From rigid spaces to flexible spaces: redefining the boundaries of modern office interiors

From rigid spaces to flexible spaces: redefining the boundaries of modern office interiors

As we continue to navigate the ongoing pandemic, the future of offices and workspaces has been widely debated. However, some immediate effects are clear: the rigid, mainly office model was quickly replaced by hybrid work, with adaptability and comfort becoming the main priorities. Therefore, while the long-term consequences may not be clear, companies will certainly need to strike the right balance between traditional and remote methods in order to promote employee efficiency and well-being. From a design and architectural perspective, demand will focus on flexible working environments that promote creativity, productivity and comfort, as well as the associated technological, economic and sustainability challenges.

With this in mind, the renowned chair manufacturer Wagner, together with architects Titus Bernhard and Andreas Weissenbach, developed the Wagner Design Lab in Langenneufnach, southern Germany. Following new working and lifestyle models, the space can be flexibly used for anything from a showroom to an office, displaying the corporate brand “Wagner Living” all by exploring and redefining the boundaries of the modern workspace.

© Gery Kellerman
© Gery Kellerman

The floating building and its multiple functions

It all started with an idea: the residence of the Wagner family, which served as the brand’s showroom, had to be rebuilt with an apparently homogeneous and minimalist rectangular volume. Seeking to push the boundaries of design, the project consists of a steel superstructure supported by slender beams that allow the volume to float high above the original building. In addition to the 160 tons of steel, the architects incorporated the largest glass panels in the world; four sheets of triple insulated sedak glass, each measuring 3.04 x 19.21 meters, which required unique machinery and highly skilled installation. In this way, the transparent, frameless glass facade acts as a giant showcase that presents the silhouettes of Wagner chairs and furniture.

Courtesy of Wagner
Courtesy of Wagner
Courtesy of Wagner
Courtesy of Wagner
© Gery Kellerman
© Gery Kellerman

Inside the glass pavilion, the building spans a wide area without using a single support pillar, creating an airy appearance that merges with the views of its natural surroundings. Functioning as a case study for an uncompromising modern office, the interior is designed as an adaptable and flexible space that can fulfill a multitude of functions using an innovative modular system.

© Gery Kellerman
© Gery Kellerman
© Gery Kellerman
© Gery Kellerman

From shelves to space dividers: a modular system with infinite configurations

To ensure a flexible environment, German designer Stefan Diez has created a contemporary office furniture system called “D2” that structures the open white space of the Design Lab. Based on a construction kit with aluminum profiles, connectors and honeycomb panels, the elements can be slotted together and assembled without screws. As well as forming a giant shelving unit that showcases Wagner Living chair models – among them the D1 family – the matt black D2 panels are presented in a nine-metre table (which includes recessed conduits for cable management) and used as dividers to separate the seating area from the rest of the space.

© Gery Kellerman
© Gery Kellerman
© Gery Kellerman
© Gery Kellerman
© Gery Kellerman
© Gery Kellerman
© Gery Kellerman
© Gery Kellerman

Therefore, the modular system is a durable, lightweight configuration that can be easily installed for endless configurations – and therefore adapt to changing environments accordingly. Whether creating shelves, furniture or dividers, the system enables Wagner staff from the Marketing, Design and Interior Design departments to use the Design Lab flexibly as an alternative to working from home and for all kinds of creative work. And in combination with the great length of the open-plan room, the clean lines of the D2 system allow for uninterrupted views of the landscape, enhancing the comforting sense of space.

© Gery Kellerman
© Gery Kellerman

In order to test its versatility, the D2 system was also implemented at the MAKK Museum in Cologne as part of the “Workspace in Progress” exhibition. In close collaboration with Stefan Diez and Wagner, university students developed objects and pieces of furniture in response to present and future forms of work. Each project was presented in its own shelf-like box made from D2 panels, which were quickly assembled and then disassembled after exposure.

Towards flexible workspaces that promote creativity, sustainability and well-being

Undoubtedly, the workplace as we once knew it is going through a paradigm shift – and architecture and design must be able to respond. Especially in these troubled times, office environments need to accommodate a variety of functions in order to meet the needs for collaboration and well-being, while promoting greater efficiency, sustainability and creativity within a workspace. It is therefore important to continue to explore products and materials, however unconventional, that meet these criteria.

© Gery Kellerman
© Gery Kellerman

Innovations like the D2 system seem to take that first step, but there are many more possibilities to explore. In fact, in the near future, Wagner will offer a configurator that will make it possible to digitally design a D2 furniture system, responding to specific customer requests and opening the door to more sustainable and reusable materials. In this way, as we envision the future of the workspace, the focus should be on redefining boundaries, implementing new technologies, and prioritizing flexibility over rigid, traditional models. – only then can we aim for healthier and better working environments.

For more information on innovative furniture concepts for the modern workspace, visit this link.

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