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  • Luke Munro

Seaweed Lamps and Ball Pit Think Tanks at Orgatec 2022

The outside of a large conference building with a sign saying Orgatec

It was great to be back at Orgatec in Cologne after a four-year absence. This biennial design trade fair showcases the latest products and themes for modern working environments.

Despite a forced hiatus for the show because of Covid over the last few years, walking around the show, it was as if the pandemic had never happened.

There was almost no mention about preventing the spread of viruses but there was a real focus on wellness in general and having healthy places to work.

I tried out the Neuron Activation Pod from LoOok which is designed to offer a space to relax. There were also some pretty wacky ideas to help make work fun like this meeting table that was also a giant table football game and the think tank with its own ball pit.

A man relaxing on a bed in a booth with the sign Neuron Activation Pod
A large glass meeting table with a table football game built in underneath
A ball pit with yellow balls and the sign above it saying ThinkTank

The importance of biophilia continued the healthy office theme and while there were numerous moss walls and planters, we liked this product from Kettal that encouraged staff to grow their own salad while at the office.

Two shelves with a number of salad plants growing

One of the major themes running through the whole show was the topic of sustainability and our need to be responsible consumers, but many stands also raised the question of what that really means. There were chair lifts for example that have been repurposed by Schallsauger into a meeting space.

A sign saying 'What does sustainability really mean?"
A man sitting on a chair lift seat in front of a backdrop of mountains

One of the manufacturers with a strong showing was Humanscale which showed off its latest task chair Path which they claim is the world’s most sustainable office chair because of its net positive manufacture. By upcycling ocean plastic, reducing carbon emissions, saving water and created energy every time a chair is made, it actually gives back to planet rather than using up resources.

A dark green office chair with crowds behind it

There was also a thought-provoking exhibition entitled Materials4Future which showed how we could be more sustainable by utilising natural materials like these lights made from seaweed from Ty Syml.

A triangular shaped chair made of large brown blobs attached to a black frame
Brown light shades that look like they are made from paper
Shelves containing various material examples

The rise of hybrid working meant there was a high proportion of manufacturers showcasing cross-over products for both home and office. There was the Mini Float desk from Humanscale that’s designed for smaller spaces. Statement lighting was also prevalent as domestic designs merge ever more into office environments.

A small wooden desk top on a height adjustable stand
A large floor lamp that looks like it is made entirely from paper with a sofa behind it

The need for spaces in the office for workers to communicate with colleagues and clients working remotely was also reflected by the high number of manufacturers showing their pods and booths. As well as demonstrating the acoustic privacy these products can offer, it was also shown that the increasing use of data from these meeting spaces, like those from Framery, can help facilities managers work out office usage stats.

A lady sitting in a large round covered booth
A screen showing a table with various percentages against various time of the day and days of the week

While there were flashes of colour, the majority of stands were more muted. Colour was used as an accent rather than as a statement. There were some exceptions to this though. We liked the Bureau Boomerang desk and Urecht chair from Cassina and the Big Talk lounge chair from Bla Station was also fun.

A large, curved, black desk with yellow shelves behind
A square shaped dark yellow comfortable chair
A multicoloured, ring-shaped comfortable seat

Overall, it was a very interesting and thought-provoking show. It was well curated and organised, but numbers were down, and key European and UK manufacturers were not showing. Is this an ongoing, viable exhibition? We hope it is!


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