Forma Interiors Magazine, Volume 3 Issue 3.
Design Giants – Herman MillerOn a recent Wednesday evening when many Dubliners were still in traffic trying to escape the city I attended the launch of the new Mirra chair in the National Gallery, which Peter Lloyd of Herman Miller believes “is poised to become the new “Best in Class” for mid price seating. After discussing the design ideals of Herman Miller with Peter Lloyd I realized that there is a lot more to this Fortune 500 Company than its commercial ambitions.
Herman Miller is a global leader in office furnishings, workplace consulting and related services as well as being recipients of countless awards for their environmentally friendly policies. Recognized by New York’s Museum of Modern Art for their innovative furniture design and listed in 2002 Fortune magazine as America’s Most Admired furniture company, it begs the questions can a design corporation have it all?
the most expensive feature of a workspace has now become the humble chairAccording to Peter Lloyd, Herman Miller’s piece de resistance in the field of new office environments is their Marketplace building in Zeeland, Michigan. Completed in November 2002, Marketplace is a 100,000-square-foot new-build that has achieved Gold level LEED certification in terms of its ‘green’ rating. Located in a commercial development, MarketPlace demonstrates that a green building can be woven successfully into the commercial landscape.
Filled with natural light, fresh air and ample space, the building met the goals of becoming an efficient, economical design/build scenario. A central atrium illuminated by natural daylight light features extensive planting, natural stone and flowing water. It’s HVAC system was designed to require 40% lower energy cost than what was budgeted and current operating records show this goal is being met. It utilizes recycled carpet, natural stone, certified renewable wood, abundant daylight and an efficient heating/cooling system to provide a healthy workplace for it’s employees.
Marketplace operates a policy of flexible seating. Several workers are able to share one workstation or ‘hot-desk’ on a first-come-first-served basis, with files and personal items transported in mobile storage units or lockers. This system leads to a reduced outlay on furniture and employees have the freedom of the building to carry out their work.
For years, the cost of office space has been the second biggest operating expense for businesses of all sizes, behind compensation and benefits. Less office space means lower monthly overheads. As Mark Schurmana at Herman Miller points out “fast growing businesses move their offices every 18 months or so.” Open designs and smaller, mobile workstations mean you may not need costly redesigns, renovations or move quite so often.
Contemporary workplace design has changed radically over the past 5 years; as uncertainty in business emerges, the way office space is utilised is being reassessed. Flexibility is key, as is reducing the costs tied up in redundant office furniture. The impact of flat screen technology and wireless networks has reduced the need to conceal bulky computer wiring, freeing up restrictions on the arrangement and size of office furniture. And as technology becomes more advanced, the need for concise, defined and uncomplicated workspaces has become imperative.
Herman Miller is seeking to meet this challenge with their innovative workspace aptly entitled ‘Resolve’. Designed by Turkish designer Ayse Birsel, it is a smart pole based structure based on 120-degree angles that create open, space efficient workstations. The simple, lightweight infrastructure make installation quick and efficient; all the cables run through the poles and over-head trusses, so the workspace below can remain light and open. Herman Miller claims, “Resolve gives people the tools to be productive, and lets an organization use its resources effectively.” From an environmental perspective, Resolve has a high recycled content and every part is easily disassembled for recycling.
Surprisingly enough, the most expensive feature of a workspace has now become the humble chair. Herman Miller’s Mirra chair, designed in association the German design firm Studio 7.5, utilizes an innovative combination of both passive and active seating adjustments to deliver natural performance and long term comfort for a wide range of body types and postures. Mirra’s central spine construction supports its back while allowing for torsional flex and freedom of movement. The backrest’s flex zones are calibrated to automatically adjust to the sitters’ height and shape and provide proper support for the lower (sacral), mid (lumber) and upper (thoracic) regions of the spine.
In May 2003 at The International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) Herman Miller launched their ‘Get Real’ Campaign. Designed to alert consumers to the ethical and economic implications related to the purchase of design knock offs, rather than supporting the original designs and their designers it hopes to protect the intellectual property of all designers. Henry Gowin, Secretary of the Foundation of the Design Integrity in America has outlined the result of highlighting this issue “we’re seeing case after case in which designers and producers of original products, who have followed the prescribed intellectual property law registration procedures, are winning substantial settlements, judgments, and legal protections.”