OMA’s office furniture for UniFor is colorful and modular
OMA’s office furniture for UniFor is colorful and modular
A new collaboration between OMA and UniFor on the Axel Springer campus in Berlin has evolved into a full-fledged office furniture collection, to be unveiled during Milan Design Week 2022
In 2014, German publishing giant Axel Springer chose OMA to design its new headquarters in Berlin, with the aim of creating work environments that “support the cultural transformation towards a digital publishing house”. The project’s bespoke furniture, produced by Italian office furniture specialist UniFor (part of the Molteni Group), has now been expanded into a full-fledged furniture collection, to be unveiled at Milan Design Week 2022.
A radical new collection of office furniture
The collection includes curved benches and tables as well as room divider screens
“Axel Springer wanted a radical reimagining of the office, a place to appeal to Europe’s digital bohemian,” says OMA partner Philippe Braun, who worked closely with product designer Antonio Barone on the project’s interiors. . They considered new ways of working collaboratively, taking into account different team sizes and uses of space, and designed an open, multi-level layout, with dynamic clusters of desks and breakout areas with partitions, sofas and workstations.
“We wanted to avoid the ‘cool office’ trap widely promoted by American tech companies in Silicon Valley and beyond,” says Braun. “It was important to inject a healthy dose of seriousness throughout the collection, avoiding the whimsical and focusing only on the essentials.”
It’s not unusual for UniFor to take bespoke furniture as the starting point for a collection. “Close collaboration with the best international architecture studios, in this case OMA, is a distinctive feature of UniFor’s modus operandi: the genesis of our products is almost always linked to specific design and planning requirements”, says Carlo Molteni, President of the Molteni Group. “We realized that the elements designed by OMA represented a new way of experiencing the office space: no longer an individual workplace, but increasingly a place of socialization. The unique nature of the pieces convinced us that the collection could be transposed beyond a simple architectural project.
OMA and UniFor: a decade of collaboration
The furniture series features pastel hues, as well as high visibility orange accents combined with metal and black
OMA and UniFor began their collaboration over a decade ago, when the Rotterdam studio hired the company to create the marble bookcases for the National Library of Qatar. In 2014, as curator of the Venice Architecture Biennale, OMA co-founder Rem Koolhaas invited UniFor to join as a technical sponsor. From there, OMA and UniFor continued to work together on projects of varying sizes; the Principles collection is their latest collaboration.
“The experience that began with the Axel Springer campus has generated new ways to successfully interact within the office and is now available to a wider audience,” says Koolhaas. “We are curious to see how the modules in the Principles collection will come together and serve different working environments globally.”
The collection is an evolution of OMA’s work on the more informal areas of the Axel Springer campus. It consists of more than 100 elements divided by size and type, which lend themselves to numerous configurations. Among the key pieces, explains Barone, are the “Tables”, ranging in size from 0.1 to six square meters and defined by a double-deck tabletop.
“We wanted to avoid the ‘cool office’ trap, widely promoted by American tech companies in Silicon Valley and beyond” – Philippe Braun, OMA Partner
“Other key elements are the ‘thorns’, an infrastructure characterized by linear and curvilinear footprints, which can generate partitions and modules at different heights and with different degrees of privacy”, he continues. The ‘Spines’ are part of a system to which shelves, desks and sofas can be attached. Other pieces include informal seating, soft islands, and room dividers, with different accessories that can be added to each piece. “Thanks to the combination and recombination of the different families, the collection meets all the needs of the modern office and working environment.”
The collection’s informal seating features curved modular elements upholstered in high-tech sportswear fabrics
Materials include high-pressure laminates, perforated metal, and high-tech sportswear fabrics. “We found these materials to be the solution that best conveyed the original idea of virtually endless scalability, flexibility and customization in the most streamlined and sensible way,” says Barone. “The collection is above all a question of space: the simple, sometimes playful personality of the pieces makes it a versatile tool for interaction between the user, the furniture and the space.”
Another thing that’s obvious (and slightly surprising) when looking at Axel Springer’s project is the bold use of color, which was further developed for the Principles collection. “We felt the need to add a degree of freshness and playfulness to the usually neutral uniformity of work furniture, without falling into the trap of corporate branding,” says Barone. The studied palette gives users the ability to customize and define the working environment.’
The future of work has been a constant topic of discussion throughout the development of the collection. “UniFor and OMA saw the immense potential of this collection to support the changing nature of the workplace,” says Braun. “But also to take it beyond the office into the public space, which is increasingly becoming a place of work, gathering and exchange in the same [way] than the desk itself. §