Rethinking Office Space with Unconventional Work Environment Exhibition

The right types of furniture can confront boredom and shake up hierarchy

From the conventional office to the cubicle to the open bench-style workspace, the modern office may have seen a lot of reimaginings, but few of them actually address the furniture itself, which is often jury-rigged into awkward combinations and improperly combined. The Japanese design company Nendo, which tackles practically every type of design from furniture to interiors to graphic design and installations, used the Orgatec Modern Working Environments exhibit in Cologne (Oct. 25-29 of this year) to debut several new office furniture designs, including tables and shelves in shapes you’ve never seen before. The designs in “shelf + desk + chair = office,” with their black matte finish, were meant to showcase Kokuyo‘s newest chair, the Inspine, but ended up taking on a life of their own.



“Removing some of the shelves turns part of the shelving unit into a desk,” says Nendo, exploring some space-saving possibilities. This object is “Exploring the boundary between horizontal surfaces intended for storage, and those intended for work.”


“Desks and floorspace appear when the shelves are scattered right and left. An experiment in transforming shelving’s vertical levels into office three-dimensionality.”


“Shelves and desks mingle, and space appears inside by cutting out their overlaps. Searching for a new way of gathering together and a new spatial relationship with desks, in which we’re enclosed by our desk, rather than sit facing it.”

“Resting and waiting functions appear when office chairs are partially absorbed into the shelf. A consideration of the boundary between ‘on-‘ (office) and ‘off-duty’ (lobby and amenity) furniture.”


“Some of the shelves become a staircase. Sitting on them transforms them into benches, and when accessed from behind they’re a closed desk. A thought experiment into the relationship between dynamic and static space, and the different functions of front and back.”

To be certain, some of these designs are downright odd, wedging a chair, for instance, into a space where the user seemingly can’t get out. However, the exhibit, rather than offering practical objects, is more of an inspirational collection, encouraging us to think outside the box about how our existing furniture might actually be promoting stress and poor posture, and perhaps not facilitating the type of interactions we would hope for.