Escape From the Chaos of NeoCon

posted in Ideas on June 16 by Emily M Childs, AIA

I attended the annual NeoCon design exposition this year to get a better sense of the wide range of current trends in furniture design. Rather than only looking at images online, it was great to have access to the actual furniture. The Merchandise Mart, in bustling vibrant Chicago, sits at the edge of the river, as if it is a river boat pulled up to a dock. NeoCon takes place inside the labyrinth of showrooms in the Merchandise Mart every year. Each floor ends up flooded, inundated with people, as if it is busting at the seams.

This chaotic environment really lets you test out how well the exhibitor spaces can moderate the level of chaos and allow you to re-focus. A peaceful respite amid the excitement and activity were the Quiet Spaces by Steelcase, combining their VIA Wall system with acoustic treatment, furniture, AV/IT, and lighting. These work spaces provide the space, flexibility, and control to concentrate on a complex task at hand.

As kids, we created forts from sheets, pillows, and the backs of chairs. These types of spaces are mimicked in the Steelcase Quiet Spaces. Exhibitors at NeoCon were not only displaying discrete rooms with a variety of furniture layouts, but also stand alone furniture that provide a means of escape. These spaces to hide in are created by partial-height screen walls with tucked away seating, often with a work surface or integrated technology as well.

There are some employers stretching the boundaries of the traditional office setting. It’s nice to think that there is the possibility that we don’t always have to work in the same kind of space.