Working beautifully

As always at Orgatec – the leading international trade fair for office and facilities, held every two years in Cologne, at the end of October – the Vitra stand was “where it’s at.” Even the surrounding wall of the stand was impressive: constructed of boards of native spruce, 132 yards long, 20 feet high and three feet thick (the height was achieved by stacking five wood pallets on top of each other). In a nod to sustainability, Vitra merely leased the wood; after the show, most of it was shipped to Antwerp to be used as concrete shuttering.

Inside the big wall, a suitably big idea: Citizen Office 2011, Vitra’s stocktaking of the current state of offices. To wit: “In a Citizen Office employees do their part in a work culture of mutual trust. They also decide what work pace, work form and workplace is right for the task at hand: concentrated work or communicating; standing or sitting; office chair or sofa. The employees have many options to choose from, and when everything is within easy reach, it is not a problem to quickly switch between these options either.” As for options, Vitra introduced 14 new products, from the likes of Antonio Citterio, Jasper Morrison, Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, Naoto Fukasawa and Arik Levy – a sampling of which you’ll see when you turn the page.

Elsewhere in the mighty halls of the Koelnmesse, the chair ruled (new systems and collections seemed scarce).  In the following pages you’ll find eight knockouts, two each from Wilkhahn and Walter Knoll, the rest from Herman Miller, Interstuhl, Lammhults and La Palma. 

All in all, Orgatec 2010 was an upbeat affair, attended by 61,000 visitors from 110 countries, taking in the concepts and products of 608 companies from 41 countries.


Had I the space, I’d show every one of Vitra’s 14 introductions. Following are my seven favourites.

1—ID Chair Concept

Antonio Citterio and Vitra have come together to create a chair that can be configured to fit individual requirements and preferences, while essentially remaining the same. A new patented mechanism platform – allowing for fluid movement of the back and enabling a forward and backward tilting motion coupled with a synchronized weight adjustment – forms the basis of the design.

2—Ad Hoc High Work

Citterio’s masterful Ad Hoc furniture system (1994) is now available as a fully functioning High Work version designed for working while both sitting and standing, with a fixed table height of 41 inches; it is completely compatible with the existing system. 

3—ID High

The healthy habit of switching between standing and sitting is made easier with Citterio’s Id High office swivel chair.


Similar to an aircraft carrier (“kuubo” in Japanese), this table designed by Naoto Fukasawa has its technology hidden away. The tabletop, divided into segments, has built-in, recessed storage boxes that supply sufficient space for a laptop, phone and other devices; also installed here are power and network cable connections. The overhanging flat-top tabletop is held together by a steel frame construction resting on voluminous cylindrical legs.

5—Alcove Work

Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec designed this sofa workstation, with extra-high backrest and sides, for concentrated individual work. The fixed, leather-covered writing shelf, with integrated cable ducts, forms a stable, nonslip surface for computer work; a handy storage box is underneath.


Vitra has extended its Storage range created in partnership with Arik Levy. The designer’s Locker line, offering several configurations, is especially handsome. Doors are available in eight colours, with a newly patented acoustic perforation providing a moiré effect.   


In Jasper Morrison’s new interpretation of the classic shell chair, a one-piece seat shell rests atop a base that is both visually and constructively separate. Available in numerous colours, the shell can be combined with many different bases, in tubular steel or oak.


8—Volume 8_2011

Designship in Ulm is the firm behind Interstuhl’s new swivel chair with an expansive volume. Bucking a trend, the chair’s technology is neatly tucked away. The generous upholstered seat, very comfy, contrasts with the almost filigree backrest.


With his new chair for Herman Miller, acclaimed designer Yves Béhar has created the first full-suspension back that is literally frameless; freed from a rigid exterior frame, the back suspends and supports much like the principles of a suspension bridge – thus the name Sayl, reflecting the sailing vessels that pass beneath those bridges.  The back, with its pleasing organic shape, is available in nine colours; the armpads come in seven colours. Two base colours can be paired with this spectrum.

German company Wilkhahn introduced several chairs, including these two beauties.


Designed by Stefan Diez, Chassis is the first mass-produced chair whose frame is made with advanced space-frame technology from the automotive world. Covering it is an ergonomically shaped, 4-mm-thick, finely grained polypropylene seat and backrest. Chassis’s detachable shell is through-dyed to match the black, grey or white frame.


In this new, high-end range of conference chairs – designed by Markus Jehs and Jürgen Laub – the seat shell can be divided and put together differently, with the armrests becoming the main link between seat and backrest. Graph’s armrests, bearer, swivel pedestal and foot section are in die-case aluminum; the seat and back are made of upholstered, fully textile or leather-covered plywood shells.

German company Walter Knoll exhibited nine new products, among them these two snazzy chairs.


Lox by PearsonLloyd is an elegant all-rounder. On the outside, the sweeping bucket seat supports the back; inside, the seat and back padding ensure comfort. Lox swivels slightly, whether on an aluminum four-star base or a tubular steel base.  

13—TP-1 Chair

Created by Eoos, the TP-1 – which swivels 360 degrees – is designed for brainstorming and team meetings: a group of
them can be gathered together for such a purpose. The backrest is just the right height to serve as an armrest if the user sits sideways.


Lapalma’s latest stacking chair, designed by Gabriele Pezzini, offers strength, lightness and comfort. The perfect balance of metal tube frame (conceived as an architectural shape) and plywood seat and back was a difficult goal to reach.


Swedish designer Gunilla Allard continues her fruitful collaboration with Lammhults with Comet, which comes in two versions: a lounge chair with a comfortable, slightly lower seating position; and a chair on glides with a light, airy look. In both versions, seat and back are softly shaped to create a harmonious whole.