not so challenging and which can be more easily used in various locations”

And at first glance he certainly has achieved that; your first thought isn’t “office chair”. However, its curving form does of course have a little something of the first office chairs from the 1840s. Just as we say, with a little 1980s dust sprinkled over it.

What Konstantin Grcic however has done very well is hide the technology. The Allstar office chair has a height adjustable backrest, adjustable seat depth and height, tilts back and forwards and swivels. You wouldn’t believe it by looking at it. But it does.

In addition Vitra are presenting Konstantin Grcic’s new Hack table concept. Much like they premièred Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec’s Cork Desk concept two years ago. Where however we see the chance that Hack will become available before the Cork Desk is that Hack represents a new concept in office furniture. It’s not a mere product. Folded flat it takes up little space, is a self contained crate. Unpack it and you have a height adjustable desk with its own space divider walls. As such it redefines “flexible” office furniture as it is not just flexible in how one uses it within the office but is flexible in terms of transport and storage meaning that whole new usage concepts can be developed, whole new ideas of what owning office furniture means established and whole new relationships with office furniture formed.

Both Allstar and Hack are of course products that would tend to indicate a move towards a younger market, star-ups and the like. Konstantin Grcic doesn’t necessarily see it that way “I think they are both objects that have their place in modern offices, regardless of how large or new the company is. The modern office world isn’t the office world it was and is changing rapidly. Younger companies are just one aspect, but established companies are also evolving.”

Orgatec Cologne 2014 Vitra Konstantin Grcic Allstar office chair Hack table

Allstar office chair and Hack table by Konstantin Grcic for Vitra, as seen at Orgatec Cologne 2014

Much more classic is the Industrial Workshop and its presentation of a series of Jean Prouvé re-editions, the highlight of which without question is the Fauteuil Direction Pivotant office chair, a truly monstrous construction which is height adjustable, has a weight responsive tilting mechanism and stands in near perfect contrast to Konstantin Grcic’s Allstar. We’re not saying one is better than the other: just that they are very different takes on the office chair.

In addition the new Prouvé collection includes the Bureau Métallique desk, the Fauteuil Direction visitor chair, Petite Potence wall lamp and the table lamp Lampe de Bureau, an absolutely delightful piece of work. And a genuine reminder that good design is often the simplest solution, and that there is no alternative to having a good command of basic craft skills and a good understanding of scale and proportion if you want to create objects that are going to remain relevant for generations to come.

Leave “style” and “trends” to the fashion industry. Focus on your work.

Orgatec Cologne 2014 Vitra Jean Prouve Lampe de Bureau

Lampe de Bureau by Jean Prouvé through Vitra, as seen at Orgatec Cologne 2014

The third major workstyle installation, the so-called Innovation Workstyle Atelier, is devoted to Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec‘s Workbay family; not a new product, but in many ways a concept that grows on us the more the Bouroullecs add to it. There is an intrinsic logic in such a system and the way the Bouroullecs design it not only makes this logic visible but takes away all arguements for alternative systems.

Beyond the Workstyle installations Vitra are using Orgatec 2014 to present Charles and Ray Eames Soft Pad Chairs in new colours and new premium leather covers, the new Grand Executive office chair from Antonio Citterio, a work developed from his Grand Repos Lounge Chair and, and since we started this quick review with Jasper Morrison, Super Fold Table by a Jasper Morrison, a cafeteria table which can be collapsed with one hand and which is aimed directly at the contract market.

A few first impressions from Vitra at Orgatec Cologne 2014…..

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