In early March, I had the rare opportunity to join six leading designers from New York City for a daytrip to the Steelcase headquarters in Grand Rapids. Steelcase generously flew us on the Steelcase jet, showed us a few new products, and offered one significant highlight: a preview of the nearly complete Innovation Center.
I was joined by Lance Amato of Contant Architects, John Mack of HLW, Larry Marner of Marner Architects, Tom Krizmanic of Studios Architecture, LoriAnn Mass of Swanke Hayden Connell Architects, and Jacqueline Barr of Ted Moudis Associates. For many of the designers, this was their first visit to Steelcase and we all came away with new knowledge about the company’s research, focus, and products. Clearly, the company immerses itself in understanding research on the modern workplace and how people work today in a variety of settings.
The morning began with a discussion of research, future trends, and innovation, and the role of each at Steelcase. We visited the Work Cafe designed by Contract’s 2013 Designer of the Year Joey Shimoda, and witnessed firsthand how Steelcase employees are making use of the variety of casual seating areas for small meetings, individual work, or breaks from routine.
Speaking of Shimoda, the Innovation Center that he designed will be ready for Steelcase occupancy in early April and our group was lucky to be able to view it (Sorry, no pictures of this space!). The Innovation Center will be the home of Steelcase designers, led by Vice President of Global Design James Ludwig, and once they occupy the space it will not be open to any visitors. Ludwig showed us the configurations in which his designers and engineers will be able to work individually and in teams to solve design problems in a very unique setting.
The afternoon concluded with previews of two products that will be released this year: the V.I.A. interior architecture wall system for office applications and the Gesture chair. Everyone in the group tested out the Gesture chair, and we found it to be comfortable, highly intuitive in its adjustability, and sleek. This chair is one to look for at NeoCon this June.