At Workspace Expo 2021, the first post-pandemic fair dedicated to the office, a new approach to office design and management emerges that is not limited to space planning and furnishings, but responds to the new needs of the workplace as a hospitable club: a activity based office with lots of plants, personalized catering services, lounges, cocoons, office pods, video conference stations and even desks, as long as they are flexible and on wheels.
In recent years we had already underlined the growing trend and the marked dynamism of Workspace Expo, but the 2021 edition – postponed several times due to the pandemic – exceeds all expectations and confirms the prominent position and internationality that the Parisian exhibition has gained in the workplace sector: with its 300 exhibitors (30% foreign with a strong presence of Italians).
All the major international brands are present, not just office design, with “reasonable” size stands without the excesses imposed by other events where the set-up seems to prevail over the product.
It is not a huge fair, but what is surprising is the completeness of the exhibition offer which is not limited to furnishings, accessories and technologies.
The professional who visits the fair can find any solution for the furnishing and management of the office starting from space planning (there are several large international architecture and design & build studios) up to the cleaning of the facades, passing through the compositions of plants (numerous suppliers of indoor and outdoor greens), acoustic solutions, flooring, air purification systems; there is no shortage of creators of ephemeral paper scenographies and even food.
It is clear that something has changed compared to the pre-pandemic trade fairs dedicated to the workplace (latest Orgatec 2018).
Never before has such a massive presence of greenery been seen and new types of products / services appear.
The settings express new lifestyles and workstyles: bicycles and skates, blankets and slippers appear next to the desk: details with a strong symbolic value.
A new human centered vision seems to take shape, focused on wellbeing of employees in an plastic way (with recalls the categories of the WELL certification) is and it is clear that the humanization of the office cannot ignore biophilia, conviviality and the quality of food.
Here are therefore coffee and purified water distributors, organic snacks, juice bars and catering for all tastes: organic, vegan, frozen or zero km products.
Espace tendance: Re-humanize
The core of pavilion 7 that hosts Workspace Expo is the scenographic Espace Tendance curated by architect Karl Petit, set up with products – strictly in white – from the exhibiting companies: light, candid, positive and full of plants, a metaphor for rebirth and a new vision of the humanized workplace concretely confirmed also in the stands of companies.
Furniture trends: office pod lounges and desks on wheels
The unpublished products, conceived and put into production during the last two years of the pandemic, were numerous.
The sofa system are cutting edge in Paris: modular lounge systems of all shapes and sizes and also single armchairs and sofas, poufs, and hybrid seats, with writing tablet or cocoon version.
The living room atmosphere and the sense of welcome are accentuated by low coffee tables of different shapes and materials.
For some years now the desk has no longer been the main element of the office and yet some novelties have been seen, for example the high tech system on wheels designed by Cider (one of the few French manufacturing companies).
A similar concept, but softened by the pink color, is present in the Kinnarps stand where the visitor is welcomed by an innumerable number of armchairs.
The wheel dominates the scene, synonymous with maximum reconfigurability for desks, screens and dividing elements with bookcase and / or planter function.
The new role of the desk requires maximum multifunctionality and flexibility, as demonstrated by the made in Italy proposals: for example, Fusion Green by CUF Milano, the versatile desks by Estel, the meeting table by Fantoni and the removable structures designed by Mantero Associati for Martex.
There are also desks in smaller dimensions that also aim at the home office market while the new meaning of the office as a meeting place inspires a wide range of meeting tables, in a high version for informal meetings or more traditional ones for formal and often integrated with libraries and screens and equipped with videoconferencing devices.
The rise of office pods continues, both phone booths and meeting facilities; there is no limit to creativity with regard to materials and morphology: square, rounded, arched, even the “little house” type seems to have several followers.
On the other hand, the domestic mood pervades the new workplace vision in every area, including the fittings, colors and finishing materials.
Color trend: the vie en rose of the workplace.
It is the reassuring color that best expresses positivity and optimism in facing the future, so the post-pandemic home office is tinged with pink, not candy or baby, but various shades of dusty pink combined with natural wood – even with raw finish – and other light colors and above all green, also in different shades, another protagonist color, the undisputed symbol of nature, biophilia and sustainability.
The theme of sustainability hovers and emerges in a concrete way in the choices of many companies, even if not shouted as a reference and marketing tool.
We hope that the rebirth of the workplace also marks the end of green washing and the beginning of a real greater awareness.
Text by Renata Sias